HOUSTON (April 24, 2:20 p.m. EDT) — Two traditional financial-services companies that serve the plastics industry are plunging further into the online deep end with new Web-based offerings.
The firms, CIT Equipment Financing of Livingston, N.J., and Houston-based TownsendTarnell Inc., gradually are shifting their operations to a Web model.
Equipment-leasing company CIT has introduced new online services that allow customers to do more than merely set up financing terms.
The site now provides a complete loan-servicing package that includes printed credit applications, invoices, credit tracking, rate quotes and customized credit reports with purchase history, said Ann Hodges, CIT senior vice president for e-business.
"We want to provide more than just credit checks and collect money," Hodges said. "We´re doing a lot of things to make our customers´ lives easier and much more efficient. It´s another step to getting into full service for the company."
The improved site, www.eFinance-it.com, helps make CIT more efficient for its base of 3,000 customers, added Tom Carlock, CIT vice president for Internet development. The company saves about $20,000 a year in sending paperwork to customers by mail or by fax, Carlock said.
The 2-year-old site formerly offered more of an electronic classifieds page with equipment listings, Carlock said.
Now, it breaks down offerings into 20 separate industry categories — including plastics, construction and printing — for financing information, current articles and economic forecasts. Those forecasts, available for CIT customers, include reports from company economists.
TownsendTarnell, meanwhile, is creating a digital marketplace over its existing Web site, www.townsendtarnell.com. The company — a provider of market, credit and business intelligence for the plastics industry — will set up a trading store linking resin buyers and sellers.
The company selected San Francisco-based software company Tradeum, a subsidiary of technology provider VerticalNet Inc., to create the software for its network, due out later this year.
"We figured there was a way for TownsendTarnell to reach more customers, better manage capacity in customers´ plants and provide a better price for products," said Chris Friedemann, president of energy and natural resource markets at Tradeum.
The software will let buyers and sellers conduct multiple transactions over the site, whether it be through auctions, spot offerings or catalog purchases from customers, Friedemann said.
It also will define the resin grade, volume at a certain price, special terms and shipping dates, he said.
"Most other software is constrained in how many transactions you can do or the number of specifications in place," Friedemann said.
Distributors and transporters can be included online in the TownsendTarnell approach. That allows resin transporting prices to be folded into a bid, Friedemann said.
Tradeum would like to use that model to work with manufacturing consortiums setting up Web sites, Friedemann said. Several groups — including major thermoplastic resin suppliers, automakers and retailers — have announced separate plans to form neutral sites to trade parts or materials.
"It´s pretty complex to do," Friedemann said. "It´s one thing to smile at each other across a table and another to set up the technology to link it together."
TownsendTarnell officials declined to comment on plans for its site.