Over the past year, e-business initiatives have enabled companies to take huge steps toward improving business processes related to the purchasing and fulfillment of manufactured goods. Business-to-business (B2B) enabled applications are allowing manufacturers to more efficiently meet the demands of their customers. Companies are finding that they can attain cost savings and improve delivery times through integrating their business processes with those of their suppliers, distributors and others across the supply chain.

However, B2B implementations to date have been fairly restricted to the procurement of indirect goods ­ equipment and material that are not related to a company's core business. In addition, some companies are now forming marketplaces to address predefined commodity-like goods that can be ordered from a catalog without further specifications.

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