ChemicalsWorld.com, a new Internet marketplace offering value-added services
for buyers and sellers in the chemicals industry made its debut recently.
The new company is headquartered in The Netherlands but will offer its
services worldwide to participants of the trillion dollar global chemicals
industry. Powering its new site are two giants in the business-to-business
technology market, IBM and i2 Technologies.
ChemicalsWorld.com is one of the first industry-specific subscriptions-based
forums where buyers and sellers can meet, share information, exchange
goods and services, and ultimately run critical supply chain operations
of their businesses. As of May, the site offered little beyond descriptions
of its planned features that were to be rolled out by the beginning of
June, an ambitious goal given the scope of the services.
"value chain services" to be offered through the site will cover commerce,
procurement, supply chain management, and fulfillment. Commerce and procurement
services are targeted for sellers and buyers, respectively, and probably
have the best chance of short term success. More difficult to deliver
will be its supply chain management and fulfillment services, which aspire
to allow subscribers to optimize interactions with trading partners to
improve forecast accuracy, optimize inventory deployment, and track orders
and shipments. Part of the difficulty lies in the novelty of performing
mission critical activities over the web and the hype surrounding the
benefits that can be achieved.
The scope and ambition of ChemicalsWorld eclipses that of ProcessCity.com,
Aspen Technology's venture for the process industry launched just three
months ago. ProcessCity has a wider industry focus than ChemicalsWorld,
but does not attempt to offer a business-to-business marketplace or services
such as inventory optimization and shipment tracking.
providing the underlying technology for ChemicalsWorld, i2 with IBM are
now operating in the same market as Commerce One and Concur, which may
hasten these companies and others to form alliances with supply chain
management software companies to be able to offer optimization and execution
services beneath e-commerce storefronts. Commerce One has already formed
such an alliance with Adexa, Inc., although the timeframe for delivering
an integrated product is unknown.
An important issue for prospective subscribers to ChemicalsWorld.com and
one that has yet to be demonstrated is how cleanly i2's optimization services
map to chemicals industry requirements. Without these advanced features,
ChemicalsWorld will be unable to differentiate itself from other portals
and charge premium subscription fees.
A larger issue concerns how comfortable i2 will be in creating potential
competitors for its own industry-specific portals, although it has not
ventured into the chemicals sector, preferring instead to focus on complex,
discrete parts manufacturing and retail sites.
In the short term, ChemicalsWorld will be a useful destination for chemicals
process industry professionals who will benefit from the content aspects
of the portal. In order for it to metamorphose to be the critical platform
for supply chain services it intends, a substantial number of companies
need to subscribe as buyers and sellers to attract other companies to
sign up for its commerce and procurement activities.
Of its remaining services, fulfillment will likely be the next area to
provide measurable value to companies who subscribe to track orders placed
online and delivery statuses of goods. Supply chain management will require
more effort among suppliers and customers who intend to collaborate on
forecasting and replenishment, which will require them to share sensitive
information over the Internet, something that carries a significant degree
of risk with the current state of Internet security. Users should understand
clearly ChemicalsWorld.com's security measures before signing on for these