Brandel says the biggest impact has been felt in terms of time efficiency and quality. The amount of time invested in locating suppliers, products and providing communications for specifications is being reduced by those companies that are dedicating their efforts to these B2B markets. Another hidden benefit is quality. Market transparency makes it possible for companies to buy higher-quality goods and services more efficiently, which then offsets the price margin for higher-quality goods.
What Runyan believes will hold for the chemicals and plastics industry could well be extended to almost any industry. Technologies are slicker and the pace of change is faster, but the fundamental principles of business remain. Runyan says the successful strategies will employ new developments while respecting established relationships: If you try to rip and replace relationships or various other things that have been established for years, that won't succeed. According to him, what is needed is not a reinvention of business, but a better way of doing business, including collaborating and sharing information with customers and supply chain partners. As he puts it, the key is getting information into and out of the enterprise.
As could be expected, some of the smaller companies, bound by inherently smaller budgets, are lagging behind in e-commerce adaptation. Rick Opatick is director of Marketing and Membership for the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association (SOCMA), which represents the interests of more than 300 small- to medium-sized member companies. His organization is presently setting up an e-commerce committee. He says, Over the past two years, a lot of the large chemical companies have organized these various chemical trading consortia, and obviously they have the resources of being able to provide the technology and the people and do the e-commerce, but they were left wondering how they fit into e-commerce, and if it was too late to get involved.
Opatick explains that the SOCMA committee will attempt to clarify the nuts and bolts of e-commerce for its members, including where member companies fit and explaining that it isn't too late to get involved. The committee will define terms, which is a huge concern when dealing with the highly specific content that must be exchanged between chemical manufacturers. Opatick says companies have to deal with the standardization of such things as whether to use lbs or pounds when specifying weight, for example. Things of that nature seem pretty subtle and small but in the standardization process they become a bigger issue.