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GE to launch B2B Web site for airplane parts

The manufacturing giant says its GE Aircraft Engines unit plans to launch Web sites that will connect commercial airlines to suppliers and customers over the Internet.

General Electric today said its GE Aircraft Engines unit plans to launch several Web sites that will connect commercial airlines to suppliers and customers over the Internet.

GE's new multimillion dollar business-to-business initiative will allow major airlines to buy and sell parts over the Internet at each of their own dedicated GE Web sites, said Rick Kennedy, a spokesman for the company. Kennedy said the company has already partnered with giant subcontractors and several key airline companies, including Delta Airlines, Continental Airlines and Alitalia, Italy's main air carrier.

The Fairfield, Conn.-based company has been busy moving along with its Internet strategy. Yesterday, the manufacturing giant unveiled the GE Financial Network, a Web site that offers consumers financial services such as investing in mutual funds or applying for mortgages. The company plans to deliver other targeted Web sites and services in the upcoming year.

GE isn't the first manufacturer to jump into the emerging business-to-business space, a market that analysts project to reach the trillion-dollar mark or beyond in three years. Other business-to-business marketplaces have been sprouting up, targeting specific industries, including chemical manufacturing, auto manufacturing and pharmaceuticals. General Motors, Ford, Dupont and Chevron have all recently announced their intentions to participate in an online marketplace and have partnered with vendors Ariba, Commerce One and Oracle, which make software that lets users buy and sell everything from office equipment to maintenance supplies and services online.

In addition to being able to buy and search for parts, GE's sites will let users check the status and maintenance of their engine parts as well as view detailed pictures of their parts while they are in repair. Kennedy said air carriers can now receive up-to-the-minute service bulletins from GE that detail industry research and provide recommendations on how to maintain and service GE engines. It used to take months to distribute the bulletins to customers.

GE said it's partnering with several software vendors to design and build the sites. The company is working with Rockville, Md.-based SpaceWorks, which was responsible for installing the transactional software--applications that automate activities over the Web, such as personalized marketing, bill presentment and payment, post-sales service and online customer support. GE is also working with a business-to-business e-commerce services company called Enigma, which develops online catalogues and automates the online ordering process.

Kennedy said the sites for Delta and Continental are operating now and plans to gradually launch additional sites throughout the year. GE's Aircraft Engine unit serves about 300 customers. The company also plans to launch sites for its military customers as well, including the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy.