The major emphasis on information is placed on publications and services designed to identify and obtain information. Because of space limitations references to individual works, which contain the required information, are limited to a few. The most important source of information is the primary literature. It consists mainly of the articles published in periodicals and of papers presented at conferences. New discoveries are first reported in the primary literature. It is, therefore, a major source of current information. Most engineers are familiar with a few publications, but are not aware of the extent of the total production of primary literature.

As an example there is the publication Machine Design that issues 22 per year. It covers design engineering of manufactured products across the entire industry spectrum. It offers solutions to design problems, new technology developments, CAD/CAM updates, etc. It is published by Penton Media, Inc., 1100 Superior Ave., Cleveland, OH 44114; Tel 216-696-7000; Fax 216-696-8765; website

Engineering Index (Engineering Information Inc. published monthly) abstracts material from thousands of periodicals and conferences. It is known as Compendex in its electronic version.

Handbooks and encyclopedias are part of the secondary literature (included in the Bibliography section). They are derived from primary sources and make frequent references to periodicals. Handbooks and encyclopedias are arranged to present related materials in an organized fashion and provide quick access to information in a condensed form.

While monographs include books written for professionals, they are either primary or secondary sources of knowledge and information. Textbooks are also part of the tertiary literature. They are derived from primary and secondary sources. Textbooks provide extensive explanations and proofs for the material covered to provide the reader with an opportunity to understand a specific subject thoroughly.

Thomas Register

Use has always been made by many of the Thomas Register of American Manufacturers. These books may occupy considerable real estate either in your office, your company's library, or somewhere in purchasing. The people at Thomas Register have developed (since 2000) two things that are of considerable help to those who have come to rely on this reference. The first are Thomas Register CD-ROMS, and the second is the Thomas Register web site. One can get at the Thomas Register web site at

The first time user must register to use it, but registration is free. The Thomas Register web site offers several distinct advantages over the traditional printed version. The first few advantages are obvious and not really exciting. One is simply real estate. Finding a place to store (much less use) the bound versions of the register is difficult. If you have access to the Internet, you have access to the register. The second big advantage is, in theory, how current the information is. One would assume that an electronic version would be updated more often than volumes you have sitting on your bookshelf. The improvement in storage space is met with the CD-ROM version as well.

Once registered, you can move directly to the search portion of the site, where you are allowed to search on a company name, product or service, or brand name. Selecting one of these three categories and entering the appropriate key word or words, the register quickly returns a set of broad categories. For example, searching under the word "extrusion" under products/services yielded 157 product headings. Obviously this contains a significant number of categories that are not appropriate for plastics extrusion, but serves as an example. Each product heading is reported along with a set of columns recording the number of companies found, (and now the bigger and very exciting advantages of the web site) the number of companies with on-line catalogues, the number of companies with literature requests via fax, and the number of companies with on-line ordering and links to web sites.

Selecting one of the broad product headings gets one into the listings of the individual companies themselves, where, if available, one can jump to an on-line catalogue, on-line ordering, or move to the company's web site. If none of these features are available, there is a short blurb about the company, location, phone numbers, and what type of products they offer, very similar to the "bare-bones" listing in the bound versions of the register. The designers of the Thomas web site have done an excellent job in that they split the screen when you jump to a company web site. The left-hand side of the screen gives you the Thomas Register choices of contacting the company, etc. while the right hand side is the site of the individual company.

As with any conventional desk reference, the primary means of contact with the bound versions of the Thomas Register is the telephone. With the web site, to be able to go from a search for a list of suppliers of a given item or service (either nationally or by state) to order from an online catalogue is a huge advantage and one would suspect, an advantage for a company that offers that option. A cursory stroll through a few randomly chosen categories shows that not everyone is offering on-line catalogues and on-line ordering. Look for these services to grow considerably as more and more people begin to rely on the Internet for goods and services.

Thomas Regional Directory Company has been in business since 1977, and publishes 19 Regional Industrial Buying Guides, in print and on CD-ROM, and now on a web site ( The Thomas Regional Directory is listed as a "partner" to the Thomas Register.

Thomas Regional provides access to a searchable database of more than 480,000 manufacturers, distributors, and service companies organized under 4,500 product/service categories in 19 key U.S. industrial markets. As with the Thomas register, one can search by product/ service or company name in the region of interest to you. As Thomas Regional points out in their own introduction.

You can also refine your search based on company type (manufacturer, distributor, manufacturer's rep, and service company), geographic location (state, city/county, area code), trade name, key words, and other specifications such as ISO 9000 certified, and minority and woman-owned businesses. View also supplier brochures, catalogs, line cards, and fax forms and contact suppliers direcdy via our Contact Company feature.

Thomas Regional also offers listings (by region) of trade shows and special events, including locations, dates, contacts, listings of industry and professional organizations, and government and business resources. Where available, each reference has a link to the web site of the organization in question. They will begin offering some new features that capitalize on their database of companies. As Thomas Regional points out in a press release published on their web site, industrial buyers today face the same recurring problems with the large search engines that researchers, consumers, and virtually everyone else encounters.

These searches generally produce hits in the range of thousands to millions, with far too little of it on target. For that reason, Thomas Regional will be creating a series of web sites that provide buyers with "vertical portals" to specific industries. These portals provide access to Thomas Regional's extensive databases of industrial suppliers, organized according to industry or trade. Thomas Regional is leveraging the usefulness of its content through comprehensive databases that fulfill the specific need of each industry.

Thomas Regional claims that ultimately over 90 industrial "communities" will have their own Thomas-powered web sites tailored to their interests, which will go a long way to improve the efficiency and speed of their searches. The first of these vertical web sites has been launched for the facilities management and engineering profession and may be found at

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