The global coronavirus pandemic is disrupting supply chains, but internet-based international manufacturing services marketplace Xometry Inc. is keeping busy as it takes on new coronavirus-related projects and transfers work from virus-hit factories in China to the United States, the company says.
“We are quite busy and have a lot of projects for a wide range of customers, including some specific to COVID-19,” the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has quickly spread worldwide and disrupted manufacturing and supply chains, says Bill Cronin, chief revenue officer of Xometry, which operates an international internet-based on-demand network of some 4,000 machine shops and manufacturers.
Among new projects Xometry has channeled to its networked manufacturing partners are 3D-printed parts for ventilators and personal protection equipment, or PPE, such as visors and masks used by medical personnel while treating patients inflicted with the coronavirus. It has been channeling inquiries and requests for manufacturing services from a wide range of customers in healthcare and other industries, Cronin says.
Since its launch in 2013, Xometry has grown its business with a mix of digital technology systems and services designed to support changing market demand and channel orders for custom manufacturing projects to its networked manufacturers. During the current pandemic, it’s using its technology suite and business model to better understand and respond to new market disruption.
Shifting some manufacturing to the U.S.
“There are a lot of people out there looking for suppliers, and that’s where we are really able to help,” Cronin says. “We’ve seen a significant amount of inbound inquiries in medical, and we’re working to help people with disrupted supply chains.”
Xometry hasn’t been without difficulties stemming from the pandemic, but its international base of manufacturers and its use of artificial intelligence technology has enabled it to move projects to the most suitable producers, he adds. Since the coronavirus pandemic started late last year, Xometry has switched less than 10% of its custom manufacturing projects from overseas to the United States.
“Most of our manufacturers are remaining open,” Cronin says. As Xometry has in past market disruptions, such as those caused by extreme weather events, it’s been able to reallocate projects when necessary to available manufacturers in its network. Xometry’s network includes some 3,000 manufacturers in the United States and another 1,000 in Europe.
A new financing service for manufacturers
In addition, a new financial assistance program Xometry had planned before the virus outbreak and recently launched has helped its participating manufacturers smooth out production operations, Cronin says. Under the program, Xometry covers the initial cost of materials and supplies that its participating manufacturers need to carry out their custom manufacturing projects and then deducts the cost of those materials and supplies from the revenue each manufacturer earns for each project.
Xometry operates as an online marketplace where buyers of such manufacturing services as 3D printing and CNC machining submit requests with specifications for custom projects; Xometry then uses its AI-powered software to match each project with a manufacturer in its network. After a manufacturer accepts and completes a project, Xometry receives payment from the customer and forwards payment minus a commission to the manufacturer. The customers are typically large manufacturers, including General Electric Co. and automaker BMW AG, that need parts manufactured. GE and BMW are also investors in Xometry.
Quoting prices for custom jobs
A customer will upload a 3D computer-aided design model of a product it needs to be manufactured into Xometry’s online quoting engine, choosing several criteria including the manufacturing process, the material such as aluminum or polycarbonate, and the type of metal finish or other special treatments. Within minutes, Xometry uses its own data on the manufacturing costs to quote a price. Its quoting engine is based on Hoops Communicator and Hoops Exchange software from Tech Soft 3D.
Xometry then forwards the customer’s order to a manufacturer in its network that its software platform recognizes as most suitable and available; the manufacturer then decides whether to accept the order.
The system is designed to maximize the use of available capacity, helping manufacturers to avoid downtime while also offering buyers a quick response, Xometry says.
Xometry’s overall technology system is designed to continue learning how to better match custom manufacturing jobs with its manufacturing partners and better plan for major market disruptions, Cronin says.
“We’re always learning something every day. The infrastructure we have is well-suited to manage flexibility for customer demand and down to manufacturing partner capacity,” Cronin says, adding: “One of the great learnings from this is better understanding and planning production, and pricing parts and jobs new in our market.”
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