Will an Uber model work for manufacturing machine time?

With the huge success of Uber (taxi-like services) and Airbnb (hotel-like services), entrepreneurs have sought to replicate the basic model in a wide range of other industries and applications, from freight transportation by truck (Convoy) to home DIY services (intimate).

So it was inevitable that someone would find a way to try and make it work for manufacturing capability, an area both ripe for such digitization but at the same time with a number of obstacles to success.

The supply chain summary says…

Rightly or wrongly, there is still a huge industrial orientation towards manufacturing.

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A company called MakeTime, a startup started by an architect turned manufacturing entrepreneur Parrish of Drura in Lexington, Kentucky, hopes to have cracked the code.

The service is aimed at businesses and individuals who need relatively short production runs, perhaps even just as a requirement for a single unit of something that needs to be machined in some way to be produced. .

Jobs may be too small to attract the interest of large contract manufacturers, who don’t want to bear the cost and hassle of hiring a new client or commissioning jobs that won’t span a reasonably long horizon.

So finding smaller stores that have the capacity and availability to take the order is a hassle, usually requiring a lot of phone calls and emails, waiting for offers to come back and trying to sort out those responses in terms of cost and time. The process is difficult and time-consuming enough for sourcing in the United States. further complexities and uncertainties enter the equation if a company is looking overseas.

But at the same time, much of America’s production equipment is idle on any given day. Overall, the Federal Reserve estimates current US factory utilization at 75.4%, below its long-term average of 78.4%. But this of course includes many large factories which can operate at full capacity, especially in process industries such as chemicals which can operate 24/7.

Some estimates indicate that US production equipment sits idle about 50% of the time.

So, can a service that can tie demand to these idle machines be successful? 3D printing is one approach to the problem, with a growing number of departments that can rapidly produce parts using additive manufacturing, in a concept increasingly referred to as “on-demand” or “distributed” manufacturing. .

3D printing will be an important part of the future, it seems certain (see GE is making major advances in 3D printing as advances in metal-based compounding open up many new applications), but for now and certainly for many years to come, many items will still have to be made the old-fashioned way, with CNC milling machines, water jets, laser cutters and more.

Thus, MakeTime was created. He began by renting out blocks of machine shop idle time to artists and designers, and later to business owners and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

So far, it has managed to digitally connect with around 800 manufacturers, who supply their equipment and production capacities and undergo a qualification process.

Companies needed production services to upload their needs in terms of CAD drawings or other files, required deadlines (urgent, standard or flexible), etc., and MakeTime matches this need with one or more manufacturers in its network, in providing a comprehensive quote that spells out our production, material and logistics costs.

Its website states that “our proprietary matching algorithm ensures your order is placed with the best machine shop for the job every time.”

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An article in Quartz magazine indicates that for now, companies using on-demand manufacturing are doing so cautiously – often for small, non-critical parts, with low-volume orders.

There are many reasons to be careful. Rightly or wrongly, there is always a huge industrial orientation towards manufacturing – a company specializes, for example, in production for the automotive or aerospace sector and does not venture outside of this industry.

Quality is also a concern. Quality process qualification is usually an important factor in selecting a supplier – and at an order-specific level, this is sort of out of the window with the MakeTime model.

However, on its website, the company states “MakeTime binds every order that passes through our platform, which means we truly offer a 100% quality guarantee. If you’re not satisfied, your parts will be remade or reworked at no additional cost to you.We take careful steps from the outset to ensure that both parties understand the scope of the work.When issues arise, we resolve them quickly.

“It’s extremely nascent, I would say in its early stages as a concept,” says Justin Rose, managing partner of Chicago-based Boston Consulting Group, told Quartz. “I find it hard to believe that a major automotive supplier could at some point have a production line fully running [leased production facilities].”

There are of course challenges, but MakeTime says it can dramatically reduce the cost and/or lead time of many manufacturing orders, and if it can do that with quality results, an Uber for manufacturing could take off well.

What do you think of the MakeTime model? Can it work? What are the main challenges? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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