How it Works
The foundation for the United States Materials Marketplace is the US BCSD’s cloud-based Materials Marketplace software, originally developed by the US BCSD to support the Hebei By-Product Synergy Project under the U.S. - China EcoPartnerships program in May 2013. The concept is a cloud-based landing zone for companies to post details about their material flows in expectation of identifying collaborative reuse possibilities. The US Business Council for Sustainable Development used its 20-plus years of experience in complement to the online materials marketplace software to gather materials data, help identify possible synergies and share them with the participating companies. The Materials Marketplace software and its operational team allows users to:
1) Post available or desired materials
2) Help identify reuse opportunities
3) Negotiate and exchange underutilized materials
4) Convene working groups around specific materials types
Through a built-in interface, the project team monitors marketplace activity, identifies possible reuse opportunities and actively pushes those out to relevant companies as recommendations. If the parties involved need assistance, the project team facilitates transactions between companies. All marketplace users can generate real-time reports on key metrics.
The Materials Marketplace also includes the following additional features:
- Startup templates based on industry and facility type to expedite initial data entry and to encourage users to consider resources available creatively.
- Users may sort or filter available resources by potential for synergy match (determined by the system) or other factors, including location and material type. This includes a robust search function to locate specific resources desired. The software notifies users when a high match potential resource becomes available.
- Once the project team identifies a potential match, the software tracks and executes all steps of the transaction. Project staff will monitor transaction progress closely to work through any difficulties.
- Synergy participants complete additional confidentiality agreements, if needed, to protect sensitive business information.
- Members may generate detailed reports on savings and environmental benefits for specific resource transaction or benefits of all transactions.
- Users have the ability to upload photos of available resources, giving other marketplace users a more detailed and visually appealing way of browsing.
- All users from participating companies attain secure log-ins and train on software use and data entry. The software also ensures fast and responsive technical support. The project team provides immediate assistance to users, addressing any technical difficulties. The software also produces “bug reports” and performance issues for resolution by our software developers.
- The project team is working on a list of software enhancements to make it more powerful, visually appealing, and user friendly.
Software Development Roadmap
The vision for succeeding generations of the marketplace software includes development of a comprehensive, trusted, online materials management tool and business-to-business materials exchange platform. In the next generation of the software, the software will perform an automatic reuse identification function, helping to shift human input from time-consuming research to verification and supervision. The project team expects this functionality due to the development of a digitized global materials reuse knowledge base. This database will record all matches made, regardless of final implementation result. It will also capture the environmental, economic and societal performance metrics for each case. The software will match the materials supply and demand based on the chemical properties, physical properties, and elemental compositions. It will allow users to customize recommendations based on the metrics that matter the most to their corporate sustainability goals.
This “intelligent” knowledge base will grow and become more robust with each material posting and synergy match. It could potentially include other materials management options such as recycling or composting to provide users a suite of choices.
Data collection and analysis is the most critical step of the process. The project team realizes that this can be time consuming for many users. In addition to some small enhancements that may expedite this process, true breakthroughs and innovations are possible by leveraging the new IT technologies. We envision an information processing system that builds on publicly available information and a materials input/output Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) database to help users pre-populate their listings of available and wishlist materials.
Through further analysis using Geographic Information System (GIS) and optimization tools, the software will generate an “optimal virtual synergy network” on a map before the actual data collection process begins. This will help the project team identify more high density regions, provide participants with pre-loaded data and pre-identified opportunities, and allow governmental agencies to visualize the reuse potential of any geographic region. In the future, when materials reuse has become institutionalized in business operations, a desirable improvement will be establishing a safe and direct communication between the software and companies’ internal material data. This would result in more real-time, accurate, and complete materials information automatically uploaded to the software for analysis.