Online parts marketplace Rhobi (reinventing how online business integrates) “is the biggest technological advance for parts ordering and inventory since the fax machine,” asserts Steve Edwards, COO of Fort Smith, Ark.-based Rhobi. Edwards had a parts supply company and was unhappy with his options for software that would let his reps see up-to-date inventory, order parts and communicate with the company. “The software that was available at the time ranged from $8,000 on the low end to hundreds of thousands on the high end,” he said.
Edwards contacted a friend and asked for help. “Rod Burton was a programmer, and between the two of us we began to develop a plan for software that would meet our needs.” The result was Rhobi, and Burton became the company’s chief technical officer.
One of the major aspects of Rhobi is its live marketplace. Parts sellers and prospective buyers can have live conversations online about the vendor’s parts or services. “Most companies have AOG service so there’s someone available 24/7,” Edwards said. “It’s done through our own instant messaging service similar to that which an AOL or Yahoo account user would have.”
Rhobi offers two services: Live Marketplace (Livemarketplace.net) and Advantage. Live Marketplace allows companies to pay to list their inventory or services and have live communication. The service is free to the potential buyer. “One of the biggest advantages of Live Marketplace is that it saves both parties time,” Edwards said. “They can bypass the RFQ and quote process by negotiating on a price in real time and go straight to purchase order.”
Advantage is a an electronic order processing system. “All the companies on the system are electronically tied together for electronic order processing. They don’t have to fax or use e-mail; it’s all handled through the software,” Edwards said. Advantage manages the seller’s inventory via the software in real time. If both parties’ inventory are on the system it does the same for the buyer and the seller. If the buyer is not an Advantage subscriber it will automatically send him a pdf copy of the purchase order, packing list, invoice and FAA Form 8130.
According to Edwards, the cost of the service depends upon which of Rhobi’s services the customer wants and how many users, such as company sales staff, will have access. “For example, a company with five users and full access to all facets of the software will be paying about $3,600 a year,” he said. “We’re affordable and accessible from any Internet source, including iPhone or smartphones.” In addition, the program offers 34 different languages and converts from any currency to any other currency. “Someone in Russia can communicate with someone in Tokyo and the software takes care of the language and currency conversion. Best of all, it takes about 15 minutes to set up the service,” he added.