The research, conducted among the top 60 chemical and consumer packaged goods firms, found that 66% of companies surveyed were unable to integrate their ordering systems with those of their trading partners, while 75% could not provide automated inventory and delivery information to customers.
The survey, which was commissioned by software supplier Haht Commerce, found that companies were largely incapable of providing sales teams with live customer account details (82%), so bad debtors remained undiscovered.
It also found that most companies were not very advanced in the use of Web-based systems for relating to customers. Only 5% could give incentives for online payment and 85% lacked the facility for customers to print out their own orders.
Analyst Clive Longbottom of Quocirca said that many supply chain systems had been designed to cope only with expected or planned transactions and had proved inflexible. "With the move towards Web services we expect companies to recognise the need for more flexible solutions to manage these complex demand chains," he said.
Simon Bragg, an analyst with ARC Consulting, said, "The inability to provide inventory status data online is worrying, as this is crucial for customers' own supply chain planning.
"But I would expect that there are good commercial reasons why some manufacturers choose not to place detailed product and price information online, as often customer-facing systems are driven by how their customer wants to work," he added.