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POV: EZip is Easy

Sep 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Lee Dodson, CTS


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Two years ago, InfoComm's Manufacturers Council and its Sound, AudioVisual, and Video Integrators (SAVVI) Council embarked on a joint project to create a common electronic price-sheet format for dealers.

As more companies are using computerized systems for product ordering and quote generation, data entry is becoming increasingly critical. The new InfoComm EZip format was developed to help manufacturers and systems integrators streamline the data-entry process.

Many integrators using electronic pricing systems employ up to four people just to enter manufacturer pricing into their computer systems. Even with smaller companies, clerical errors during data input can cause an item to be quoted at an incorrect price. Errors can also cause equipment to be ordered with an incorrect price or part number. When the manufacturer corrects the error, it adds to the labor cost and causes delivery delays.

The EZip format is designed to address and prevent these errors. It is intended specifically for importing pricing data into computerized pricing systems; it is not intended to replace what a manufacturer currently publishes for its customers' use. Manufacturer pricing sheets often include other details and specific formatting designed to make their data easy to read. These types of details are not included in the EZip format. Manufacturers should consider the EZip format a supplement to their current practices. The concept is for every manufacturer to make its pricing available in the same electronic format so an integrator is able to electronically ingest the data — eliminating clerical errors and saving valuable time incorporating the new pricing.

Because electronic systems and pricing distribution methods are so different, it was decided that an Excel spreadsheet format would be the most common transport method. Although integrators may have to build an importer for existing systems, they only have to build one for all the manufacturers. The Excel format is an advantage to manufacturers, as they can still control how they distribute the file.

Because the EZip format is used differently by manufacturers and integrators, InfoComm's Manufacturers Council has created separate instructions for each group. The manufacturer form's instructions explain how to populate the form with data. The instructions for the integrator's form explain how to import data from the form to another computer system. The EZip format does not define in any way how this form or data is transported from one group to the other. The goal is to not change the flow of business — just the format of the content. This form is intended to be used as an electronic transfer medium; it is not intended to be viewed in its native form.

This move toward standardization has been developed and sanctioned by the InfoComm Manufacturers Council, whose members include Barco, Crestron, D-Tools, Extron Electronics, Kramer Electronics USA, Listen Technologies, Lutron, Stewart Filmscreens, and Winsted.

After a full year of beta testing, the association is ready to roll out EZip. It is truly easy to adopt and consistently deploy. While the use of EZip is not mandatory, there is already strong dealer support for its use. Some of the dealers who support the immediate implementation of EZip include Advanced AV Systems Integration, Audio Video Systems, Audiovisual, Avidex, AVW-TELAV, Avyve, Electro-Systems Alliance, Ford AV, HB Communications, IMS, Integrated Media Systems, IVCi, Multi-Media Solutions, PSNI, Spinitar, and SPL.

For more information, visit www.infocomm.org.


Lee Dodson, CTS, is vice president of marketing for Extron Electronics and chair of the InfoComm International Manufacturers Council. He also serves on the executive committee of InfoComm's board of governors.



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