Thrusday, January 07, 1999

Milacron online, on the road

New Web site, door-to-door delivery offered

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Milacron Inc. is going truckin' and online with two ambitious new ventures to expand its sales among the nation's almost 118,000 small metalworking shops.

        The company, which sold its machine tool business last year to concentrate on its faster growing industrial products and plastics processing systems businesses, Wednesday said it has launched what is thought to be the first large-scale business-to-business electronic commerce Web site for heavy industry.

        As part of that effort, Milacron said it has also launched what it eventually hopes will be a fleet of 300 trucks across the United States within five years, selling products ranging from cutting tools, grinding wheels, cutting fluids and other supplies right at the job shops' front doors.

        “Right now, our distributors don't call on these small shops,” said Alan Shaffer, Milacron group vice president for industrial products. That means that when shop owners need those items, they have to take time away from their business or send a machine operator to get them, he said.

        The Web site goes beyond an electronic catalog of Milacron's 50,000 metalworking products to include an interactive sys tem that allows shop owners to get answers to metal-cutting problems, a bid-estimating helper, a job-shop “mall” that allows shops to post free infor mation about their business and a machinery flea market that allows shop owners to post a free, 30-day ad to sell unneeded equipment.

        “For the first time, this large group of smaller customers will have immediate access to all our products and a level of technical service beyond that supplied today to even the largest customers,” said Mr. Shaffer, who unveiled the initiatives at a news conference at Milacron's Valenite training center outside Detroit.

        “This is the best application I've seen,” said A.J.

        Sweatt, online editor for Modern Machine Shop magazine, a Cincinnati-based trade publication that caters to the job-shop market.

        Tom Beard, Modern Machine Shop editor, said a lot of metalworking product suppliers and independent catalogs are putting their products online, but “Milpro has set a new standard, with a lot of tools and features for personalized service.”

        GlobalLink New Media, Open Market Inc. and EMC Corp. provided expertise for the Milpro Web site.

        Forrester Research, a market research firm, has estimated the value of goods and services sold on the Internet will grow from about $8 billion in 1997 to $320 billion by 2002.

        Mr. Shaffer said Milacron has invested several million dollars in the Milpro initiative. Still, he said, “nobody knows if electronic commerce will work for heavy industry.”

        In surveys of 5,000 metal job-shop operators, Milacron found evidence that they will use the service.

        More than half of those surveyed said they have used the Web, one in eight said they've bought something via the Web, and more than half said they would look at the service. Milacron is starting with eight trucks initially, increasing to 20 by the end of next year, after which it plans to offer franchises.


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