A Q&A session with Maureen Roberts, e-Business Manager for DuPont Titanium Technologies.

Figure 1
Q: First, what is a portal?

Roberts: Webster's defines it as a "doorway, entrance or gate - a portal of knowledge." We view it as a website that offers a broad array of resources and services designed so a user receives personalized content, access to applications and private collaboration. It is a private and secure website with content specific to the users.

Q: When did you launch the portal?

Roberts: We launched the first phase in October 2002. We have received valuable feedback from our customers so we continue to make upgrades on a regular basis. We are always looking for ways to make the portal a user-friendly tool for the customer.

Q: What are the benefits of a portal?

Roberts: A portal creates one-on-one relationships that help users access specific information quickly. It makes it easy for customers to do business with us and reinforces our relationship with them. A portal is global, reaching customers across regions and time zones.

Q: How is a portal different from a website?

Roberts: Most websites offer the same information to everybody. What sets the DuPont portal apart is the customization and personalization of the information we provide. We cater to five audiences within our portal in the coatings, paper, plastics, specialties and minerals markets. So, our coatings customers get information relevant only to them.

Q: A recent study of e-business by the NPCA revealed that paint/coatings manufacturers want to shop for price and availability, as well as place orders online. Does your portal handle that? (See Figure 1)

Roberts: Currently we offer the ability to request a product quotation. We know it is very important to our customers to have the ability to place orders online. We are excited that DuPont Titanium Technologies will be able to offer online ordering after the second quarter of 2004. Other DuPont businesses currently have their customers placing orders online.

Q: That same study revealed that purchasing agents are always seeking new vendors. How does the portal help people in the procurement function?

Roberts: Our "Product Advisor" is a useful tool to aid purchasing agents in selecting the right DuPont product for their application. Our "Distributor Locator" assists in finding a distributor for our products anywhere in the world. Another feature that purchasing agents find helpful is the ability to view their purchasing history online. Also, they can receive up to four separate purchase-history reports showing their purchases sorted by different criteria such as region, country, ship-to location and product.

Figure 2
Q: Another part of the NPCA study showed that under Supplier Relations, manufacturers were very interested in receiving technical information and viewing an online catalogue. How does your portal address this? (See

Figure 2.)

Roberts: In our product section, customers can not only view all our product descriptions but also download MSDS data and obtain a product sample. This frees up our customer service operators from routine calls so they can work on high-priority, in-depth service to customers.

Q: Is the NPCA study generally available?

Roberts: Yes. To get a complete copy of the 2002 NPCA E-Business Survey, go to: www.paint.org/market/ ebiz_survey.htm.

Q: How much technical information is in the portal?

Roberts: A great deal. We have many avenues to technical information. Click on our "Titanium University" and you can browse our library of technical papers and articles, downloading any you wish to study. Next, we have audio e-seminars, recorded by the author, which allow you to listen as well as read presentations. Finally, we have "Team Rooms" in our Collaboration Center set up for individual customers at their request.

Q: Can you elaborate on the "Team Rooms"?

Roberts: This is a one-on-one service. We set up a sub-portal for a specific customer, which is within his or her personal, secure environment. Only authorized employees of that company and DuPont can access the material. The Team Room acts as a server and facilitates centralized storage and easy retrieval of information such as sales reports, quality data and trial data of new product tests. The input can come from either the customer or DuPont. Now, all data files are available to everyone at both companies, regardless of location or time zone.

Q: Can customers access quality data online?

Roberts: Our unique online quality reporting distinguishes DuPont's commitment to quality in a way that is not available from any other Ti02 supplier. Our customers are given access to quality data for current and past shipments. The report data details the consistency of the product shipped to them over time. Our customers are given the ability to download the data into an Excel file and perform their own trend analysis.

Q: Does the portal have advantages for others beyond the technical and purchasing functions?

Roberts: Yes. In our "Market View" section, you can click on "News Edge," which delivers worldwide news about the coatings industry right to your desktop. The news service is updated daily and our customers love it, especially their sales and marketing staff. We even have news for CEOs. DuPont has two corporate economists, Robert Shrouds and Robert Fry, who publish their analysis and forecast for the economy each month. The Wall Street Journal named them the top economic forecasters in 2002. We keep prior reports, and it's interesting to see their accuracy.

Q: Who can access the DuPont titanium portal?

Roberts: We register our customers, potential

customers, distributors, co-suppliers and students, to name a few.

Q: What are the advantages of the portal for your distributors?

Roberts: Our distributors are extremely enthusiastic about the portal and see it as a way to stimulate sales. They appreciate our self-service sample request system, which simplifies the process for them. They also value our tracking system for price quotations and tech information from their customer base, which could potentially lead to new sales. Also, the distributors are using it as a key training tool.

Q: How is the portal useful as a

training tool?

Roberts: We have a whole section on safety - about the safe handling of our products and useful information on subjects such as stacking pallets. Some distributors find our material great for new employees as well as a good refresher for longtime employees.

Q: How do you handle online requests for specific information and what is the response time?

Roberts: Every inquiry is acknowledged. Response time is usually 24 to 48 hours.

Q: Is the portal available in English only?

Roberts: This summer we added German and Spanish, and by year-end we hope to have Chinese and Portuguese also. All translations are done in the country of origin to ensure accuracy.

Q: How many registered users do you have?

Roberts: Our portal registered 2500 individuals in our first eight months online. We track "page views," which are the number of pages a visitor looks at. We're getting over 30,000 page views each month. About 450 persons visit the site on a typical day.

Q: What does a person have to do to


Roberts: Go to www.titanium. dupont.com and click on "Register". Follow the instructions. Your registration should be approved within days and you will receive an e-mail confirmation.

Q: Any final words for our readers?

Roberts: Find out what you've been missing. Register now to get the latest coatings information right at your fingertips.

Maureen Roberts, e-Business Manager for DuPont Titanium Technologies, has a degree in computer science. She has worked for 23 years at the DuPont Co. in Information Technology and Marketing. Roberts is a member of the NPCA's e-Business Committee.