Is your tech stack doing its job? Jim and Jason know how hard it can be to keep all the balls in the air and not become overwhelmed. As the manufacturing industry continues to grow, it is vital that the Metal Working Nation become increasingly efficient - and smarter. Guest speaker, Kaleb Mertz - the integrator and marketing team lead of MakingChips - dives into why and how you need to integrate your tech stack to boost your company’s efficiency and ease the load on you and your employees. Making Chips and making money doesn’t solely rely on the mechanics of the shop floor.
Take further steps to build your techstack and read Kaleb's article at www.makingchips.com/techstack
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Just as software-as-a-service (SaaS) has been used to streamline the software needs of businesses and organizations around the world, Xometry has created the manufacturing-as-a-service (MaaS) platform to serve the pressing needs of the Metal Working Nation. Jim and Jason discuss the inner-workings of Xometry’s impressive success with the vice president of the company, Michael Dickson, in this week’s exciting episode of MakingChips.
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As the largest manufacturing-on-demand platform in the country, Xometry makes parts for over 16,000 customers - including clients such as NASA and BMW. Michael explains that their ability to meet such high demands is because of their instant quoting engine, partner network, and through their online e-commerce site - Xometry Supplies. Michael shares that the passion and drive behind the company is to help manufacturers grow in their own businesses as well as helping the manufacturing industry thrive as a whole.
If you have a part that your shop doesn’t have the capacity to create, what can you do? Michael explains how Xometry’s instant quoting engine works to provide manufacturers and customers with instantaneous answers on how their needs can be met. Uploading a 3D CAD file of the part or project you need manufactured into the system allows the quoting engine to determine when the part or project can be made and delivered and by whom. The system allows users to select the type of tools they want to be used, custom finishings, and what types of inspections they want the project or part verified through. The instant quoting engine then calculates lead time and the deadline for a need. Payment is simple and savable for future orders. When there are extremely specific details needed to complete a project, the system prompts the user to insert PDFs detailing other needs. Xometry sends the orders to the proper manufacturer for completion. Carr Machine & Tool, for instance, could use Xometry in a partnership as a way to extend the business by fulfilling orders offered through Xometry.
Just as Uber doesn’t actually own any cars, but they are still the largest taxiing company in the world, the goal of Xometry is to be the on-demand portal for manufacturing. Their success is derived through their leverage of the workforce capacity provided through their numerous partnerships. Xometry is the coordinating portal of the Metal Working Nation - not the workforce itself. Michael explains that one of the benefits of such a company is that the customer doesn’t have to send out quote requests or conduct research on which manufacturing business is the best for their specific need. Xometry simply takes the order and delivers it to the best partner for that specific job. Because Xometry has built such a solid reputation, people trust the process.
Xometry has about 3,000 partners - including those who make parts and fulfill orders for Xometry and those who order from Xometry. The process to become a partner is an easy one. Anyone can join - once approved - and there is no partnership fee. There is an on-boarding period and a trial period. Once Xometry is satisfied, they will open the business to work within the network. While certifications aren’t required, they are heartily welcomed.
Feedback is one of the main driving factors for improvement of Xometry’s systems. Jason compares the improvement process to that of the housing market. If your house doesn’t sell within a few weeks, perhaps it is priced too high. If it sells in a day, perhaps you could have raised the asking price. It is the same with manufacturing parts. Supply and demand, feedback from customers and partners help Xometry’s instant quoting system to work at optimum capacity.
Michael explains that Xometry is an excellent source of growth for new manufacturing businesses or start-ups. Partnership can help cover the costs of starting a business and help provide a more steady stream of work. The goal of Xometry, after all, is to leverage the manufacturing capabilities in the US and to help their partners make more chips - so that they can make more money and reach their goals. Be sure to listen to the entire episode for more about how manufacturing as a service can benefit you and your company!
Step up your machining game by utilizing tools such as trunnion tables and growing your manufacturing business through partnerships with other companies! Jason Zenger and Nick Goellner join Stan Martin - Kentucky entrepreneur and owner of Martin Manufacturing in this inspiring episode of MakingChips. Many call him “Stan the Trunnion Man,” and rightly so. Realizing how much time he and his team were spending handling projects and parts themselves inspired Stan to streamline the trunnion table for optimal performance - for his own shop and for the entire Metal Working Nation.
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Stan says that the reason he found himself and his team in the trunnion table business is because he is a lazy machinist. He knew that manually handling every part was wasting time and energy when it could all be done by a machine. Using CNC machines and trunnion tables, Stan began creating his own product line.
Stan explains that most companies still look at trunnion tables as only useful for certain jobs. While they are standardized to meet the specifications of certain projects and parts, it is rare that a manufacturing business will see a job only once or twice. More likely, they will need the same parts made over and over, increasing the practicality and efficiency of a tool like the trunnion table. Instead of having someone on the shop floor spending their time clamping, unclamping, reversing, and rotating every set of parts, you simply place the material onto the trunnion table and let it do the work for you. The result is a precise, consistent, and perfect job every time.
Stan understands the need to create an atmosphere of support, consistency, and ease for his customers. Instead of going straight to the larger work holding companies, he focused on meeting the needs of job shops first and coming alongside each and every customer. Stan and his team make it a priority to ensure that every customer understands how, when, and where to use their trunnion tables. Some are built to optimize vertical machinery, while others are built to compliment a rotary table. Stan explains that his team goes the extra mile to produce a ready-to-use trunnion table for their customers. If a customer sends them a rotary table, they will put work holding onto the trunnion, mount it, and hand it back to the customer - ready to make chips.
Partnerships not only supply you with the tools, resources, and skills that your own team doesn’t possess - they allows your business to grow. Partnerships can extend to supply chains, manufacturing partnerships, application engineering, sales, and so forth.
Stan believes that partnerships are vital. The only way to grow as a company is to not be selfish. Working with others creates a larger and more diverse pool of ideas and jobs. Collaborative efforts can be an excellent learning and growing experience for everyone involved. Obviously, you want to make sure that whoever you are partnering with is trustworthy and produces consistently excellent work. There should always be honest and open communication.
Stan discusses the need to continually evaluate the processes and tools you are using - and producing - within your business and partnerships. Customers want convenience and excellence, creating a full-time need for assessment and improvement. For Stan’s business, this meant creating standardized kits as well as offering custom lengths on their trunnion tables.
From a small manufacturing business to one of the leading manufacturing companies, Stan and the team at Martin Manufacturing understand the necessity for optimal machining performance, caring customer service, and allowing other companies to partner and spread the knowledge and resources they have to offer.
We often don’t think of a franchise and a manufacturing business as being an easy match, but systematizing your business according to the franchise model can vastly improve the functionality and profitability of your company. Tools such as an ERP system can help you boost efficiency and keep track of everything needed to streamline your business. In this episode, the co-founder and president of ProShop ERP, Paul Van Metre, shares the practical steps to take towards a more refined and systematized set of processes for optimal company performance.
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Paul explains that the goal of modeling your business after a franchise isn’t to become the next Subway or McDonald’s. Instead, the vision is to design a franchise prototype. Creating standardized systems for every process and goal within your company will help you create repeatability and redundancy for every task and will help you pinpoint problems - leading to continual refining. The goal is to have the same and reliable output as a franchise delivers - consistent value, low labor costs, impeccable organization, and documented workflow that produces predictable product.
Whether your company is growing by leaps and bounds or not - establishing systems that streamline your processes and help ground the expectations and values of your business will help take your customer experience and your efficiency to the next level. The goal isn’t to duplicate your business into a thousand perfect replicas. The goal is to run your company in the most efficient and proven method available - with a franchise mindset applied to the small business structure.
What processes do you apply to the franchise model? Paul says that the answer is all of them. Systems like ERP can help minimize the labor involved in documenting your processes for storing fixtures, programming, job descriptions, hiring, training, company expectations, and procedures for making each and every product. Paul explains that one huge step for his company was standardizing jobs. Making sure that every person in your company is following the same procedures creates reliability.
Jim uses the ERP system in his discussions with new clients, allowing them to view the numbers and procedures used to create the products they need. With a standardized system in place, every operation is itemized and trackable. All the details are available in one place - not scattered across different platforms and mediums. Documenting your systems in one location allows for a higher level of professionalism that makes everything black and white for your customers - and for your employees.
Paul explains that you don’t need to create brand new procedures in order to streamline your business. Begin by bringing your team onboard with the mission to document every process you already have in place. It’s a team effort - unless you are a one-man shop. Each individual is going to have specific knowledge that is vital to the tribe. So much more information can be documented with ease when it is all inserted into one place - such as an ERP system. While it may seem daunting at first, it becomes easier the more your team utilizes it. Be sure to listen to the entire episode for Jim’s story of how implementing an ERP system in Carr Machine & Tool helped him keep a clear and focused approach to company growth.
It’s surprising how many steps you can eliminate when you centralize all of your processes and procedures in one location. Eliminating needless or unprofitable steps creates greater efficiency, which leads to greater profitability. It also helps streamline your customer experience so that they know exactly what to expect and are met with quality time after time.
Paul shares the 80/20 rule of profitability. Once you have the systems in place to track the profitability of each product, order, and customer, then you can begin to see the 80/20 rule take place. 80% of profits are derived by 20% of your jobs, and 20% of your jobs cause 80% of your losses. With a systemized process, you can see which jobs are losers and which are profitable. Having a procedure for killing off the losers will help keep your company moving forward and allow for less wasted time and resources.
It’s important to analyze how you define job profitability and how you analyze the urgency of a request within your business. Streamlining your processes and procedures will lead to unearthed problems within your systems. Constant improvement needs to be an understood key-to-success by everyone on the team. Humility and honesty are vital to the improvement of a company, but leaders don’t need to be bogged down and notified of every problem that arises. Know, as a leader, how you will analyze and prioritize what needs to be addressed, when, and by whom. Jason shares his strategy of IDS (Identify, Discuss, and Solve). Encouraging your team to understand why a problem occurred and report it into a centralized system - like ERP - will help minimize the risk of the same problems occurring over and over again. Be sure to listen to the entire episode for more insight into why a franchise model may be the next step you should take with your manufacturing business.