Online plastics traders continue to roll with the changes at an alarming rate for a newborn industry.
The latest is Chicago-based Fob.com Inc. Fob emerged last year as a dot-com chemicals aggregate, pooling the interests of midsize companies interested in buying materials at a good price.
Then, in June, it announced Fobplastics.com, clustering the interests of like-minded processors shopping for material buys. That was a few months after doing the same for paper companies.
Now it's October, and Fob is re-wallpapering its house.
The firm shed its online marketplaces in late September. It now plans to re-emerge early in 2001, providing technology to help individual processors manage material procurement and logistics.
"Our focus remains becoming an early adopter of technology," Fob President and Chief Executive Officer Rich Payne said at the E-Business for Chemicals and Plastics 2000 conference. "Our customers are behind the change."
The move is an evolution, said Fob spokesman Dan Ciancio. The company's proprietary software can best be used where customers want it most: helping them handle the complex panorama of materials purchasing.
"We found that the core pain of our customers was not around transactional costs but the inefficiencies of doing things manually," Ciancio said.
Those words recall the shifting sands at Chicago-based Commerx Inc. In June, the company said it would change its target from its Commerx PlasticsNet online distribution service to one focused on procurement for individual customers.
The bottom line is that both Windy City dot-coms face survival challenges to feed hungry investors. They've just found a new playground on which to compete.
That leaves plastics Web-based trading open. There are no dominating firms, not yet anyway.
Six months back, pundits could have bet on both Commerx and Fob to lead that pack. They would have been wrong on both counts.
At the same e-business conference, executives from GE Polymerland and PolyOne Corp. recounted how their Web sites would reduce supply-chain costs.
A natural audience question was asked: Would those savings be passed to customers in the form of price breaks?
"We're not currently passing along any savings to customers," said Tim Condron, Polymerland general manager for commercial e-commerce. "But by delivering productivity to customers, they can gain savings."
David Honeycutt, director of e-business for PolyOne, concurred. He added, though, that it could happen.
Pryweller is an Akron, Ohio-based senior reporter for Plastics News.