Superstore in cyberspace opens for business

Superstore in cyberspace opens for business

Sheila Galatowitsch

CINCINNATI, OH — AS MORE CLEANROOM companies stake a claim in cyberspace, the potential for e-commerce mounts. Now two cleanroom service and supply companies, both of which already have a strong presence on the World Wide Web, have joined a new “one-stop-shopping” e-commerce venture called

Cintas Corp. (Cincinnati, OH) and VWR Scientific Products (West Chester, PA) are two of the six suppliers that W.W. Grainger Inc. has brought together to create an on-line business-to-business portal for the procurement of various products and services. The shopping site is set to open this spring.

It is unique compared to similar business sites because it offers one purchase order and one invoice, no matter how many companies a visitor shops with during a session. “A company may want to buy cleanroom supplies and also order maintenance services for its forklift in the warehouse. offers savings on administrative time and eliminates the hassle involved with multiple invoices,” says Mike Gaburo, Cintas cleanroom group vice president.

Gaburo says Cintas has seen an increase in its garment and consumables supplies business since it launched its own e-commerce-driven web site two years ago.

“There are people in the cleanroom industry who like to do business on the web. Where there may be a hesitancy to use the Internet at first, our brand and service reputation help break through that hesitancy,” says Cintas marketing manager Jim Stutz, who manages the company`s e-commerce initiatives. Signing up with was another way to reach potential customers, Stutz says.

The Internet will prove a great vehicle for the cleanroom industry because most products sold are of the pack-and-ship type, Gaburo adds. Cintas will use the web to leverage its sales of consumables with its garment laundry services.

VWR signed up for the site because it offers an additional way to reach prospective customers, and because much of the site`s target audience will be new to VWR, says Mark Robillard, vice president for electronic commerce.

“The web is a great alternative channel for all industries, not just the cleanroom industry. Anytime you are talking about expendables, and maintenance and repair items, the web gives you a tremendous opportunity to shorten the supply chain and lower the total cost of acquisition,” Robillard says.

Web sites can also provide more value-added information, such as validated parts lists and product availability, that isn`t accessible in traditional requisition methods, he says. VWR, on the web since the mid-1990s, is also exploring “purchasing application layers,” browser-based e-commerce applications specific to a user company. These emerging applications, together with the web e-commerce initiatives, will help VWR increase sales in 1999, Robillard says.

Wiper manufacturer Contec Inc. (Spartanburg, SC) has seen a surge in sample requests since launching its web site last summer. Under development for nearly two years, the site represents a significant investment in time, money and personnel. But considering the industries Contec serves, “not having a presence on the web is not an option,” says Suzanne Hofford, a senior manager at Contec. “We are selling into the most high-tech fields, and by extension, the employees of those industries are the best users of the Internet.”

The company`s goal is to make product information readily available worldwide and to facilitate ordering samples. “Sampling is the lifeblood of our business, and that was one of our key priorities when we designed our site,” Hofford says. Customers can view photos of Contec`s entire product line, place sample selections in a shopping cart, and receive the order in a day or two.

Apart from e-commerce and information, the concept of using the web to increase collaboration on fast-track construction projects (see CleanRooms, March 1998, Special Report) still has a few hurdles to negotiate before mainstream use.

The biggest stumbling block to project team web sites is security, says Jose Cotto, principal at CAS Architects (Mountain View, CA), a company promoting the concept.

A second hurdle is including city agencies, and building, planning and fire departments in the project team web sites. It is crucial to have municipalities involved to speed permitting, Cotto says.

Next year several pilot projects will test the idea of project team sites, and by 2002, real-time web-based collaboration among designers, builders, owners and cities may be a given, Cotto says.

Making the link

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