Omnexus has been fine-tuning a technology that could make its original marketplace idea less relevant to its future.
Instead of being a Grand Central Station of dot-com purchasing, Omnexus is touting a new software called UltraLite to connect buyers and sellers.
The data-mapping software can work with virtually any enterprise software that processors use today, said Omnexus Chief Operating Officer Michael Walsh, interviewed at the firm's U.S. headquarters in Atlanta. But it might mean a major shift for the dot-com company, which today asks customers to log into the Omnexus site to order resin and equipment parts.
``In the old e-commerce system, customers had to come to a marketplace or use an alternate [supplier or distributor's] site for buying,'' Walsh said. ``With UltraLite, we can downplay the Omnexus name and make our work virtually invisible to customers.''
The Omnexus Web site will not go away. The company plans to make it more of an information hub for news, material comparisons, Web seminars, listings of surplus resin and technical questions, said Duane Priddy, marketing director.
UltraLite has been in beta testing for about a year, said Thorne King, Omnexus chief technology officer. Six supplier companies have been using the technology, including DuPont Europe.
Now Omnexus would like more of its 18 supplier and distributor members involved in online orders to use UltraLite.
``We already have the technology,'' Walsh said. ``It would save a supplier considerable time and resources, instead of spending it on de- veloping their own Web sites.''
The software is designed to abolish the need for processors to double-key orders - once in their own system, then again through Omnexus.
``For us, that wasn't going to work,'' said Don Benedict, North American purchasing manager with Quadrant Engineering Plastic Products, a maker of engineering plastic shapes in Reading, Pa. ``The UltraLite version is much simpler. I don't even know the Omnexus password and I don't need to use it.''
When a processor wants to replenish its resin stock, a purchasing manager can place the order on its system. The order is transmitted through Omnexus to a supplier that then confirms it and gives updated status reports.
Omnexus maps parts numbers on each processor's computer system, matching the numbers to a file tied to a supplier's system and using each supplier's production codes, King said.
In some ways, UltraLite is similar to electronic data interchange, or EDI, an automated ordering system used by the automotive industry, said Charlie Morden, e-development specialist with molder Phillips Plastics Corp. of Hudson, Wis.
The main difference is that Omnexus does not charge fees to processors.
``UltraLite is not a bad product for our customers who don't normally use EDI,'' Morden said. ``But if I had a supplier that could do internal EDI, I'm not sure I'd need to go through Omnexus.''
Omnexus is forecasting about $500 million in transaction volume this year, up from $120 million in 2002, and expects to be profitable by year's end, Walsh said. To do that, it has cut expenses to less than $9 million annually, or less than 20 percent of what the dot-com was spending when it launched in 2000, Walsh said. Staff size is at 58 worldwide, down from 75 in 2001.