PHILADELPHIA (Oct. 29, 11 a.m. EST) — A perfect world of split-second seamlessness over the Web is still just that: an idyllic setting that today exists only in dreams.
The scenario — a heated topic at the EyeForChem USA 2001 conference in Philadelphia — would work like this: Processors log into their systems. With a few mouse clicks, transactions are made over various Web sites to buy resin, evaluate off-spec materials, manage logistics, purchase futures contracts and bid on major projects.
It is all done instantly, so processors are not aware they are working through Web sites operated by Omnexus or ChemConnect Inc. or Covisint or FreeMarkets Inc. or Commerx Inc.
It is a goal shared by Elemica, a Wayne, Pa.-based dot-com that wants to connect resin and chemical suppliers both together and to the outside world. And it is a goal many resin-supplier officials believe will help the Internet really make sense to processors.
“The Web is only a channel; that's all it is,” said Ian Telford, global director for epoxy and intermediates with Midland, Mich.-based Dow Chemical Co. “You buy from different people, not from one, and the customers all choose. You can't just get customers to buy on the Web by using the same old business models.”
Elemica eventually hopes to provide the spark to connect other vertical and horizontal hubs. The company, with 22 investors that include some of the world's largest resin suppliers and distributors, is talking to other hubs about a virtually seamless world, said spokesman Neil Gussman.
The nacent company must attack the issue in stages, he said. It still is attempting to help members buy and sell raw materials to each other before it can fan out, he said.
“We're talking to just about everybody,” Gussman said. “But a lot of that work depends on our partners and their customers. We have to connect with them first.”
Frank Doorley, principal consultant with PriceWaterhouseCoopers Inc., said Elemica will not fulfill its mission unless it provides that background connectivity.
“They haven't proven anything since they came out of the gate over a year ago,” Doorley said. “I'd like to see a lot more action from them.”
Elemica portrays itself as a dial tone, an AT&T for the Internet that will remain unnoticed while it connects surfers, said Chief Operating Officer Dennis Campbell.
Campbell, speaking on a panel with David Jenkins, ChemConnect senior vice president of sales, drew some pointed questions about connecting between hubs. Jenkins said some ChemConnect customers would like to see hub-to-hub connectivity.
“We'd give it more consideration if Transora [an electronic-products hub], Omnexus or Elemica were ready to do that,” Jenkins said.
Campbell responded that connecting the hubs is a long-term goal.
Omnexus, a dot-com processors marketplace with U.S. headquarters in Atlanta, has talked to Elemica, automotive hub Covisint and others for the past year, said David Jukes, Omnexus senior vice president for its global commercial group.
Currently, every dot-com marketplace is sorting out where partnerships work and where they provide no customer benefit, he said.
“We're trying to understand what makes sense,” Jukes said. “That includes what we're doing on technology and how it might overlap, how we may work together and where we don't' want to work together. If it delivers cost savings to everybody, including processors and [original equipment manufacturers], we might be interested.”
That job might take some time. One factor is equipping smaller molders and toolmakers with the tools necessary to connect seamlessly without breaking their budgets, said Kevin Cronin, Ticona global e-business director.
The Summit, N.J.-based resin supplier is a member of both Elemica and Omnexus, The push is on to work together, he said.
“The challenge will be among suppliers to get closer together,” Cronin said. “We expect key OEMs and customers to ask to partner in different systems. The bottom line is that you have to participate in multiple hubs to get ahead of the curve. But everyone must have access.”