AWWA responds to WWEMA's open letter about e-commerce venture

Responding to an open letter from WWEMA that urged more input from equipment suppliers, the AWWA said it has actively involved suppliers during the formation of its e-commerce venture with ENI.

DENVER, Colo., Jan. 19, 2001—Responding to an open letter from the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers' Association (WWEMA) that urged more input from equipment suppliers, the American Water Works Association (AWWA) said it has actively involved suppliers during the formation of its e-commerce venture with ENI.

AWWA announced the water industry partnership with ENI December 14.

"There seem to be some misconceptions about AWWA's e-marketplace venture, particularly in regard to the role members of the water/wastewater industry will play in shaping the site's development," said Jack Hoffbuhr, Executive Director of AWWA.

"Since AWWA began work on the site, it has sought counsel from all components of the water and wastewater field to ensure the e-marketplace would serve the industry effectively. To that end, AWWA established advisory committees prior to the announcement of the site for both buyers and sellers that will give interested parties from all corners of the industry an opportunity to express their views about how the site should function.

"The first meeting of the supplier advisory committee will be held in February, well before the site becomes operational. AWWA's e-marketplace will be designed by the professional organization of the whole water field, to enhance the efficiency of the marketplace and its participants. It will protect the roles of suppliers, distributors, and buyers, will make transactions faster, and will lower overhead for all. AWWA believes the feedback it receives from the advisory committees will be integral to the success of the site and is eager to begin work with them.

"Incorporating the views and expertise of these groups into the site's development will help AWWA provide the industry with a new, more efficient way to do business while remaining fair to all involved," he said.

AWWA's e-marketplace will connect utilities, contractors, and consultants with distributors, manufacturers and manufacturer representatives. The site is similar to an electronic version of the AWWA Sourcebook, allowing buyers to look through a database of suppliers in the marketplace as well as automating and enhancing the purchase process.

The added benefit to suppliers is that they can provide more information than a simple listing - information regarding the scope and value of their products and services. Additionally suppliers can electronically route and respond to requests for information and RFQ/RFP.

Buyers and suppliers will use the site to communicate according to established business practices/relationships. The only difference is the communication tool. Instead of relying on phone calls, voice mails, and faxes, the web allows buyers and suppliers to route business documents privately to each other via a centralized internet location. Suppliers will be able to electronically forward requests for information to their distributors, manufacturer representatives, or other appropriate contacts.

Utilities surveyed have said they appreciate the service provided by various distributors and manufacturer representatives and want to continue working with them in a more automated environment. The medium will move from a paper to an electronic environment, but the current relationships and points of contact exist for good reasons in the marketplace and AWWA's e-marketplace will facilitate this interaction.

The site will substantially eliminate the need to rely on phone calls, voice mails, and faxes. Suppliers will be able to automatically route a request for information or an RFQ/RFP to the right contact who can then respond quickly to the prospective buyer.

In many cases, the utility will send an RFQ directly to a local distributor. In cases where a request goes to a manufacturer, the manufacturer can electronically forward the request to the appropriate manufacturer representative, distributor, or other contact. When a supplier provides a bid, only the utility or contractor who requested the bid will receive it as the site will maintain strict privacy and security for all participants.

Buyers and sellers will not pay any commission or transaction fees, based on the goods procured through site. Like the AWWA Sourcebook, AWWA's e-marketplace will be funded through a $360 to $500 per year subscription fee for sellers who want to be listed. This fee allows sellers to provide complete information in supplier "data sheets," as well as provide information about their products and services, including links to a supplier's own Web site, online information, or catalog.

Other sites that exist or are being developed in water/wastewater field could harm players in the distribution chain, AWWA maintains. Many of these sites charge transaction fees based on the purchases made through the site or reverse auctions. Some seek to operate without the support or involvement of either utility managers or the supplier community, AWWA said.

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