BIG, BIGGER, BIGGEST - Those are the steps registration figures followed for the ANSI X12 group's first seminar and exhibit here in San Francisco this week, according to Bob Canis, vice president, business development, TransSettlements, and event chairman.

Initial optimistic projections by X12 were that 500 people would show. Mr. Canis set a personal estimate of 700. The total at the opening gun was 1,100 and rising.* * * * *


Bitterness and some anger seems to be what Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford Motor Co. is creating by its intense push on EDI.

As part of the push, Ford has demanded that its suppliers start doing business using EDI by Oct. 1, or else.

Even electronically sophisticated Ford suppliers are not thrilled by that idea. It's too little time to accomplish too complex a task, they said here at the X12 meeting.

Some Ford suppliers don't believe the auto manufacturer will stick to its mandated deadline. They're pretty sure they won't, and that the consequences will be far less grim than the automaker has predicted.

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To date, global EDI has left out a hemisphere. One sign: the fact that there were virtually no representatives of Asian nations present at the recent meeting on globally oriented EDI in Washington.

Next year's gathering, slated for the same locale, should see some new faces from some new places. A roster of top people in the EDI business are planning a tour through Asia in early May.

Stopping points will include Japan and Hong Kong. Among those going: global EDI rapporteurs Ray Walker and Dennis McGinnis, along with Buddy Bass.

Mr. Walker is chairman of the London-based Simplification of International Trade Procedures board. Mr. McGinnis is manager of EDI for New York-headquartere d North American Philips, while Mr. Bass is a vice president at Gaithersburg, Md.-based EDI Inc.

Things may be moving even faster than these insiders suspect. At least one and possibly several major Japanese firms are preparing to cut deals with a leading U.S. EDI communications network. That was the word here at the American National Standards Institute's X12 group gathering in San Francisco. Such a deal would give the Japanese an almost instantaneous electronic link into the U.S. marketplace.

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WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE between involvement and commitment?

Speaker Jack Shaw had an answer at the X12 seminar. Mr. Shaw, head of EDI Strategies Inc., was calling for attendees to become committed to EDI, and pointed to a breakfast of ham and eggs as an example.

The chicken was involved in making that breakfast, he said. The pig was committed.

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MAKING PAPERWORK BYTE-SIZED is the goal of the U.S. government in EDI, attendees here at the X12 seminar and exhibit said.

One problem: the vast amount of legal boilerplate that must accompany government dealings. Where the business community has about 25 legal clauses that accompany its contracts, the government has 2,500.

The solution: codes. All the legal clauses have been given code numbers. Users just put down the codes where many lines of legalese would once have gone. That's important in EDI, where the companies that move information often charge by the character.

Some contracts will still require legal text. The vast majority won't.