I’ll admit it: Sometimes I cringe at all the promotional talk about e-this and e-that from internet enthusiasts who sound like they can’t wait until virtual environments replace real life.

I’ll admit it: Sometimes I cringe at all the promotional talk about e-this and e-that from internet enthusiasts who sound like they can’t wait until virtual environments replace real life. I’m for real life. But sometimes it can stand improvement. That’s why I also have to admit that senior editors Mikell Knights and Jan Schut make a good case for web-enabling plastics processors in their feature articles this month. As you’ll read HERE and HERE, there’s real money to be saved, real speed advantages to be gained, and real improvements in quality to be realized with the aid of internet tools for mold design and e-collaboration on molding projects.

As the editors point out, you can do the e-thing plain or you can do it fancy, with price tags to match. Those of you who don’t itch to spend big bucks will learn from Jan’s story that simple web-conferencing capability comes for free on every Microsoft Windows PC these days in an embedded software tool called NetMeeting. In the same vein, Mikell tells me one of his sources e-collaborates simply by taking a web camera out into the shop to show the customer how his job is going.

Working online is not neccessarily working smarter. Jan came across a good story about the limitations of e-collaboration. With the help of internet-enabled coordination, a multi-functional project team developed a satellite-linked radio “boom box” in a mere six weeks from concept sketch to working prototype. The result won an award—but it didn’t work. It seems no one considered that a satellite antenna doesn’t work well indoors. You would have to go outside to listen to the radio. The moral of the story is that without all the necessary real-world expertise on board, e-collaboration can help you get to a wrong answer real fast.