Nypro Inc. has a dream: The large injection molder would like to tie its purchasing together under one Web site, connected to its global plants and automating all of each day's paperwork.
But that cannot happen yet, although the Clinton, Mass.-based company has one part of the equation started. In a pilot program, it has connected some of its global facilities with a dozen suppliers to automate material purchases and then send confirmations to plant locations.
But while the system, set up with Westchester, Ill.-based Commerx Inc., has its upside, the company cannot connect its software to the purchasing engines offered by Omnexus, GE Polymerland or some of the larger resin producers, said Nypro director of global sourcing Bob Smetana.
``We'd prefer to dial up Omnexus directly, but we can't,'' Smetana said. ``We're not getting into swivel-chair purchases, where you go to one Web site for this and another for that. Omnexus argues a good case, but we don't have time to open another interface or do the maintenance on it.''
The split between private and public electronic buying could become the next great e-commerce battleground. Processors such as Nypro and Graham Packaging Inc. are linking plants and controlling the purchase of materials, office goods and other products.
And resin companies are linking to the outside world. BASF Corp. of Mount Olive, N.J., has connected its sites through dot-com consortium Elemica of Wayne, Pa., allowing customers both to buy from and sell to the company. Elemica uses a Web browser to offer direct Internet purchases to chemical and plastics companies.
``Our rail network in the United States once started as little islands,'' said Elemica spokesman Neil Gussman. ``Now, you can move from Maine to California without having to leave the tracks. That's the same connectivity we want to provide across one Internet network.''
And San Francisco-based ChemConnect Inc. just merged with Envera of Richmond, Va., helping it provide both a private, connected network for companies and public trading.
Omnexus is moving forward on that front, too. In early June it formed an alliance with IQMS, a software provider based in Paso Robles, Calif. The company will tie its IQMS EnterpriseIQ computer system that it sells directly to the Omnexus site starting in the third quarter.
The companies will automate order entries and confirmations, send updates and manage electronic invoicing without human intervention, said IQMS marketing director Mark Bosse. ``If we can get several hundred of our customers automatically linking up with Omnexus, it's a home run for them,'' Bosse said.
Yet, customers first must use the IQMS system before gaining the advantages of linking to Omnexus. That still puts Nypro and others out in the cold.
That could be changing. The dot-com consortium is exploring the idea of eventually connecting processors and suppliers more directly on a processor's computer system, said William Murphy, Omnexus chief technology officer.
Meanwhile, Omnexus is focused on offering such supply-chain services as order tracking and inventory management in future technology releases.
And while ChemConnect has entered the private-market route, one of its main competitors, Houston-based trade exchange CheMatch Inc., said it is best to leave the connections to Omnexus and Elemica. For plastics, CheMatch instead will focus on the selling of wide-spec and nonbranded material, working with DuPont, Bayer Corp. and others.
``Omnexus and Elemica are trying to solve administrative and logistics issues,'' said CheMatch President Lawrance McAfee. ``They're not a price-setting mechanism like we are. Our expertise is elsewhere, and we don't intend to compete with them.''