Even at a time when few people are seen during the workday without some sort of communications device clutched in their hand, attached to their ear or strapped to their belt, there are still a few companies out there that think buying materials via the Web is just a little too futuristic.
However, the volatility of many different raw material markets is making some manufacturers change their minds, as the ability to have up-to-date pricing information can prove to be increasingly beneficial. In an attempt to stay ahead of the curve, Dow Corning started a Web-based offering called Xiameter in 2002 to help enable customers to purchase its silicon-based products in bulk, directly off the Internet.
The project started a year earlier, when the company was re-evaluating the silicone market and realized the needs of buyers were changing. The Xiameter brand was launched the following year to service those customers interested in good prices and who already knew what silicone they needed to buy for use in their applications.
"We sensed that there was a group of customers that already knew what they needed, wanted to buy it and wanted the most efficient and effective way of buying it," explains Shelley Bausch, executive director for Xiameter. "Of course, that means a good price, too. But it also means easy access, and not paying for anything they don't need."
|Xiameter offers customers online access and market-based pricing for over 400 silicon-based products manufactured by Dow Corning.|
Just like every other manufacturer today, Dow Corning deals with volatile pricing throughout the commodities, specifically in regard to silicon metal, methanol and energy. According to Mike O'Callahan, Xiameter's global fluids trader, the system's regular updates can help protect buyers themselves from unexpected and uncontrollable price increases.
The feature is encouraging more customers to regularly monitor the Xiameter Web site for whatever trends could affect silicone prices. Based on that information, they have the option to take their chances on the open market, or lock in that day's price for a period of 90 days. O'Callahan says this gives them the ability to, in a sense, buy price security.
"We're able to respond very quickly and make changes on a daily basis," he explains. "So customers can monitor these prices and, if they decide, they can order today and lock in that price for 90 days. And a good way for any company to protect itself [from price spikes] is to at least know what their next 90-day pricing is going to be."