The npd system, designed by software firm Tradinterchange, was introduced to Brakes' top 120 suppliers this month.
"Suppliers have been exceptionally enthusiastic about it," says Golder. "It gives them more involvement, reduces the risks of error, cuts costs and slashes bureaucracy and paperwork. It also helps us time the launch process to coincide with customer activities. This gives us a real competitive advantage over others in our sector."
Dummy runs of the technology on existing and hypothetical products have ironed out any technical glitches, and a major rollout will commence in 2003.
"As soon as we or our suppliers have an idea for a product," says Golder, "it can be fed straight into the system for work to begin. The system generates the critical path with the activities that need to be done at each stage, from the product's initial approval to its being available to order. This also cuts errors as there is only one system to which any information on the product can be added or altered."
Tradinterchange commercial director Andy Tyson says he is also talking to large branded manufacturers about using online cpd. "There is no reason why this can't work on branded products. The same principles are involved."