Monthly Archives: May 2018

  • Toolots Partners with ABCUSD for the Summer

    Internships have a large number of benefits for both interns and businesses. For interns, they are able to network with professionals, gain hands-on experience, develop new skills and define their career goals. For businesses, they are able to get extra pairs of helping hands and the ability to mentor the next generation of business professionals.

    This year, we are proud to announce that we are partnering with our local school district, ABCUSD, to host an internship program for local high school students for the summer. This is our second year hosting a company-wide summer internship program, and we are excited to be able to help students grow professionally so early on in their career.

    Last year, we were fortunate to have talented students from Cerritos High School, Whitney High School, Artesia High School and more. Students were able to get real-life job seeking experience by creating a résumé and interviewing with department managers. They also were able to choose which department they wanted to be an intern for and gain hands-on experience working on projects with our teams. Some of the projects they worked on included creating content for our blog, designing graphics and troubleshooting products.

    Our employees were able to help students learn a wide range of skills, including business development, graphic design, engineering, IT, social media and more. We didn't limit our interns to one department either; we gave them the opportunity to branch out and learn from managers in the departments of their choice and assist with any projects they were excited about.

    "I love being able to mentor students and help them grow professionally," said Ben Cartwright, Department Head, Business Development & Product Management. "They teach us a lot as well as identify areas we need to improve in our department and as a business."

    We are proud that we are able to have a positive impact in our community by helping students achieve their career goals, and we are grateful for all of the help they provide and the ideas they bring to the table. If you have a high school student who is looking for an internship in one of the areas below, please contact us at hr@toolots.com.

    Internship Openings:
    Public Relations & Social Media
    Information Technology (IT)
    Engineering
    Business Development & Product Management
    Graphic Design & Omni Channel

  • Why Alibaba and Amazon Can't Do What We're Doing Without Disrupting Themselves

    There is enormous latent supply of equipment and machinery in China across a wide range of industries. The amount of arbitrage happening in the China-to-US machinery and equipment space seems almost too significant to not be disintermediated. Why has no one been able to tap into it, especially the marketplace giants, Amazon and Alibaba?

     

    High-Touch or Low-Touch?

    One reason is the unique high-touch service needs of equipment and machinery industries. High-touch means that customer service issues are often more complex, but the business involves high value customers. In contrast, most consumer goods follow a low-touch customer model.

    From operating call centers trained in technical advice and troubleshooting, to providing adequate after-sales maintenance and repair, the need for high-touch customer service from end to end is unavoidable in the world of big-ticket machinery and equipment purchases. Few Chinese manufacturers can afford to operate a dedicated US-based team to fulfill this for US customers.

    If traditional cross-border intermediaries such as trading companies and OEM buyers can fill this need and profit handsomely, why couldn’t a horizontal marketplace platform step in and steal their thunder (along with billions of dollars of profit)?

    As Alibaba and Amazon's marketplace platforms have been built out around consumer goods, these incumbent players follow highly entrenched low-touch service models. This because the relatively low value of consumer purchases prevent a high-touch model from ever being profitable. However, conversely, a low-touch model greatly limits these platforms’ ability to accommodate Chinese direct-selling of industrial equipment and machinery the same way they have – to an extent – for Chinese consumer goods.

     

    One Man's "Innovator's Dilemma" is Another's...

    It would go against Alibaba or Amazon’s core business models if they were to establish a dedicated after-sales service team to answer customers’ various technical industry-specific questions, much less provide on-site maintenance services. But that is exactly what is needed by Chinese industrial sellers in order to sell to the US.

    A platform that provides high-touch English-language service is the very key that will unlock an enormous volume of latent supply. It is a key that may not seem intuitive at first due to the consumer models proven out by the giants, Amazon and Alibaba. But it’s one whose numbers make complete sense if you take a look at the US market from a buyer perspective, in conjunction with understanding the challenges and incentives from a Chinese seller perspective.

  • How to Buy Overseas Industrial Equipment

    Advice for U.S. Customers

    Industrial equipment is a large investment, and many people may think buying products from overseas is riskier than buying domestic products, especially when it comes to purchasing high-value items. However, purchasing equipment from overseas is the best option for many people on a budget, and if you take certain precautions, you can reduce or even completely eliminate risk. Many products in the U.S. are imported from other countries and sold in the U.S. under American brands, so it makes sense why you can save money by going straight to the source to purchase your goods. Outlined below are a few tips to help you buy reliable and affordable equipment from overseas.

    Find equipment that is sourced from countries that mass-produce the product you're looking for to get the best value.

    This is a simple supply and demand scenario. When supply is high, pricing is adjusted to meet the demand of its consumers. In addition, the countries that mass-produce products are able to get materials at a lower cost thus making products cheaper for consumers.

    Research different models and brands of equipment. 

    Be highly detail oriented in your research. Ask yourself questions regarding functionality and structure of the equipment. Below are a few questions you should ask yourself while you're researching products:
    What are the dimensions of the entire machine? What are the dimensions of certain parts of the machine? Do these parts meet U.S. standards? Are the dimensions listed using the metric or imperial system? Is it battery-powered? If so, what types of batteries does it use? Does it need to be plugged in? Will that plug need a converter?

    Read reviews about the product and company. 

    Outside the circle of your friends and family, the next group of people that can help you with your large purchasing decisions are those who have already gone through the same buying process as you. They are the ones who have already asked the same questions as you and even went a step farther by trying the product. See what they like and dislike and determine if that product is the right one for you. Make sure to review a variety of review websites so that you have a more well-rounded understanding of the product and the product's company. If the product you're interested in doesn't have a review, read reviews about the company itself from third-party review sites and determine if it is a trustworthy option.

    View the warranty and return policy. 

    Make sure to read the fine print before you make your purchase. If by chance you receive a defective product, or if there is a chance you won't need the product by the time you receive it, you will want to purchase your product from a company with a warranty and return policy that suits your needs.

    Purchase from a reputable marketplace rather than straight from the manufacturer. 

    When purchasing straight from the manufacturer, you may encounter barriers, including a language difference and a lack of customer service, warranty and return policy. Although not all marketplaces solve these problems, purchasing from a reputable marketplace will give you more security because marketplaces usually filter out products and companies that don't meet their standards. Toolots is a great choice for purchasing industrial equipment at manufacturer prices with the customer service of a distributor.

    If you choose to purchase straight from the manufacturer, check your state or local treasury to see if you need to pay any state or local taxes on the equipment that you are planning on importing. 

    Every state will have different tax laws and regulations on importing products, so make sure you speak with someone if you don't know the laws in your area.

    If you're unfamiliar with the seller, complete your payment with a reputable third-party service. 

    Some of the more popular payment services include Paypal, Quickbooks, and OFX.

    Overall, investing in industrial equipment is a time-consuming process and even more so when you are trying to find a reliable product at an affordable price. Purchasing overseas can help you with both, but don't forget to do your research.

  • Getting Replacement Parts from Chinese Manufacturers Has Never Been Easier

    When purchasing machinery from Chinese manufacturers, it goes without saying that prices are generally unmatched. However, as with sourcing anything from Chinese manufacturers, it is usually assumed that there are certain challenges when working with a Chinese supplier. These challenges are often compounded even further when it comes to B2B products with technical specifications and standards. However, it doesn’t have to be this way.

    Toolots’ platform addresses several key pain points faced by both the buyer and the manufacturer. By tackling these challenges, we alleviate much of the risk US machinery buyers normally take on when they purchase from a Chinese manufacturer. It also makes it possible for more manufacturers to expand to the US market, when previously they may not have been able to afford the investment needed to provide adequate after-sales service in the US by American standards.

    How does Toolots address these pain points? In this post, we’ll focus on one issue: replacement parts.

    Many types of equipment and machinery, such as plastic injection molding machines, will need parts replacement at some point in their life cycle. How do buyers place requests for spare parts for machinery that was made in China? That depends on how the buyer originally purchased their product:

     

    Option 1: Pay a premium to a US distributor

    One of the reasons the majority of Chinese machinery manufacturers choose to OEM for US brands instead of attempting their own international sales channels is because these US distributors are able to maintain a supply of spare parts in the US. As such, they are able to meet US customers’ after-sales needs for a smooth and timely process obtaining the parts they need to keep their machines running. Of course, buying Chinese-made machinery from a US brand comes with a premium as compared to purchasing directly from a Chinese vendor.

     

    Option 2: Purchase directly from China

    For the Chinese machinery manufacturers who do become vendors themselves on Alibaba and similar sites, many often do offer free spare parts, but the buyer usually has to cover the freight cost, import duties, etc. Moreover, these parts take a long time to ship overseas, meaning operational downtime for the buyer. This means that obtaining the parts from the original supplier is often so costly and time-consuming that the buyer might as well take on the burden of sourcing spare parts locally, assuming the part they’re looking for is generic and compatible.

     

    Option 3: Purchase on Toolots

    With Toolots, buyers don’t have to choose between paying a premium to work with a US distributor and facing the challenges of working directly with a Chinese manufacturer.

    Our engineers replace a broken part on a chocolate conche.

    When it comes to spare parts, we ensure that manufacturers honor all warranties and requests for spare parts for their US customers. Because they sell on our platform and we handle the customer service domestically, they are held accountable for meeting US customers’ after-sales service expectations. Moreover, for most of our categories, we require commonly-requested or machine-specific spare parts to be stocked in our US warehouses for timely fulfillment of parts requests.

    Check out our story about how we overnighted parts and sent out engineers to fix a chocolate machine on-site when the owner ran into issues.

  • Industrial Business Leaders Gather at Toolots for a Roundtable Discussion with Toolots CEO Jason Fu

    Toolots has helped more than 400 manufacturers across the world sell their products through the Toolots e-marketplace platform. This sounds like a lot of working coming from a startup business, but there are many things that happen behind the scenes that help Toolots accomplish this.

    CSO Zeming Gao discusses the future of Toolots to Chinese manufacturers and Toolots employees.

    Because of the startup nature of our business, Toolots often encountered problems with new products from vendors. So, to alleviate this problem, Toolots came up with a system. Whenever a problem arises from new products, our employees write up a report card, listing exactly what's wrong with the product. Then, our business development team trains all relevant parties on how to resolve the issue, including the manufacturers, engineers and customer service team.

    "Whether we're in the startup phase or not, we will always be constantly learning," says Jason Fu, CEO of Toolots. "However, since we have so many product categories, we just have to learn a lot more information than traditional businesses – and quicker."

    To reduce the number of incidents, our customer service department is quickly learning every aspect of each machine that is being added onto the Toolots platform, from startup to troubleshooting. In addition to this, we offer a local call center, video troubleshooting and local engineers to help resolve any issues customers may face. This helps customers have peace of mind, knowing that they are being helped through every step of the buying process, including after-sales.

    "Toolots' product managers are doing a great job becoming familiar with my products," says Penny Yin from Ample Safety Tools. "I like how Toolots solves all the problems for me."

    We try our best at Toolots to ensure satisfaction among both customers and merchants on our platform. What we are doing is something that can't be replicated because of our pending patent. One manufacturer who attended the roundtable jokingly said that he was angry because he wished he thought of Toolots first.

    CEO Jason Fu and CSO Zeming Gao smile alongside Chinese leaders in manufacturing.

  • Toolots Talks Exports: Growing our Supply Side in China

    Over the past week, we have had the pleasure of having several distinguished guests from China over at our offices to chat about the growth of the supply side of our marketplace, both present and future. These included several key members of Jilin Province’s Department of Foreign Affairs (Europe and United States), as well as several of our machinery manufacturers in China. There is a lot of buzz about Toolots in China – here’s a look inside how we’re facilitating international trade and making waves in bringing affordable equipment and machinery to US small business.

    Although China has made great strides in opening up its economy over the past few decades, navigating the country’s business-government ecosystem is still incredibly challenging for companies who are unfamiliar with it. Growing and managing a user base of Chinese suppliers on an e-commerce platform is even more challenging. It’s no surprise that Porter Erisman, Alibaba Group’s former Vice President of International Marketing, often attests to these two very challenges throughout his highly acclaimed books and other writing on Alibaba and e-commerce more broadly.

    Fortunately for Toolots, CEO Jason Fu has nearly 20 years of experience working with that ecosystem. Of particular importance in this industry, though perhaps less obvious to the average US business owner, is ensuring the good graces of local government offices that are tasked with economic development in key provinces and cities. As each region is usually tied to only a handful of specific industries, the economic development departments of these regions are deeply familiar with their respective industries and have direct communication channels with business leaders in these industries. As such, garnering the willingness of these departments to vouch for Toolots to its constituent manufacturers is almost as important as promoting to the manufacturers themselves.

    CEO Jason Fu speaks with officials from Jilin Province

    While meeting with the representatives visiting from Jilin Province this week, Fu spoke about how Toolots is helping small and mid-sized Chinese manufacturers break into international trade. Jilin is one of the three provinces in Northeastern China. It is rich in natural resources, reaching about 4.4 billion USD in exports in 2017. Among their key export industries is timber and wood products, which includes products such as wood flooring, wood doors, furniture parts, plywood, particle board, and other engineered wood products and small wooden products.

    Similar to other local Chinese government offices, it is the role of commerce and foreign affairs officials from Jilin to seek potential economic development initiatives and foster international business interest in their region. Our visitors from the province were enthusiastic about Toolots because they recognize that our involvement with manufacturers in their region would align with their regional goals of providing relief to industrial over-capacity as well as pressuring their industries to be accountable for quality.

    Other e-commerce platforms such as Amazon have tried to woo Chinese manufacturers, but they have only had success for limited categories of consumer goods, leaving the enormous supply of Chinese industrial equipment largely untapped. That is to say, their model only allows them to support vendors who are largely self-sufficient from a platform perspective. Unsurprisingly, this means that the majority of Chinese equipment and machinery manufacturers are not able to successfully break into the US market using a platform like Amazon.

    Unlike consumer goods, industrial machinery requires a higher degree of English language customer support and after-sales services. Toolots makes it possible for US small businesses to get Alibaba prices (or lower) on Chinese machinery – without any fear of lacking customer service, after-sales support, adequate product information, warranty fulfillment, spare parts, customization accommodations, etc.

  • Toolots Tour and Meet & Greet

    We’re excited to be growing here at Toolots, and that means we have new positions open!

    • Staff Accountant
    • Digital Marketing Manager
    • Junior Copywriter
    • We also have a variety of summer internships available, including IT, public relations, and engineering

    If you are interested in any of these positions, please send us an email at hr@toolots.com.

    We’ve also been taking advantage of these growing opportunities to reach out and network with our community and spread the word about Toolots. As you may know, we are all about doing our part in helping students and other young people succeed in their career development. We’re also passionate about our industry, and we love sharing our knowledge with aspiring students and young professionals. From our involvement in local high schools to our support for Women in Engineering, we truly hope that we make a positive impact on developing interest in our industry.

    As a partner of the Chinese University Alumni Association Alliance of Southern California (CUAAASC), we were incredibly excited to get connected with student and new graduate job-seekers. Today, more than two dozen talented job candidates came to the Toolots Headquarters in Cerritos to learn more about Toolots and its business model and technology, as well as the industrial equipment industry more broadly.

    Not only did these candidates express interest in our job openings, they were also eager to learn from the event’s knowledgeable hosts. Toolots CEO Jason Fu gave a warm welcome to the new grads, commending them on their career development endeavors and their interest in a forward-thinking company like Toolots. He then opened the floor for Emily Wang, the CEO of T18 Capital and an early stage investor in Toolots.

    Wang explained to the audience why, with her deep experience in finance and investing, she chose to place her bets on Toolots in its seed round. “Not only did I see immediately how this platform would disrupt the cross-border model right when the time was ripe, I also saw Jason’s leadership and interaction with those around him to be particularly compelling as companies from a startup business perspective,” she said.

    In the ensuing panel discussion, Toolots CSO Zeming Gao echoed Wang’s sentiments, explaining that his decision to work for Toolots based on equity only was due to his belief in the disruptive nature of the high-touch customer service model. He explained that Amazon can never truly succeed in industrial equipment, because its consumer goods-based model has been too successful. They don’t see the amount of untapped opportunity in Chinese sellers of industrial equipment that could be disintermediated if there were a platform willing to alleviate some of the barriers, and the last thing they would suspect to be profitable would be to go against their low-touch service model.

    Next in the panel discussion was CTO Vincent Lee, who explained that his decision to work for Toolots was because he truly believed he would be building something of value for an enormous number of sellers. Instead of simply working for an e-commerce platform, he feels that he is building something to generate immense cost-saving efficiencies for the industry and thereby unlock value for both sellers and buyers.

    Following the panel, several Toolots managers gave our guests a tour of the warehouse and office spaces, explaining our departments and their functions. The event concluded with a meet and greet, where job candidates had the opportunity to speak face-to-face with our managers about potential opportunities with Toolots as well as engage in broader topics such as career paths, trends in technology, and various aspects of Toolots’ business model.

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