Small manufacturers ran into tough times in the first quarter, as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in expected revenue declines at more than half of the companies surveyed in March for the Small Manufacturing Index from online manufacturing services company Xometry Inc.
The index, which Xometry compiles twice a year, found that 25% of manufacturers were optimistic in their anticipation of future business, compared with 45% who were optimistic last fall.
The first-quarter survey also found that 80% of small manufacturers said that the pandemic was impacting their revenue; more than half said the impact was negative, leaving less than a third who said their revenue was on the upside. The surveys include about 100 respondents, Xometry says.
3 programs to aid business
To help reverse downward pressure on revenue this year, Xometry recently launched three programs designed to help buyers and sellers of manufacturing services increase online trade on the Xometry.com marketplace. Xometry hosts more than 4,000 participating small manufacturers and machine shops—which it calls its manufacturing partners—that provide such manufacturing services as 3D printing and CNC machining to thousands of buyers, including product designers and engineers from businesses ranging from start-ups to such major manufacturers as General Electric Co. and automaker BMW AG. (GE and BMW are also investors in Xometry.)
“Everybody is managing as best they can but still with uncertainty,” says Randy Altschuler, CEO of Xometry. “The best thing we can do at Xometry is make it easier for our customers and manufacturing partners.”
Xometry has launched the following programs to foster business:
● A financial stimulus program through which it is providing $50 credits in U.S.-based customer accounts to help product designers and engineers order custom parts through Aug. 31 using any of the manufacturing services provided by Xometry’s manufacturing partners, including 3D printing, CNC machining, injection molding and sheet metal fabrication.
● The Xometry Advance Card, a payment card program for purchases of supplies by Xometry’s manufacturing partners. The Visa-branded card program, which charges no interest or fees to users, is designed to give the providers of manufacturing services on the Xometry marketplace immediate access to 30% of the value of jobs they accept, or up to $7,500 on each job, to purchase the materials, tooling and other things they need to complete their manufacturing projects, Xometry says.
Bill Cronin, Xometry’s chief revenue officer, says the Advance Card program is intended to help small manufacturers improve their cash flow and improve the speed of manufacturing services they can offer customers pressed for time during the market pressures caused by the pandemic. “Engineers always need things fast,” he says. “When they’re working on a ventilator, they need things even faster.”
“Over time, we will also be adding opportunities for discounts and benefits on products relevant to manufacturing partners who are cardholders,” Altschuler adds.
● A 2D Technical Drawing Marketplace, which is designed to let engineers and designers submit 2D files instead of 3D computer-aided design files to request price quotes from Xometry’s manufacturing partners. Xometry notes that its survey found that 53% of mechanical engineers work with parts that lack 3D CAD files, representing a “potential $37 billion market.” It adds that engineers and designers typically use 2D files for legacy parts in industries such as aerospace and defense.
Buyers on Xometry can now upload either a 2D file or a 3D CAD 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.
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.
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