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2 March, 2021

Web war looms over £6bn online market
Published:  01 May, 2000

A battle is brewing between several Web sites which are aiming to establish themselves as the place where the world`s automation industry does its electronic business.

They will be fighting for a share of the on-line market for automation equipment which is predicted to be worth around €10bn (£6bn) by 2004. In the past couple of months, there has been a flurry of announcements of multi-vendor Web sites being set up to capture this potentially vast market:

A site called went live at the National Manufacturing Week trade show in Chicago in March;

An established US site called Manufacturing.Net is widening its scope to take in e-commerce activities; and

At the Hanover Fair, Siemens revealed that it was investing more than £30m in a site called Vertacross.

The first site to offer a full e-commerce service is IndustrialVortex and it will be followed soon by Manufacturing.Net. Vertacross will not start taking orders until next year.

Visitors to IndustrialVortex can search for a type of product, compare specifications and prices from different suppliers, and place an order with one or more of the suppliers without leaving the site.

The buyers receive a confirmation number from IndustrialVortex which forwards the order to the appropriate suppliers. It plans to add real-time stock and order status information.

As well as its e-commerce activities, the site will offer auctions, "hot buys", product showcases, and a request-for-quotation marketplace. It plans to deal with most automation technologies, including motors, drives, software, sensors and PLCs.

IndustrialVortex chief executive, Dave Smith, argues that the site will save users time and money. "Our site is much more than a buy-sell portal," he says. "It`s a rich research tool, a powerful collaborative tool, and a highly personalised environment that buyers and suppliers want to use over and over".

As well as attracting suppliers with existing electronic catalogues and e-commerce sites, IndustrialVortex is hoping to attract suppliers that have been put off by the cost of developing their own electronic sales systems. Its initial suppliers include Honeywell, Invensys, and Opto 22.

IndustrialVortex faces competition from Manufacturing.Net, a site originally set up in 1996 by the publisher Cahners to provide information for the manufacturing community. Cahners has now teamed up Aspect Development, a business-to-business e-commerce specialist, to expand the site into an e-marketplace covering the entire manufacturing supply chain, from planning and purchasing, to shipping and delivery.

Cahners` chief executive, Marc Teren, claims that the site is "the first to combine a complete e-business capability with a wealth of information for manufacturing professionals". The site includes more than 400,000 pages of editorial information, including news and economic statistics, from Cahners` 23 industry publications.

Like IndustrialVortex, the Manufacturing.Net site will allow buyers to search for, compare and order products from different suppliers. Manufacturing.Net says it will be offering 1.8m products from 6,000 suppliers.

IndustrialVortex and Manufacturing.Net will have a headstart on Vertacrosss, but this site will have the might of Siemens behind it.

Launching Vertacross at the Hanover Fair, Dr Klaus Wucherer, president of Siemens` Automation and Drives Group, said its represented "a new business model from which we anticipate considerable appreciation in value". Siemens is aiming for a double-digit percentage share of the on-line market and intends to capture the top position worldwide.

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