The Project: Create a detailed online product catalog of every item so Wegman's 65 grocery stores order just what they need.

The Payoff: By preventing misguided orders, Wegman's could see annual savings of $1.5 million by 2005.

Profit margins are so slim in the grocery business that one slip-up in ordering can be disastrous. And Danny Wegman, president of 72-year-old Wegmans Food Markets Inc., is looking to the Web to solve the problem. He's spearheading the adoption of UCCnet, a massive effort to automate transactions between grocery suppliers and retailers.

It amounts to an electronic catalog, one that will extend from $3 billion Wegmans and fellow grocers to a vast galaxy of suppliers. The idea is to get the industry humming as one integrated operation. Wegmans already shares data with 100 suppliers and hopes to include the rest within two years. Its annual savings by then could reach $1.5 million. As the system grows, Wegmans and its peers could save $40 million for each $1 billion of sales.

By Arlene Weintraub

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