Profile Systems, Inc., West Springfield, Mass., has been working for a year to develop one of the missing links in the electronic commerce information chain-a software package that could extract product data from manufacturers' various computer systems and synchronize it to industry product database standards. With that link now in hand, Profile has forged an alliance making Sterling Commerce, Wayne, Pa., the exclusive distributor for the ProSync product.

The idea of ProSync is that it should relieve manufacturers of the hassle of figuring out how consistently to collect and collate the data needed to populate and update the 19 files in the industry standard product descriptor database developed by the National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED), St. Louis, Mo. NAED created the standard initially to reduce errors in updating its AnswerPro electronic catalog, which was developed by Automated Catalogue, now part of the Sterling Commerce Internet division that will handle the ProSync line. Since that database standard was developed, distributor associations in several other industries have adopted it as their standard, and NAED has launched an initiative to create an industry data warehouse based on the standard. As the standard has drawn broader acceptance, the need for a product to handle the synchronization, and the market that would find it useful, has grown as well.

Sterling's connections with the electrical industry and the creation of the standard made them a natural fit for taking ProSync to market, says Ed Heon, president of Profile Systems. "Sterling Commerce is in the product database management business. They already have 150-plus electrical manufacturers signed on for AnswerPro, who are our first candidates to utilize this tool to continue the flow of up-to-date, rich and full, product data. They're the group first people who we feel are candidates to use this, and they are all Sterling Commerce Internet division customers."

Sterling will market the ProSync product to manufacturers in those industries that use the same file structure, and where Sterling's electronic catalog and electronic commerce operations are already active, says Jeff Nelson, manager of market development for Sterling's Commerce Internet division. "This is a good way for us to improve our position as an intermediary in the electronic commerce market," Nelson says. "It obviously makes it easier for us to receive updates for the electronic catalogs, but this product will support, not only the electronic catalogs, but because they use the same file structure, it allows the manufacturers to update data warehouse that are under development, do vendor-managed inventory and internal Web-based product data systems as well."