In three separate panel discussions on Monday conducted by the Original Equipment Suppliers Assn., the message to suppliers was clear. Don't wait to get involved in e-business, or you may lose out.

Small steps can be taken now, panel members say, to get your house in order before entering an Internet exchange. OESA studied three different e-topics: Supply chain management, Collaborative Product Design and e-Procurement and panel members discussed the findings during SAE 2001.

The group studied multiple Internet exchanges, including Covisint, because "Who in this room would want to put all their eggs into one basket?" says Carol Dickson, vice president business development, The Woodbridge Group. She says the opportunity for more than one exchange in the automotive industry exists and these different systems can co-exist and complement one another.

An e-procurement supplier readiness survey finds that out of a total score of 329, the highest score any single company achieved was 289. Seven out of 10 of the top companies were large OEMs or suppliers in the $5 billion sales range. The lowest score was 49, a small company in the $100-$500 million sales range.

Panel members concluded that, clearly, larger companies are more "e-ready" because they have the most to gain, and alternately, the most to lose.