VOL. 113 | NO. 22 | Wednesday, February 3, 1999
Web sites provide local manufacturers a
way to stay connected to the customers
By KATHLEEN BURT
The Daily News
For the average consumer, the Internet may be nothing more than a superstore that offers everything from books to entertainment to companionship.
But, for the companies that conduct business not related to broad, popular topics, the World Wide Web still can be a key to higher sales, better communication and reaching the masses.
Three companies in West Tennessee in the manufacturing arena are using the 'Net to do just that and more.
"Its not just about having a pretty Web page," said Renee Johansen, director-investor relations for Thomas and Betts.
"We use the Web in a different way."
Thomas and Betts, a Memphis-based producer of connectors and components for international electrical and electronics markets, manufactures its products on a worldwide basis, with manufacturing facilities in North America, Europe and the Far East.
Distribution centers are located in Byhalia, Miss.; Bromont, Quebec; Sparks, Nev.; and LaLouviere, Belgium.
While the company does offer information about its products and services on its site at www.tnb.com, a more important feature of the companys presence in the global marketplace is connectivity.
"The power of the Web is that our computers are linked. One-third of our customers dont have to call in an order. Every night, their computers tell us what theyve sold during the day and we restock them," Johansen said.
Thomas and Betts entered the Web in late 1996.
Early the following year, the company launched TnB University, a modular learning system that allows employees and customers access to product information, how to use it and install it, all available from the convenience of a computer.
"The Web is an excellent way for people to keep up with the company. From an investor point-of-view, its an excellent way to provide information to a lot of people, and its real-time, up-to-the-minute," she said.
Because of that constant availability, Johansen said she has received inquiries from international sources requesting catalogues or more information.
"The whole connectivity of the World Wide Web is changing the business world. The Internet and the World Wide Web are powerful tools. We dont see ourselves as an Amazon.com and wont be anytime soon. But it's a way to provide customer service.
"Its live and dynamic," Johansen said.
Another Memphis-based company has realized the value of the real-time aspect and launched its Web site this week.
Buckeye Technologies Inc. unveiled its newly designed Web site at www.bkitech.com.
The site describes Buckeye, its history, whats new and the companys strategy for the future.
Those interested in learning more about Buckeye can use the Web site as a source of information about new products, research analyst coverage, news releases, SEC filings, financial fundamentals, upcoming events and other company information.
"Buckeye's new Web site has been designed to provide a broad range of information about the company in a timely and efficient manner," said Buckeyes chairman Robert E. Cannon.
Buckeye manufacturers and markets specialty cellulose and absorbent products. The company operates facilities in the United States, Canada, Germany, Ireland and Switzerland.
In nearby Dyersburg, Colonial Diversified Polymer Products offers information about its company at www.colonialdpp.com.
Colonial produces a variety of molded cellular rubber products for various manufacturers around the world.
The company manufactures sound-deadening gaskets for the automotive industry, as well as mirror and door gaskets to meet needs in other realms.
Colonial has a marketing presence in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the Pacific Rim, and is ISO 9002 certified.
The site offers links to product information and technical support and allows customers or potential customers to contact the company. For a manufacturing firm located in the outskirts of a major region, a Web address offers a window to the world.
"We wanted to get our name out there," said Leslie Moore, Colonial network manager. "We're hoping to attract new customers."
Colonial draws most of its new clientele from its national sales force, but the site has drawn a few customers since its launch about two years ago.
"It's an additional marketing tool."
"We're going to be restructuring the Web site in the near future to make it more interactive and provide more product information," Moore said.
Whether keeping in contact with existing clients or drawing new ones, the Web provides an outlet that opens new doors for companies in any field.
"It's something customers can look at 24 hours a day. They can cross-reference, look at products and can contact us, all in real-time," Johansen said.