CHICAGO (July 5, 2:30 p.m. EDT) — Processors seem to have a split personality about electronic commerce.
Take Peter Fortin, a manufacturing engineer at ITW Plastiguide, a molder based in Rancho Dominguez, Calif. Fortin said he is not involved at all in e-commerce activities and uses the Internet primarily for research.
But Fortin also cannot deny its potential power. "It absolutely seems to be the wave for all the industry," he said.
The DuPont NPE Plastics Industry Survey bears witness to those dual emotions. More than half of 130 processor participants interviewed June 19 at NPE 2000 said they never have purchased resins or compounds online. Nearly 59 percent of all 303 survey respondents, meanwhile, said their firm had yet to participate in online trade exchanges.
And an even greater number, 68.6 percent of those interviewed, said they never have participated in an online auction.
Yet, survey respondents also expect to use e-commerce for an increasing part of their business. More than half the interviewees anticipate using a trade exchange in the next two years.
And an overwhelming majority, more than 80 percent, add that e-commerce will be good for the economic health of the industry.
There are plenty of adherents. John Baird, quality control manager for colorants with resin producer AOC LLC of Collierville, Tenn., said he uses the Internet to download pictures of equipment and gather pricing.
"Sooner or later, when you start finding what you want, it's easier to make contact (through the Web)," Baird said. I use it all the time."
Contact could be increasing exponentially. Five resin companies have formed Omnexus, an electronic marketplace targeted at injection molders.
The site, due to launch in North America in October, will allow customers to purchase thermoplastic resins, equipment, tooling, maintenance supplies, packaging materials and other services over the Web site.
DuPont is one of the companies that founded Omnexus. Collectively, the online marketplace is good for the industry, said Craig Naylor, vice president of DuPont Engineering Polymers.
The next year or two will be extremely important to establishing e-commerce, Naylor said. More companies will share ideas and make transactions, building links across Web sites, Naylor said.
"There are tremendous opportunities ahead," Naylor said. "It's my hope that the choices we make across the supply chain will be based on a long-term vision that produces more total value for everyone who participates."
Currently, many companies are providing a window to the world by using the Internet. Andrew Rhodes, a manufacturing project engineer in the injection molding department of Crescent Industries Inc. in New Freedom, Pa., uses it to communicate with customers.
"We have a Web cam in our mold department, and it is updated every minute," Rhodes said. "They even set it up for a medical show two weeks ago."
Most companies surveyed have their own Web sites, and more than 40 percent say their sites offer e-commerce capabilities.
Yet, 9.3 percent of survey participants also say they have no Web site and have none planned.
Survey participants who use online auctions said they generally gain business through its use. Only 9.8 percent said they have lost business by using an auction site.
Of survey participants, more than 40 percent work as plastics processors. More than 300 people were polled for some of the questions.
Generally, participants found the use of e-commerce nonthreatening. It allows potential customers to get the right answer more quickly, said Michael Smith, senior licensing specialist at Phillips Petroleum Co. in Bartlesville, Okla.
Smith said he is hooked on the Internet and even uses it to monitor the competition. But he admitted one fact.
"They are doing the same thing," Smith said.