Identifying potential suppliers, especially for new products or services, can be a time-consuming and frustrating experience. Searching the “open” web many times produces a large number of results that simply are not relevant. Yet, this component of the sourcing project can arguably be considered the most important. Having the right supplier candidates to select from is critical in ensuring a solid foundation for moving forward in the evaluation process. Here is a list of resources, most of them free, to consider when identifying potential suppliers.
Launched in 1999, Alibaba.com is a platform for cross-border trade that helps you find quality manufacturers, suppliers, exporters, importers, buyers, wholesalers, products and trade leads. It provides access to more than two million supplier storefronts and 1.5 billion products. For product searches, tools such as Related Search and category/country/type breakdown options help narrow results.
This source uses codes (SIC/NAICS) and helps in identifying suppliers by allowing you to narrow search results by using different types of criteria (for example specific geography, business size, ownership). This is a popular business resource that you can find in public libraries. All industries are covered. There is no free text search option, which can be limiting. You will need a subscription to this database, if it is not available through a local library.
This online platform helps buyers locate suppliers through its comprehensive database of manufacturers in Taiwan and China. Supplier listings provide detailed information on company profiles, website links, contacts, product descriptions & photos, and new product information.
Buyer’s Guides – Industry Associations
There is a professional association for just about every type of industry. Associations often provide buyer guides that are free to members and non-members as well. A good way to find associations for an industry is to use a search engine such as Google or Bing—type the industry name with the term “association.” Another source to identify associations is the Gateway to Associations – ASAE. The American Society of Association Executives provides a free directory that allows you to conduct a search for associations by name, organization type, or geographic location. http://www.asaecenter.org/Community/Directories/associationsearch.cfm
Buyer’s Guides – Trade Journals
Just as there is a professional association for almost every type of industry, there is also a professional or trade journal (many of these are published by professional associations). These publications, more often than not, have companion websites with buyer guides that are almost always free to access. To find journal titles for an industry, use a search engine such as Google or Bing; enter the industry name with the term “trade journals.” The authoritative source for this type of information, found in all libraries, is Ulrich’s Periodicals Directory. It provides information on more than 300,000 periodicals of all types, including academic, trade journals, popular magazines and newsletters and covers all subjects.
Global Sources is a business-to-business online marketplace that facilitates trade with Greater China. Used by more than one million international buyers, this service provides product and company information to help with sourcing from overseas supply markets.
This is a free worldwide directory of business and commercial companies in 70 countries representing 60,00 products and services. Kompass uses a unique classification system (more detailed than SIC) which allows you to target specific companies/suppliers more easily. Categories are comprehensive including: Chemistry, Energy, IT/Internet, Tourism/Leisure, Training, and Textile/Clothing, to name a few. Once you go to the site, click on the “Old Website” option to search for international coverage. The current website is new and is still a prototype.
MacRAE’S Blue Book
MacRAE’S bills itself as “America’s Original Industrial Directory Since 1893.” Here you can find free information on more than 1.2 million North American industrial companies with more than two million product listings indexed under more than 50,000 product headings.
Offered by MFG.com, this free supplier discovery service includes unique custom manufacturers in more than 100 disciplines, including CNC machining, injection molding, metal fabrication, and metal stamping, to name a few. You can search by location and keyword. International in scope.
There is a good chance that a local library near you subscribes to this product. The U.S. Businesses database (which contains information on 14 million U.S. businesses) is helpful in finding suppliers by using different criteria such as SIC/NAICS code, geography, and business size. All industries are covered. There is no free text search option, which can be limiting. You will need a subscription if this resource is not available through a local library.
This is a free directory of manufacturers and distributors from countries in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. The search box allows you to search by Global Products, Suppliers by Category, or Company Name. All available categories and companies (not products) will display when you begin to type.
This standard reference has been a favorite of buyers for years. Its redesigned supplier discovery platform enables you to identify manufacturers by category, company name, and UNSPSC commodity code. Potential supplier lists can be refined by diversity, certification, location and more. Company profiles have been expanded to include multi-media. The product discovery tool now has semantic search capabilities based on a classification system specific to engineering. In addition, you can download 2D and 3D CAD models from major manufacturers. The platform is free. Coverage focuses on North America.
“This is an international online industrial directory, engineering resource, and vertical search engine that directly targets buyers and sellers in the industrial, manufacturing, contract manufacturing and distribution sectors worldwide.” It offers both paid and free listings.