Industrial manufacturers form online marketplace for distributors

Hoping that e-commerce will beget more commerce, four international manufacturers of industrial products yesterday announced a deal to set up online marketplaces through which distributors in the U.S. and Europe can place orders for the equipment that they make.

Bearings, electric motors and high-speed steel cutting tools will be among the products available on the business-to-business exchanges that are being developed by the four companies, which include Rockwell International Corp.'s Milwaukee-based Rockwell Automation unit and The Timken Co. in Canton, Ohio.

Also involved in the new venture are Germany-based INA Holding Schaeffler KG and The SKF Group, a Swedish manufacturer. The four partners have formed a new company called CoLinx LLC that will manage their joint activities in the U.S., including the expansion of an existing e-business Web site set up by Rockwell Automation under the name

Jon Stevens, SKF USA Inc.'s vice president for logistical services, said distributors had long been asking for a single hub through which they could enter orders. But he added that the four companies don't plan to include online auction capabilities on the expanded site, which is due to open for business in April.

"It's not designed for [us to be] bidding against each other," Stevens said. "It's all separate stores within a mall." And just as multiple clothing retailers stand to benefit from increased traffic within a brick-and-mortar shopping center, SKF and the manufacturers hope to increase their individual sales by pooling together their offerings online.

The U.S. and European operations will run separately for the time being, according to the four companies. In the U.S., CoLinx also will absorb the assets of a shared logistics operation that Rockwell and SKF already have in place. In Europe, meanwhile, an SKF Web site operated under the name International AB will be used as part of the joint venture.

This story, "Industrial manufacturers form online marketplace for distributors" was originally published by Computerworld.

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