Buying plastics materials, equipment, or spare parts via the Internet is supposed to offer convenience, speed, and reduced transaction costs for both buyer and seller.

Buying plastics materials, equipment, or spare parts via the Internet is supposed to offer convenience, speed, and reduced transaction costs for both buyer and seller. But does it really work out that way? Do some buyers benefit more than others? We will have some answers to those questions next month in our cover story on Buying On-Line by Executive Editor Bob Leaversuch. As I write, Bob is still researching, but he is already coming up with some interesting hints.

There seems to be no question that processors like the convenience of purchasing with a mouse click. But some processors Bob has spoken to expressed skepticism about whether e-commerce websites offer attractive prices. Some said you could do better dealing with a real salesperson. As one put it, “You can’t negotiate with a web page.”

Of course, buyers can get the convenience of e-purchasing and a good deal—if they have pre-negotiated prices that they can access on-line. In the case of resins, those prices may have been negotiated with the processor or the OEM end user, the ultimate customer.

One materials supplier has found a different approach to this issue. Last month, Dow Corning Corp. announced a new e-business venture called Xiameter, designed to let customers pocket some of the cost that e-commerce takes out of buy-sell transactions. Dow Corning has put more than 350 of its higher-volume silane and silicone chemicals for sale on the web in a bare-bones arrangement that involves minimum purchase quantities, no negotiating, and no technical service. In return, Dow Corning/Xiameter claims to offer the “lowest pricing anywhere”—meaning “significant double-digit discounts,” according to a Xiameter official. Now that’s what I call making the most of e-business!