Some companies are faring better than others during the coronavirus pandemic, and ecommerce B2B platform Reibus is one of them. “Nothing much happened in the last couple weeks of March and the first couple weeks of April, but since then we have been doing great. We’re well ahead of budget for the year despite COVID-19,” said Reibus founder and CEO John Armstrong.
The virus has forced many people to work from home. Reibus.com gives salespeople and buyers another way to interact with customers and suppliers. “If you are a salesman and you can’t travel, or a sourcing guy and your suppliers are not answering the phone, Reibus offers an alternative,” Armstrong said. “We think the COVID issue is helping the market adapt and change. That is a small silver lining.”
Now entering its third year of operation, Atlanta-based Reibus (short for “reinventing industrial business”) has employed the latest technology to create a digital marketplace where buyers and sellers can trade online. The site deals in steel and aluminum, but plans to add other industrial materials in the future. Armstrong estimates that 47 percent of Reibus’ steel sales are prime, 45 percent excess prime and 8 percent secondary, material with minor defects.
Sellers pay a monthly subscription fee to list material on the website. For buyers, the goal is to provide an easy-to-use service that delivers better value than market, with more manageable lot sizes and faster lead times. Reibus handles all the administrative details of each transaction, from credit and financing to payment and delivery.
“We are not here to replace the normal supply chain, we are here to augment the existing supply chain. When your existing supply chain has shortages and stoppages and issues and challenges, Reibus sits in the middle and helps correct any imbalances,” Armstrong said.
He prefers Reibus to be called a digital marketplace, rather than an e-commerce site, because it is different than the digital storefronts many service centers have put online. “There’s a distinction. We are more of a digital trading platform than an ecommerce site.”
Unlike competitors, Reibus is completely independent, Armstrong emphasized. “Because we aren’t an ecommerce site, it allows all industry participants—mills, service centers, traders, brokers, processors and OEMs—to use Reibus to manage their businesses better. They can find inventory when they need it or dispose of inventory when they have excess. We enable transactions between all kinds of different players. If we were selling our own steel, there would be a conflict of interest.
“We don’t have a warehouse, we don’t have inventory, we don’t have a slitting line or a truck, and we never will. The day I take a stock position, the day I order a leveling line, that’s the day I effectively become a competitor of my customer. That would break our business model, and we will never do that.”
Reibus is not just a static website, it’s an extension of the market’s sales and sourcing teams, he said. “If you are looking to find something, post it on our RFQ system and our people will go find it for you. If you are looking to sell something, give us the products and we will go sell them for you. We use technology to make that efficient and scalable.”
Some companies are fully engaged in using the latest digital tools, others remain reluctant to change the way they do business. Armstrong said he is encouraged by the continued evolution of the types and sizes of customers using the site and the growing volume of steel transactions that Reibus handles. He does not consider other ecommerce ventures to be rivals as they all take different approaches. “I think it is great we are all trying to figure out how to help digitize the industry.”
Tim TriplettRead more from Tim Triplett
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