The vision of the Marine Association for Technology Exchange Standards can be summed up in one sentence: “Do more business by making it simpler to transact business.”

That is the goal MATES, an unincorporated association affiliated with the National Marine Manufacturers Association, hopes to achieve by establishing standardized business transaction communications throughout the marine industry. Or, to put it another way, MATES is an effort to eliminate the sea of paperwork and inefficiency that currently exists when marine businesses try to communicate with their business partners.

“MATES automates the whole sales and delivery process, putting manufacturers, dealers and everyone else on the same page,” NMMA President Thom Dammrich said during an open meeting for the industry earlier this spring at the Miami Boat Show. “Every company in the supply chain will save time and money by developing systems to one standard.”

The meeting in Miami was an opportunity for the current MATES stakeholders to present the program to the rest of the industry and ask for support and participation. Along with Dammrich, Michael Adams of Channel Blade Technologies, Cam Collins of DockMaster and Watch Captain’s Tony Pimentel, among others, helped facilitate the presentation.

Each of those companies has joined MATES as a member of the organization. Brunswick, and Recreational Finance are also members, and MATES Executive Director John Warnik, who was hired in early March, said he had also received verbal pledges from ADP Lightspeed and Volvo Penta.

Membership has its privileges

To become a MATES member, companies must choose from one of three membership levels.

Level 1 members are required to pay $1,000 per year in dues. In return, they receive access to monthly meetings, Web site content, the ability to participate on implementation committees and other benefits.

Level 2 members pay $3,000 per year in dues, may serve on the board of directors, business advisory council and/or technical advisory council and receive implementation resources, draft versions of specifications and automatic notification of specification availability, among other things.

Level 3 members pay $10,000 a year in dues. They receive all of the benefits the other members do plus greater board representation, the ability to use the MATES logo and the recognition that they are founder or charter members of the organization in all communications.

The MATES Board of Directors, which will be responsible for the overall strategy, funding and allocation of resources for the organization, is an elected body that will be comprised of 9 to 15 individuals. Two-thirds of the board will be elected from Level 3 members and the other third will come from Level 2 members.

“I think [MATES] will naturally sell itself,” Warnik said. “I think there is a cost for not getting involved, and that those who want to have their opinions heard will get involved not only for the betterment of the industry, but for their own opportunities as well.”

MATES will likely have a budget of about $300,000 for 2006, which will be funded by its membership and used to hire other full-time personnel, for promotion, and for membership recruitment and communications.

Setting the standard

The goal of standardizing business communications within an industry is not a new one. The automotive and motorcycle industries already have similar systems in place. Much of what MATES will do is going to be based on work already done by Standards for Technology in Automotive Retail and the Motorcycle Industry Council Powersports Standards Protocol.

“We’re patterning ourselves after both the automotive industry and the motorcycle industry council,” Warnik said.

One of the things MATES wants to do is demonstrate early results. Warnik says the organization has already approved a published standard to define the attributes of a sales lead. And more should soon follow.

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