By Deborah Austin Business-to-business (B2B) commerce can represent a double-edged sword for suppliers, said leaders at an Aug. 22 conference, "B2B: What It Means to Automotive Suppliers." While B2B commerce's benefits are touted, its challenges to suppliers have not received as much attention, said Hiren Shah, president of Southfield, Mich.-based B2B-Matrix, a developer and provider of secure collaborative commerce infrastructure. B2B-Matrix hosted the conference with the Engineering Society of Detroit. The challenge lies in collaboration, said Shah. For example, GM uses Unigraphics, Ford Motor Co. uses SDRC, and DaimlerChrysler uses Catia for Engineering Design. Similar issues arise with respect to the differences in production planning and supply-chain collaboration. "Companies participating in an exchange still choose to retain or deploy their own applications for collaboration. Further, there are nearly as many exchanges as there are car companies. This situation takes the incompatibility among the different CAD systems and multiplies it many times over."