In 2013, mass retailer Wal-Mart made a significant commitment in announcing a U.S. manufacturing investment  initiative, pledging to invest $50 billion in U.S. sourced products over the coming ten years, a total of $250 billion. This initiative included investing in current U.S. suppliers to aide them in expanding their own U.S. sourced products and supporting supply chains. It further included encouraging and sourcing contracts among new U.S. suppliers in categories such as textiles, sporting goods, furniture, pet supplies and other products.

Since that time, the retailer has initiated a number of supplementary web based supporting programs including a U.S. Manufacturing Portal (JUMP) where suppliers are encouraged to register and where specific program and other useful information is disseminated.  Wal-Mart additionally reached out to to collaboratively design and launch a cloud-based portal to aide supplier buyers in discovering other U.S. downstream suppliers. That portal was named Wal-Mart Corporate Edition.

In early October, while attending and speaking at the APICS Annual Conference ThomasNet executives Donna Cicale, Director of Audience Development and Kristin Carty, Manager of Audience Outreach, provided this author a demonstration of the impressive information discovery and retrieval functionality incorporated in the Wal-Mart Corporate Edition portal.  I further heard about plans to make this similar technology and database available to a wider and broader industry procurement audience.

Earlier this month I was able to catch-up with Tom Greco, Vice President of Publishing Operations for ThomasNet. He indicated that Wal-Mart and ThomasNet have had great success in expanding the listing of U.S. based suppliers along with their materials and component specialties. Existing confidentiality agreements prohibit the sharing of hard numbers but Greco did indicate that there has been impressive interest.

There are plans to now make this portal, complete with its expanded U.S. retail supplier listings populated for Wal-Mart available to the broader industry and ThomasNet clients it what will be termed ThomasNet Corporate Edition.

With the new Corporate Edition, buyers have the ability to search upwards of 600,000 suppliers among various buying categories, tag suppliers as an approved supplier for program or corporate purposes or seek out new sources of U.S. value-chain component suppliers.  Other valuable benefits we touched upon are the ability of product design engineers themselves to be able to search and incorporate components from previously approved or preferred  component suppliers, or buyers from the same firm able to share approved supplier listings for corporate conformance purposes.

ThomasNet Corporate Edition expands electronically enabled RFI support where prospective buyers can automatically launch RFI’s  with a number of portal  listed suppliers. I was informed that in the Enterprise Edition, every listed supplier has electronic RFI enabled and can  electronically respond to information requests. ThomasNet specialists will actually follow-up with RFI listed suppliers to insure information was received.

Over time, there are plans to add more information retrieval, sort and analysis functionality, added collaboration tools and services for both buyers and suppliers. The Corporate Edition is planned for early 2016.

Some of our readers may not be aware that ThomasNet offers a complimentary in-house staff of design engineers to help buyers evaluate their product designs and specifications and find up to 5 qualified suppliers with introductions.  I thought that was awesome.

Readers considering a broader U.S. based manufacturing sourcing effort, particularly for lower-tier components, or if your procurement team needs broader, more analytical supplier discovery and adoption support, you might consider what ThomasNet is making available.

Bob Ferrari

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