GE launches giant B2B marketplace

Expecting "tens of millions of dollars" in transactions before the end of the calendar year, General Electric's Global Exchange Services division has unveiled a business-to-business Internet marketplace available to all of GE's 100,000 trading partners.

Promising shorter purchasing turnaround and reduced transaction costs, GE intends to host the entire network, saving its trading partners the need to build their own B2B platforms.

GE spokesman Jim Fowler said participants will pay a one-time linkage fee of less than $US1,000. After that, buyers will pay transaction fees. Auction-based purchasing fees will be on a sliding scale, going down as companies buy more goods. Direct purchasing fees have yet to be established, according to Fowler.

Using a Unix system and Java programming, GE promises that its e-commerce platform will be able to function with all types of enterprise resource planning, customer-relationship management and legacy system models.

"We want to be flexible to use any protocol and translate to any protocol," Fowler said.

Called Express Marketplace, it will offer auctions, catalog purchases in conjunction with Commerce One, purchase-order status tracking and back-office accounting functions.

"We've been testing these various functions within our individual businesses, and now we feel confident in offering them to our trading partners," Fowler said.

He noted the Web auctions have been used by GE's in-house supplier network since the beginning of the year.

While the marketplace went live on Monday, Fowler said it will take a few weeks before entrants begin to conduct business over the network.

"It's kind of the opposite of Field of Dreams," he said. "If you build it they won't necessarily come. You've got to bring people in and do a lot of hand-holding." He added that GE hopes it will be a large enough player to create its own gravity.

Fowler said that the marketplace was not such a departure for the brick-and-mortar giant, noting that GE has been offering enterprise application-integration systems for the past decade.

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