NIST manufacturing partnership adopts IM app

A federally funded network of manufacturing and business advisers has begun using an instant messaging service to better coordinate both near-term activities and long-term strategies.

The Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a program of the National Institute for Standards and Technology, has purchased a package that included Web-based enterprise instant messaging software from Bantu Inc. of Washington and portal technology from YellowBrix Inc. of Alexandria, Va.

The software, incorporating a Java-based client accessed through a password-protected partnership Web site, has already assigned IM accounts to 113 business advisers and manufacturing specialists nationwide involved in the MEP's 360vu network, at www.360vu.net, an online resource center that helps small to midsize manufacturing companies compete.

'We'll be able to communicate with each other in real time,' said Lee Bryan, a professional business adviser with the Vermont Manufacturing Extension Center, a member of the 360vu network. 'One of the problems inherent in e-mail is that it is asymmetric.'

Because of its Java foundation, the Bantu software runs on any operating system that can connect to an Internet browser. While it lacks the file-trading functionality of some consumer messaging systems, it allows for alerts when others log on and simultaneous multiple chats, Bryan said.

And the number of accounts is expected to grow as the technology catches on among the several-hundred network members. 'It implies a definite cultural shift,' Bryan said.

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