At age 38, Michael S. Dell is the master of electronic business. From his headquarters in Round Rock, Tex., he runs a $50 million-a-day online distribution channel -- equivalent to five Amazon.coms. More than anyone, Dell has shown how the Web, intelligently used, drives efficiency.
Now he's carrying his network magic to the next level. At a time when many tech companies are paring costs, Dell is piling on new technology. He's tagging parts with radio-powered ID chips. At plants from China to Texas, online orders are transformed quickly into radio signals. These instruct Dell's (DELL) automatic parts-picking machines to round up the components for each PC. They also transmit assembly blueprints to workers, and tack the shipping of the finished product. Dell managers can monitor the entire process online.
Dell also is using his e-commerce machine to sell a vast range of new offerings, from PDAs and printers to plasma-screen TVs. It's working as he planned, with sales soaring 16% in the most recent quarter. Says the CEO: "There's lots of ways for Dell to grow."