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Digital Marketplace: Metal Networks.AI

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MCN Editor Dan Markham Metal Networks’ software is designed to help service centers improve inventory management.

Metal Networks.AI is expanding the alphabet with its entry into the digital marketplace. The emerging technology company wants to be the enterprise that connects metal distributors with other distributors, helping them streamline their sales and purchasing process.

“Service Centers are in the business of serving their customers’ needs and not serving their inventories,” says Akbar Khowaja, General Manager and Partner of Metal Networks.AI.

Unlike some other recent entries into the ecommerce space, Metal Networks.AI is not directly competing with other platforms. In fact, the company defines itself entirely differently than those enterprises. 

“We don’t aspire to be a distributor. We are a software company and we believe that our products can help businesses reduce inventory risk, increase turns and help with downturns like today where supply is messed up,” he says. One of the motivations for Metal networks.AI in developing these tools was to empower the industry participants in warding off threats from predatory digital behemoths. 

MetalNetworks.AI has already launched two separate products, with a third anticipated in the coming months. 

The first is the Metals Search Engine, a program developed with JAQI AI. Driven by machine learning, the search engine makes it quicker and easier to find unfinished and semi-finished metal products in other ecommerce applications, such as webstores. The search engine can convert common industry shorthand into searchable terms at breakneck speed, the company claims.

The JAQI search can find more than 50 different metal products simultaneously in under 18 seconds. It supports all types of metal products, including sheet, plate, bars and beams, among many others. 

Khowaja is quick to note the company’s products are not a substitute for an ERP system, but an add-on to existing ERP or other software systems. They work on top of existing software programs. 

Most meaningfully, the search engine works off emails. Users can simply copy and paste the inquiries in the body of an email into the search feature, and the system will decipher the text and use it to search a catalog or inventory database.

The search engine also serves as a tool in the second application, the company’s quoting platform, which the company describes as “an intelligent tool for sales teams to quickly generate accurate quotes.” The application has a customizable dashboard and a built-in CRM and price optimization features. 

Metal Networks.AI’s distributor marketplace – the D2D Buyout Marketplace – will be its third offering. Currently under development, the marketplace will offer a streamlined process for buyouts, and allow participants to find potential suppliers and close deals faster while improving inventory turns, the company claims. “Our buyout marketplace takes the pain away from buyouts and reduces the turn-around time from two to three days to under a few hours,” he claims.

Transactions are merely initiated on the Marketplace, but not consummated there. The system provides members the opportunity to see material availability and all of the relevant data – size, shape, quantity, location, shipping, etc., from potential sellers, anonymously if desired. If the information appeals to the parties, they can complete the final purchase transactions offline. 

The absence of monetary transactions on the platform also means no transaction fees, a unique feature for the site. 

Individual salespersons or buyers can opt for an individual subscription, which is free. The individual subscription allows a single user to access the site, to use the search engine, send RFQs and receive quotes from his or her established contacts
The company expects to generate revenues through a monthly membership fee from its corporate clients. Corporate membership allows multiple users, purchasing agents and salespeople from a company to have access to selected company-wide data, including quoting history. The corporate subscription involves a monthly fee and provides more services.  “If it’s a service center with multiple team members involved in buyouts, they all can be on the platform and work collaboratively.  

“Once you send an RFQ, you can track the responses, review the quotes and system-generated ranking and then award the bid – all in a few clicks.  The dashboard and quote history gives you visibility on buyout metrics so the procurement team has better information when managing inventory,” he says.

One of the appeals of the free individual subscription is it allows the smaller distribution company to benefit from the technological revolution, rather than restrict that advantage to the larger players in the space. 

Over a period of time, users will be able to build on the data that has been collected. Dashboards will show a variety of information, from simple facts such as the top items or salespeople to identifying geographic hotspots for the company’s products that could become a place for a future distribution center. “Besides being a productivity tool, it will provide distributors with the data and insights to support their growth strategies,” Khowaja says.