To mangle a former presidential campaign mantra, the plastics dot-com business no longer is about the exchange, stupid.
Right now, this year, it's about product development. And it's about finding the right vendors. And it's about inventory management. And a bunch of other things.
What it's no longer strictly about is trading products publicly over a neutral site, the former cement mixture for the business-to-business world. Sites such as ChemConnect Inc. are talking up private corporate exchanges and resins futures trading. Reverse-auction granddaddy FreeMarkets Inc. is launching software packages so companies can conduct bidding themselves.
Omnexus, the plastics dot-com marketplace, always wanted to be a broader company, said David Jukes, senior vice president of sales and marketing. Now, it has taken an important step by adding equipment supplier Engel Vertriebsgessellschaft mbH to its list of equity partners.
Engel is Omnexus' first nonresin-related member on its 14-company leadership team. It also provides a stepping stone to a brave new world of Internet service, Jukes said.
Omnexus wants to help processors make educated decisions on molding equipment, from tiebars to platen sizes to controls. Only then would a customer link to an equipment supplier — more will be added soon — and move forward on its own.
"We're really not out to sell molding machines," said Jukes, based at Omnexus U.S. headquarters in Atlanta. "We don't think that's a huge market online. What is huge is developing qualified buyers to machinery suppliers."
The company plans to offer lower-priced spare parts online, too. And new Omnexus software is coming to help predict how a machine is configured in a plant layout.
The company also is talking tooling, wanting to add predictive engineering that allows mold shops to conspire upfront with processors on how best to engineer a tool for a part.
Until now, the site has been quietly working with a select group of companies, Jukes said. The company plans a larger marketing blitz this spring.
It is still up against some perceptual issues. An April 4 Wall Street Journal story explained how some dot-com companies overstated the extent that the Internet would change old-line business.
But maybe that day really is coming. For Omnexus, it just means multiple revenue streams with many customers.
Pryweller is an Akron, Ohio-based senior reporter for Plastics News.