DALLAS — Through recent partnerships with BuildNet Inc., distributors for CertainTeed Corp. and Owens Corning will be able to research, order, pay for and track their purchased products in real time via the Internet. The processors' computers will be equipped to automatically update builders on material prices. The builders' computers then will be able to accept the pricing within set boundaries and place an order.
Provided there are no errors, there will be no human interaction after an initial consultation and hookup to the BuildNet service, unless the distributor wants to speak to a person, CertainTeed spokesman Bill Seiberlich said.
"We don't think it's going to eliminate salespeople," he added.
In fact, the Valley Forge, Pa.-based vinyl building-materials manufacturer does not expect a huge downsizing of its staff. Sales representatives still will be standing by to assist customers.
Toledo, Ohio-based Owens Corning shares that outlook. Craig Landwehr, the company's interactive solutions leader, said the role of the sales staff will change to resemble that of a consultant, he said.
With a more interactive system that will show the builder's needs, the sales department will be able to suggest a product that could work better with a certain floor plan or type of house, Landwehr said.
For CertainTeed, there will be no need for a catalog of new products because distributors automatically will be notified electronically when a new material is introduced, Seiberlich said.
But what about the paperwork? The system will take care of that.
Interactive computer systems will be able to communicate with each other to share information about builders or distributors, eliminating the need to rewrite information, said John Wagner, BuildNet's director of media relations. BuildNet is based in Research Triangle Park, N.C.
"If you think of all the inefficiencies that happen today because of paperwork, it'll just cut out a lot of confusion amongst the different parties," Landwehr said.
The charge for installing the system will be small, though Wagner was unsure of the cost. BuildNet will charge builders a nominal subscription-based fee once the system is up and running.
BuildNet has estimated the cost of doing business could be reduced by 4-8 percent for suppliers, of which BuildNet would collect a small percentage, he said.
"BuildNet is not there to reinvent the manufacturing system. We're just automating your existing relationship," Wagner said.