Recent reports, such as what was announced by the MAPI Foundation, suggest that during the next few years manufacturing production could outpace GDP growth, starting in 2015. Output in the U.S. is anticipated to advance by 2.6% in 2016, 3.0% in 2017 and 2.8% in 2018. Experts are pointing to strong consumer demand and brisk hiring as the major drivers behind this expansion.
In order to best capture and drive this new growth, manufacturers need to ensure they are best poised to respond accordingly. Having clear visibility to global operations is a critical first step. Having an IT systems infrastructure to manage this visibility and best allocate resources to optimize output is another key factor that will pay big dividends to those organizations that have had the wherewithal to establish this operational capability. Another key requirement – one that we will spend some time discussing in this post – is the ability of manufacturers to make the right connections. Buyers need fast access to new supply chain partners, and suppliers must be fully available at their point of need. What is needed is an end-to-end value chain whereby manufacturers understand what their buyers and end users need, and can then effectively deliver upon that need, ideally in real-time. This is often easier said than done.
I had an opportunity to speak with Tom Greco, Vice President of ThomasNet.com, which operates a free supplier discovery and product sourcing platform. Their objective is to help facilitate greater communications and collaboration throughout the supply chain, helping manufacturers to best take advantage of expected future demand growth.
Mr. Greco, can you please provide our readers with a brief description of the platform and how it works?
For close to 120 years, our company’s mission has been to connect buyers and suppliers, first through the Thomas Register of American Manufacturers and today through ThomasNet.com. We make it easier for B2B and engineering buyers to find, vet, compare and connect with more than 700,000 North American suppliers of industrial and commercial products and services.
Using our platform, buyers can quickly qualify these suppliers by location, ownership/diversity status and quality certifications, and view in-depth company profiles to develop a shortlist.
For users who need specific products, ThomasNet.com features over 100 million items, including raw materials, components, and finished parts. Engineers can also access millions of downloadable 2D/3D CAD models to ensure that the parts they want will fit into their products.
Who uses the platform and what are the kinds of needs that you help them fulfill?
Our users include procurement professionals, engineers, warehouse and plant managers, research and development personnel, and supplier diversity managers. These buyers represent a broad range of industries, such as manufacturing, automotive, aerospace, food & beverage, medical, government/military, construction, and education. When they come to ThomasNet.com, they are typically ready to engage with new suppliers.
For example, many buyers and engineers visit ThomasNet.com when they need custom manufacturing services. Using our Supplier Discovery application, they can develop a target list of companies, and delve into their profiles to further qualify them. Many of these suppliers have provided information on their capabilities, past jobs, and certifications, and some even offer video plant tours. As an alternative, our Custom Quotes application takes away the need for users to do independent research. They simply send an RFQ specifying the services they require, and our engineering team refers them to up to five local machine shops.
Supplier diversity managers use our Diversity & Quality application to help meet their diversity targets. This application features one of the largest free databases of minority, woman-owned, veteran-owned and other disadvantaged businesses with supporting proof of ownership. These buyers used to have to consult multiple databases to find the information we have aggregated here.
Who are the suppliers and what is your value proposition for them?
The suppliers on the platform include product and component manufacturers (OEMs), custom manufacturers and service companies, capital equipment manufacturers, and industrial distributors.
With a profile on ThomasNet.com, these suppliers have a higher chance of capturing buyers’ attention at their point of need. These opportunities are actually rarer than companies might think. For buyers, onboarding a new supplier can be time-consuming and costly, so if manufacturers miss a chance to connect, it might be years before they have another chance. Capturing one or two new orders from these serious buyers can make a big difference to suppliers’ growth.
Is there a particular success story that stands out to you as a result of using the platform?
One success story that comes to mind is Sarah Blakely, the founder of SPANX. Her road to becoming one of the youngest, self-made female billionaires wasn’t an easy one. After patenting SPANX, she struggled to get a prototype made, and finally found an American manufacturer on ThomasNet.com. The rest is history.
Do you have any other points to add?
I encourage your readers to visit ThomasNet.com to take advantage of this free platform. We also offer free onsite instruction (or webinars) for sourcing and engineering teams. For more information, your readers can contact our Audience Outreach Manager Kristin Carty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Industrial and commercial suppliers can also establish a free profile on ThomasNet.com so that they are on buyers’ radar. To start the process, they can click here.
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