The internet: Mission-critical tool or untapped resource?

Industrial professionals increasingly use the internet for business.


Industrial professionals increasingly use the internet for business. The question is: Will the internet remain a limited-use application, or will it become a mission-critical component to the success of an organization?

The industrial landscape is diverse and generalizations are difficult. However, a recent survey by Thomas Regional Directory and Find/SVP asked purchasers and engineers how the internet affects the purchasing process. They uncovered changing comfort levels and shifts in business practices. A few of the results are summarized below.

Internet in industry

Use of the web is largely untapped. The study showed that much of industry (85%) does have access to the internet. Engineers appear to be the early adopters and frequent users of the web. The internet is used to gather information and do research, but most surveyed said they spent less than 3 hr/week online. Purchasers still turn to established and conventional resources first. It appears the key to making the internet more valuable is to provide users with more detailed information on products and sources.

Positive e-commerce figures

About a fifth (21%) of those with internet access have ordered goods or services online. Of those who have never ordered, 37% estimate they will order within 1 yr. Some 34% said they would never use e-commerce. Reasons given for declining to use the net for purchases include wondering if the transaction is secure and confidential, and who on the other end is accountable for the orders.

Changing the way business is conducted

As use of the internet has grown, considerable differences in the way business is performed have emerged. Because the web promotes easier research of companies, users consider an increased number of suppliers for new projects.

More than 40% of frequent internet users now consider more vendors. However, all customers still communicate by phone and 95% by fax. Regular mail is used 67% of the time and e-mail is used 53%. And while the internet may be creating a global market, industrial plants are still buying most goods and services locally (42%) or regionally (23%).

A look to the future

All indications are that internet use is increasing. The statement that in 2 yr 87% of industry will have participated in e-commerce is striking. The fact that only 14% of current users turn to the net as their first source shows there is plenty of room for growth. The increase in e-commerce appears to be directly related to the amount of information provided on the web.

This survey lets some predictions be made about the internet's future in the industrial marketplace. It demonstrates that the internet is gaining acceptance as a valuable tool, particularly for researching and buying products and services.

Information for this article was provided by George Short, Thomas Regional Directory Co. (An online version of the Thomas Regional Directory is available on the Plant Engineering web site at

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Safety for 18 years, warehouse maintenance tips, Ethernet and the IIoT, GAMS 2016 recap
2016 Engineering Leaders Under 40; Future vision: Where is manufacturing headed?; Electrical distribution, redefined
Strategic outsourcing delivers efficiency; Sleeve bearing clearance; Causes of water hammer; Improve air quality; Maintenance safety; GAMS preview
SCADA at the junction, Managing risk through maintenance, Moving at the speed of data
Safety at every angle, Big Data's impact on operations, bridging the skills gap
The digital oilfield: Utilizing Big Data can yield big savings; Virtualization a real solution; Tracking SIS performance
Applying network redundancy; Overcoming loop tuning challenges; PID control and networks
Driving motor efficiency; Preventing arc flash in mission critical facilities; Integrating alternative power and existing electrical systems
Package boilers; Natural gas infrared heating; Thermal treasure; Standby generation; Natural gas supports green efforts

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role of plant safety and offers advice on best practices.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
This article collection contains several articles on strategic maintenance and understanding all the parts of your plant.
click me