I was hanging around my living room the other night when I suddenly discovered the latest step in my two-year-old's plan to destroy our house. He had somehow gotten his hands on a tube of green food coloring and had emptied it onto the middle of a fairly prized Oriental rug. After a certain initial hysteria, my wife and I quickly ascertained that neither of us had any idea how to get food coloring out of a carpet. (Bear in mind that food coloring is sometimes used to dye carpets in the first place.) While my wife attacked the stain with a toothbrush and dishwashing liquid, I decided to turn on the computer, fire up the modem, and hit the World Wide Web -- that vast, disorganized collection of text and graphic documents sprawled over tens of thousands of otherwise unrelated computers.
I went straight to a Web site that allows you to search for other sites: http://www.altavista.digital.com. I plugged in the words stain, food coloring, and carpet, and pressed return. I wasn't very hopeful. Who out there would have anticipated this offbeat crisis of mine? Yet the answer was on my screen in a heartbeat. Yes, there's a Web page devoted exclusively to ways of getting food-coloring stains out of a carpet. Don't take my word for it. Check it out at http://www.dupont.com/Antron/foodcolor.html.
If carpet stains get that kind of coverage, imagine what's out there on your markets, your competitors, your suppliers, and your products. To find out how to harness the almost overwhelmingly comprehensive array of information on the Web and apply it to your business, check out Phaedra Hise's article, "Getting Smart On-Line," [Article link].
One type of intelligence becoming increasingly critical to fast-growing manufacturing companies is "computer-integrated manufacturing," or CIM -- technologies that use automation to integrate the various disciplines on a factory floor. Brian McWilliams spells out the details in his story, "Reengineering the Small Factory," [Article link].
Of course, automation isn't always the answer. In the case of one company, it was the problem. To see how a business turned itself around by deautomating its factory, read Fred Hapgood's story, "Keeping It Simple," [Article link].
-- David H. Freedman, Editor (firstname.lastname@example.org)