Supply chain automation has been the holy grail of back-office information technology for a generation now, but with only limited success. Even with established technologies such as electronic data interchange (EDI), most large companies have only automated a small percentage of their procurement processes. Using the Internet and extensible markup language (XML), the e- business white knight promises to achieve the goal of automated procurement (rechristened "e-procurement"). However, much like the Holy Grail, the vision of a fully automated supply chain is difficult to achieve and may be forever out of reach.

XML-based e-business vocabularies, e-marketplace solutions by vendors such as Commerce One Inc. and Ariba Inc., and supply chain integration software from companies such i2 Technologies Inc. and Adexa have shown reasonable success, especially with indirect materials.

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