NEW ORLEANS — The experts have spoken, and the processors have responded. At Plastics News' recent electronic-business briefing in New Orleans, several industry analysts told processors what they need to do to join the revolution: Mobilize resources, look for opportunities and go for the gold as soon as possible.
Start small, move fast and think really big, said Edward Matheny, president of Decatur, Ga.-based software and consulting firm Atlantic Systems.
"It's possible to sell [e-business] ideas very quickly," he said. "It helps to develop an entrepreneurial culture."
But processors expressed misgivings about diving into the business-to-business world. Most of the concerns had to do with online resin and parts trading — the selling side — as opposed to setting up in-house systems to take orders or track shipments.
Here is a sprinkling of processor comments, both from the New Orleans event and the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. Molders Division annual conference, held Feb. 23-25 in Las Vegas and devoted entirely to e-business.
Greg Avsharian, president, Century Plastics Inc., Romeo, Mich.: "[For online trading], the true value of products has to come out. But if someone is holding a gun to my head and asking me to do this and drop my prices too low, there will be a fallout. I'm not sure how many small companies can compete."
Bill Flint, president and chief operating officer, Flambeau Corp., Baraboo, Wis.: "My concern right now is how low you'll have to quote in an auction to get the job. We spend a lot of years upfront in engineering design getting ready for a [vehicle] launch. But then a supplier or carmaker could decide to take it to an auction and give the job to some other molder to cut costs."
Harmish Shaw, vice president, Renaissance Plastics Co., Amherst, N.Y.: "There will be a tremendous amount of people dropping out of the automotive business in the next two to three years because of the bidding activity. Our profit margins are already low, and this will cause serious problems in the future."
Robert Lerman, chief executive officer, Custom Bottle Inc., Naugatuck, Conn.: "It's clear that the cost of doing business is going to be reduced. But it's also a double-edged sword. It will make the process of buying and selling much more fluid and more streamlined. But there's going to be enormous price pressure on products."
Christian Janssens, controller, Mayfair Plastics Inc., Gaylord, Mich.: "It's acting as an emphasis for our company to move forward. Our only fear in trading is having our parts lumped in with more commoditized products that are bundled together."
Kerri Christofanelli, chief financial officer, Morton Custom Plastics, Morton, Ill.: "We're in the formulation stage and trying to figure out what to do next. But I think e-commerce is going to accelerate trends in the industry for buying and selling."
Jack Shedd, executive vice president, Mulay Plastics Inc., Addison, Ill.: "You have to expect e-commerce to significantly alter the way you do business. If you don't, you're going to miss the next revolution following the industrial revolution. By allowing the seamless flow of information, we'll cut out the back-room transaction costs."
Robin Hunt, president, H&W Plastics Inc., Bowling Green, Ky.: "I find this mind-boggling that we are trying to learn as much as we can about e-commerce and apply it but still run profit-making businesses. We are not going to be able to keep up. Once we do, there will be too many changes implemented, and we will have to constantly catch up."
Bill Notar, marketing manager, Unimark Plastics Co., Greer, S.C.: "The likely impact is almost anyone's guess now. Nobody is too far behind. That relieved me of some of my concerns going in. I think there are tremendous opportunities."
Robb Yunger, vice president of engineering, Plano Molding Co., Plano, Ill.: "We will get more exposure to buyers, but I don't think it will replace one-on-one interactions. You will have better exposure to more buyers, and buyers will have more exposure to sellers."
David Hidding, vice president, Dana Molded Products Inc., Arlington Heights, Ill.: "My biggest concern is that my company might be left behind if we choose not to participate, and yet, the economics don't always favor participation. Long term, a number of smaller molders will fall by the wayside because they do not have the resources to participate in everything their customers want them to participate in."
Gerald Krausert, chief operating officer, Dickten & Masch Manufacturing Co., Nashotah, Wis.: "Just because somebody is ISO certified doesn't mean somebody is a good molder. How long until somebody gets burned in the [online trading] process?"
Robin Hunt, president, H&W Plastics Inc., Bowling Green, Ky.: "I find this mindboggling that we are trying to learn as much as we can about e-commerce and apply it, but still run profit-making businesses. We are not going to be able to keep up. Once we do, there will be too many changes implemented, and we will have to constantly catch up."
Plastics News correspondent Roger Renstrom contributed to this report.