NEW YORK — GE Plastics is keeping things simple: By mid-2000, if you're buying any of the firm's lineup of polycarbonate, ABS and other engineering resins, you'll be doing it through the GE Polymerland resin distribution division. The quick adoption of GE Polymerland's Internet-based sales model played a large role in the switch, GE Plastics officials said at an April 18 press event in New York.
"It had reached the point where GE Polymerland customers were getting better online service than GE Plastics customers," said Gerry Podesta, general manager of e-business for Pittsfield, Mass.-based GE Plastics.
Since being launched at NPE 1997, the GE Polymerland Web site has been redesigned twice and has seen its sales increase exponentially, increasing to $10 million per week in early April. GE officials expect the site to generate $20 million in weekly sales by the end of the year.
"The Internet is more productive than phone or fax transactions," said Gary Rogers, president and chief executive officer of GE Plastics. "When a customer buys on the Internet, we never see it until the order arrives in our warehouse. When a customer calls, we have to spend time talking on the phone and taking the order."
The latest redesign, completed in January, has streamlined the number of order-entry screens a customer sees to place and order and has added more help and feedback buttons to make the site more interactive.
Previously, customers would be split between GE Plastics and GE Polymerland based on their sales volume, with the larger customers dealing directly with GE Plastics.
GE Polymerland, headquartered in Huntersville, N.C., handled about 80 percent of GE Plastics customers, but only about 20 percent of the company's volume, according to company officials.
GE Polymerland braced for the switch by expanding its Chino, Calif., warehouse from 150,000 square feet to 400,000 square feet last fall.
Polymerland operates distribution hubs in Chino and Maumee, Ohio, as well as 15 other warehouses nationwide.
Another result of the transition is that less material will be stored at GE plants, such as those in Mount Vernon, Ind., and Burkville, Ala.
Material that was sold directly by GE Plastics was often warehoused at these sites, but now will be handled at GE Polymerland locations, according to GE Polymerland President Peter Foss.
"We're busting at the seams," Foss said. "We've been planning for a couple of years as to how the integration would go and we'll have it all completed by July.
"We'll be closer to our customers and still be able to make 70 percent of our deliveries within 3 days," he added.
"GE Polymerland is going to be the sales channel for GE Plastics — that's it."