BIG BLUE IS MOUNTING a "strategic" assault on the logistics business. International Business Machines Corp. drew twice the anticipated attendance at a special early morning presentation on "Strategic Integrated Logistics Systems."

IBM made its presentation at 7:30 one morning during the International Trade and Computerization Conference, held May 30-June 1 in New York.The Armonk, N.Y.-based behemoth intends to market some of the knowledge it gets from going high-tech with its own logistics systems, IBMers at the conference said.

Companies sell everything from communications services to software that tracks freight, in order to assist automation of logistics, they said. But no one yet offers to deal with the entire logistics automation process at once.

That's what IBM plans to do. Those who attended the early morning event were intrigued by what the company had to say. One portion of the presentation was seven steps to "Quality in Logistics."

The steps are a continuous process and thus must be followed at all times as goods move through the distribution pipeline. The steps are: determine where a shipment is; determine when it is, that is, how much time it needs to reach its destination; let the recipient know exactly what's coming; constantly create new schedules based on updated information; revise estimated arrival times based on that new data; support positive intervention, that is, take actions that keep goods moving when they get stuck.

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J.P. MORGAN would have been nothing without electronic communication.

So contended Eugene A. Hemley, executive director of the International Trade Facilitation Council, as he sparred with lawyers during the conference.

The lawyers, speaking at a panel on "Legal Issues and Paperless Trading," said electronic messages could not be used in many transactions

because issues about their legitimacy haven't been settled.

Companies have been using electricity to conduct business since the telegraph was invented 150 years ago, Mr. Hemley responded. If the issues have been settled for Morse code, why not for a more sophisticated technology such as electronic data interchange, Mr. Hemley asked.

"J. Pierpont Morgan must be rolling in his grave," he said.

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TALK ABOUT OBSESSION: Robert Crowley, president of C.W. Consulting Inc., is so into EDI that he just paid the state of New Jersey $50 for license plates that read MR. EDI.

Industry members responded to Mr. Crowley's relentless enthusiasm shortly before the International Trade Facilitation Conference.

They elected the Lodi, N.J., consultant chairman of the EDI Council of the United States, the nation's largest representative group for EDI users.