Between 170 and 210 Web enterprises are chasing your e-commerce orders. Enjoy it while you can, because not all will survive. In September, five contractor-purchasing sites that are emanating from within the electrical industry itself were covered in the first part of this two-part article. Here are the others that seem most likely to succeed:
SmartContractor.com—backers of this site, which threatens to make its contractor users “smart” via Web-enabled commerce and much more, include two large regional electrical distributors. North Coast Electric (NCE, Bellevue, Wash.)—one of the nation’s 25 largest electrical distributors—is, like WESCO, hedging its bets on e-commerce. Beyond this site, NCE reportedly is working with TradePower, SourceAlliance, and supplyFORCE. Platt Electric (Beaverton, Ore.), another large regional electrical distributor (branches in 13 Western states) is also working with SmartContractor.com.
Graybar—Graybar has, for some time, offered Graybarnet (www.graybarnet.com), a place where customers can log in, place orders, and track orders and inventory. It is also participating in a government-purchasing-oriented site, www.uscommunities.org. The company processed one of the first transactions—for a specific, very large steel industry customer—ever handled by a portal for the metals and mining industry, www.metique.com.
Grainger—while many electrical contractors buy material from Grainger branches, this company’s focus is really on the maintenance and repair organizations or operations (MRO) needs of corporations. Grainger has gone a bit nuts, in a good way, over e-commerce—sinking more than $160 million in investments into five Web sites during the 1999-2000 period. Their Web sites include: www.Grainger.com, www.auction.grainger.com, www.Orderzone.com, www.FindMRO.com, and last but not least, www.TotalMRO.com. Judging from recent visits, you might get a steal of a deal on tools at www.auction.grainger.com if you’re lucky.
GE Supply—this entire column could have been devoted to the remarkable way GE, as a company, has turned on a dime and embraced the Web. But (as of July, anyway), you can’t buy from GE Supply online from its Web site (www.gesupply.com). However, the company has set up MotorDirect.com, a place to buy motors online, 24x7—up to 400 hp.
BuildingSuppliesWeb.com—Numerous trade-specific sites feed this “reverse auction” site, including www.ElectriciansWeb.com. These operations are run by NetPossibilities, a company that’s majority-owned by CLS, a New England electrical distributor. The concept is that you, the contractor, post a list of items you need, then materials suppliers (from all over the place, including foreign lands) “bid” to sell it to you.
bestroute.com—This site has three main stories. First, impressive names—Mike Gambino, founder, is one of the most respected (former) electrical manufacturing execs; Hughes Supply, his backer, is a $3-billion-a-year distributor of electrical and other industrial products. Second, bestroute is basically an online electrical distributor created from ground zero as the first of a species, with actual inventory (and a national warehouse run by UPS in Louisville). Third, bestroute focuses on slow-moving items that might not be on the shelves of your local distributors when you need them, such as that explosion-proof lighting fixture. The idea is that, if you can’t find it locally, click over to bestroute. They’ll have it, and you’ll get it the next day.
SALIMANDO is a Vienna, Va.-based freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.