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issue: October 2003 APPLIANCE Magazine

European Report
The European Trade Place

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Tradeplace, the common European B2B electronic marketplace for household appliance (including consumer electronics) manufacturers and retailers, has been active since December 2001.

At first, it was only a common portal to the main manufacturers, where a single login code would provide access to all of the site's extranet pages.

The real progress was made within the second stage of the project, where companies reorganized their systems to be connected directly. The third stage began this summer. For the initial portal service there were 14,000 users Europe-wide. In the second stage, system-to-system communication was realized.

One of the members of the Tradeplace management team is Michael Steinborn, head of BSH's E-Commerce and Customer Relationship department. He says that through standardization of manufacturers on XML, messages such as order entry, product price, and availability can freely be exchanged between all participants, through the central Tradeplace hub. Manufacturers can benefit through staff efficiency, but the main incentive is process improvement: fewer mistakes, faster order processing, permanent up-to-date information, and fewer hidden costs. Many parties are still working on this issue. UK-based retailer Bennetts and Dutch buying group ElektroVakman are examples of companies already connected.

For a large company with different divisions, the Tradeplace initiative forces internal standardization. Karel van der Horst of Philips Consumer Electronics, tells APPLIANCE, "For a company [of] our size and complexity, integration of back-end applications is quite a challenge, as we have independent divisions as consumer electronics and small appliances, and one division could be ahead of another. This initiative is an opportunity to standardize internally as well as externally."

With Tradeplace, important improvements can be made after sales, as well. Repairing white goods requires complex (and expensive) administrative organizations for parts inventory, ordering, and returning, as well as documentation, in the office and on the road. The repairman needs it all, from many different manufacturers. The long-term goal here is standardization across manufacturers. The after-sales project began in August on the Belgium market, and other European countries will follow soon.

So what are the perspectives of the participating companies (for now, they include BSH, Electrolux, Whirlpool, Philips, and Merloni Elettrodomestici)? Mr. Steinborn of BSH says: "Tradeplace is the logical step following the internal process and system standardization we did within our company. Now, we can pass on the benefits quickly to the trade and the end-customers."

Adds Mauro Viacava, chief information officer for Merloni Elettrodomestici, "It benefits both manufacturers and trade partners; and we do not only have to innovate our products, but also our processes. It was interesting to see that Tradeplace is showing results, the commitment is much stronger, and there is more effort and vision among participants. The customers appreciate that the industry offers a common solution, which helps them to focus their investments. Note also that the involvement of top management of the manufacturers is very strong."

Karel van der Horst, CRM & eBusiness director for Philips Consumer Electronics Europe, tells APPLIANCE, "From all manufacturers the best specialists directly work with each other; there is no need for an expensive third-party consultancy firm. Everyone is fully behind this project."

The Tradeplace Executive board reflects the importance of the initiative, as the European white- and brown-goods elite is represented, including Dr. Marc Bitzer, senior vice-president of Sales and Marketing for Whirlpool Europe; Dr. Kurt-Ludwig Gutberlet, CEO of BSH; Dr. Andrea Guerra, chief executive of Merloni Elettrodomestici; Wolfgang König, CEO of Electrolux Home Products; and Rudy Provoost, CEO of Global Sales & Service for Philips Consumer Electronics.

Compared to other marketplaces, Tradeplace has the advantage of being more of a tailor-made solution, and has the full commitment of the manufacturers.

This report is filed by Paul Roggema, European correspondent, APPLIANCE magazine.


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