Catching Up With ThomasNet at ISM

- May 15, 2014 10:23 AM
Categories: Conferences, Procurement Commentary, Supply Chain | Tags:

At ISM last week, the Spend Matters team had the chance to catch up with a number of people from ThomasNet. We discussed some areas of collaboration to help ThomasNet and ISM get the word out about their “30 under 30 program” designed to identify up and coming procurement and supply chain leaders. We’re excited to play a small role in contributing to this much-needed program, including giving Spend Matters Plus membership seats to all the winners.

ThomasNet is not short of ideas (or users), but they don’t get the same attention as many of their global supplier directory and search peers (e.g., Alibaba). This is a shame because the organization is up to some really fascinating things and has even gone so far as to extend their ecosystem to interoperate with others (such as mapping their supplier and category taxonomy to sourcing and technology providers in the sector).

Recently, ThomasNet announced a number of enhancements to their search, supplier discovery, and product sourcing platform, which my colleague Thomas Kase has recently taken a look at and will be exploring in more detail. With its Supplier Discovery toolset, ThomasNet is beginning to look more and more like a marketplace provider that matches buyers and suppliers (including RFI capability embedded in the product). While supplier profiles vary on ThomasNet, they can get quite granular and now include such areas as “capabilities, equipment lists, product lines and brand names carried, demographics, certifications, news, and videos.” In addition, ThomasNet is providing certification (diversity, quality, process types, etc.) as part of supplier profiles.

From a matching perspective, ThomasNet is getting more involved in matching the needs of buyers to specific metals job shops and larger suppliers in various areas such as welding, cutting, finishing, and fabrications. Procurement organizations or other users fill out specific templates for each category or subcategory and upload drawings and specifications. And then ThomasNet takes over by matching requirements to different suppliers.

And these are just some of the highlights and recent enhancements ThomasNet has made as a core supplier search and directory service. But as it aims to become more relevant to a new generation of buyers, it will need to learn from others in the market, including what has made peers such as MacRae’s and IHS GlobalSpec successful – not to mention the role new intermediaries are playing in helping buying organizations identify qualified suppliers. Moreover, it should be wary not just of other directories and global entrants such as Alibaba, but also of AmazonSupply if it continues to expand into new industrial supply areas, including custom parts. ThomasNet should even be prepared for the potential extension of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk applied to industrial markets.

Still, we like the direction. And we like the fact that a company that is over a hundred years old is making the investment to adapt to a new industrial buying environment.

Stay tuned for further coverage of ThomasNet in the weeks and months to come. 

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