e-Catalysts Delivers Digital Marketplace

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e-Catalysts Delivers Digital Marketplace
S. McVey - January 4, 2001

Event Summary

e-Catalysts, Inc. officially launched its B2B digital marketplace for raw material suppliers, manufacturers, buyers, and logistics providers centered on the $10 billion catalyst industry. Equity partners VerticalNet, Inc., W. R. Grace & Co., and Aspen Technology, Inc. announced the new venture in October, inviting trading partners in the refining, petrochemical, chemical, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology industries to participate.

This phase of the e-Catalysts.com launch includes content and community features from VerticalNet Solutions' eMarketplace Suite, which is a key component of the marketplace. Visitors to e-Catalysts.com are now able to obtain industry-specific information about products and services, news and analysis and a host of professional resources.

Future releases will include a searchable "expert-system" database, allowing purchasers to find product information, identify suppliers, and make buying decisions. In addition, private marketplace features will be added to allow participating companies to conduct secure business transactions and exchange technical/product information with suppliers and customers. Supply-chain optimization capabilities for collaborative planning and scheduling, and engineering tools for catalyst research, development and performance monitoring will arrive in future releases.

"We're proud to bring live e-Catalysts.com to members of the catalyst industry," said Dwayne Spradlin, board member for e-Catalysts, Inc. "With its launch, this important site and cutting edge technology will enable industry participants to make more informed buying decisions, and in the future will reflect commerce mechanisms for improving customer relationship management and more."

Market Impact

Like many other vertical marketplaces that promise reduced costs and improved efficiency through B2B collaboration, e-Catalysts.com holds great potential. In contrast to most of these marketplaces, which focus primarily on discrete parts transactions, e-Catalysts.com faces some formidable challenges inherent in the catalyst industry. Catalysts are pill-sized particles used in vast quantities by petroleum refiners to spark critical chemical reactions in their manufacturing processes.

Few manufacturing processes are as complex as those employed to make catalysts, characterized by insiders as a blend of science and art. As a process industry, catalyst manufacturing involves all the usual steps such as chemical reactions, multi-phase material transport, solids mixing, and carefully controlled high-temperature drying operations that define the properties of the finished catalyst. Furthermore, catalysts require select grades of raw materials produced within strict tolerances and minimum levels of impurities. These raw materials include precious metals that are purchased at negotiated prices from a small number of trusted suppliers. Thus, catalyst manufacturing is a difficult enterprise requiring considerable investment of time and expertise by the people involved.

As a vehicle for facilitating supplier selection, exchanging industry-relevant information, and communicating general needs among participants, e-Catalysts.com can provide value immediately. Supply chain optimization, collaboration among trading partners, and maintenance of private supplier/buyer relationships will be far more difficult for e-Catalysts.com to deliver.

User Recommendations

In spite of the fanfare, catalyst industry players will find limited services available through e-Catalyst.com at present. In addition, the dreary market conditions that have greeted B2B startups over the past several months may cause one to doubt the venture's prospects for survival. The risks aside, e-Catalyst.com has at least two factors in its favor. Backing from Grace and Aspentech, two strong established companies in the catalyst and supply chain management software industries, gives e-Catalysts.com the secure financial foothold that few Internet-only exchanges ever achieve. e-Catalysts.com also benefits from being the first conspicuous digital marketplace for the catalyst industry, which makes it the pioneer in the minds of companies looking to join.

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