Sterling Software Inc. of Dallas and SAP America Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of a German company that provides widely used client/server software, have formed an alliance to develop electronic data interchange systems for the automotive industry.

EDI is the automated exchange of business documents in standard computer formats. The Sterling-SAP mapping software will track and report the status of purchase orders and deliveries between auto manufacturers and suppliers such as tire companies.

The effort does not directly affect banking industry efforts to combine industrial EDI with payment and cash management services, but it does give banks an opportunity to enhance their services to some corporate clients.

SAP spokesman Bill Freed said banks should take note that a growing number of companies are shying away from doing business with companies seen as not EDI-capable.

Top corporate managers are continually "pushing electronic commerce requirements" throughout their operations, he said. Goodyear, for example, has four full-time management information services people and spends about a $1 million a year maintaining EDI systems between the company and its trading partners, Mr. Freed said.

SAP's client/server software is also used extensively in the oil and chemical industries.

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