Home Industry Benjamin Schwab, Co-Founder and CMO at FACTUREE in interview

Benjamin Schwab, Co-Founder and CMO at FACTUREE in interview

FACTUREE is an online fabricator from Germany that relies on additive manufacturing for production, among other things. The company was founded in 2017 and now has a production network of around 2,000 partners from almost all sectors, including CNC machining, sheet metal working, 3D printing and surface technology. We conducted an interview with Benjamin Schwab, Co-Founder and CMO at FACTUREE.

Your company is called “FACTUREE – The Online Manufacturer”. What exactly do you mean by Online Manufacturing?

In 2017, we asked ourselves how we could make the procurement of custom parts easier and faster – simply more modern. The answer is Online Manufacturing. The key is independence and our concept is based on digitalization, automation and networking. This is why we have built up a manufacturing network of around 2,000 partners from nearly all areas, including CNC machining, sheet metal processing, 3D printing and surface technology. Today, we have the largest range of manufacturing in the market.

For each project, we use AI to select the most suitable manufacturer in terms of quality, price and delivery time. The request process is semi-automated, ensuring a quick quote. Access is easy for the end customer, i.e. no system integration, no participation costs and no registration. There is no need for searching for suppliers or supplier qualification and onboarding.

Our customers get everything from a single source. We are their sole interface and contract partner. This reduces the workload as much as possible for the responsible purchasing partners and they can concentrate on other tasks.

How is FACTUREE different from others in the market?

Our history alone makes us stand out from our competitors. We began back in 2017 as an early mover in the German-speaking region, working from the living room, and now have 8-figure sales – without any investors. That means that we are fully self-financed and can focus on fast but solid growth, which ensures our stable position in the market.
We are also distinguished by our services. Due to the fact that we were forced from the start to use our limited resources efficiently, we have systematically concentrated on our customers’ needs. This is now part of our DNA. In addition to the already mentioned broadest range of manufacturing in the market, we currently offer the best prices of all Online Manufacturers. We can do this among other reasons because we buy large quantities from manufacturers and select the most suitable supplier for the particular project with respect to value for money based on smart algorithms. Moreover, we do not pass on price increases to our customers.

A further advantage in this respect is that we do not engage in instant pricing, for example. To get a price from competing instant pricing tools, all relevant information must be entered into a form manually by the person making the request. This process is very time-consuming. The rapid receipt of a quote comes at the “expense” of greater effort on the part of the customer. In addition, costs are nominally higher due to safety buffers. FACTUREE, on the other hand, looks at and optimizes the time the user actually needs for the request.

We offer a 14-day period of validity for our quotes, which we can maintain even in a tense market situation. After the request is received, the quote is often made the same day – but guaranteed within 48 hours. All of these advantages are appreciated by our customers in many different sectors, for example industry (Siemens, Parker Hannifin, Festo, Freudenberg) and cutting-edge international research (CERN).

You mentioned a broad manufacturing range. How important is additive manufacturing for FACTUREE?

There are obvious advantages to additive manufacturing. Parts can be produced on-site just when they are needed, allowing supply bottlenecks to be avoided. Just-in-time production also leads to savings, for example with respect to storage costs. Parts can be produced using 3D printing where and when they are needed and spare parts, for example, do not need to be kept in stock.

While additive manufacturing methods currently still play a minor role for our industrial customers, FACTUREE is increasing access to additive manufacturing and its advantages to businesses. We are now actively developing the field of 3D metal printing.

When a potential customer inquires about components that were actually designed as CNC-machined parts, but can be printed more cost effectively using a 3D process, we point out this option and thus often bring them into contact with additive manufacturing for the first time. In this way, we promote acceptance. However, additive manufacturing is not a one-size-fits-all solution for us. The right process must always be selected on a case-by-case basis.

Can your services increase supply chain resilience for companies and what role does 3D printing play in this?

Yes, definitely. As we can select from a large number of manufacturing partners to fill our customers’ orders, we remain independent of individual suppliers or disrupted supply chains. This is especially evident in times of crisis such as were caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war. We can adapt quickly to current circumstances, for example by reallocating manufacturing capacities, and thus remain always capable of delivery. Conversely, this means that we protect the supply chains of our customers, making them more resilient.

3D printing plays into the hands of this development as it facilitates manufacturing parts and components – even custom-made solutions and special designs – on demand and in smaller quantities. This reduces dependence on standardized components and allows a high level of agility and flexibility.

Everyone is talking about the digital value creation chain these days. What exactly does it mean and what role does additive manufacturing play in it?

The digital value creation chain consists entirely of digital processes. The respective technologies are used to produce, sell and deliver goods and services. Our concept of Online Manufacturing is also based on this principle and ensures smart, networked processes in procurement. One of the major goals aside from reducing dependence on isolated solutions is to optimize processes along the supply chain – to make workflows faster and more flexible.

And this is where additive manufacturing comes into the equation as it enables parts and products to be produced efficiently. This also applies to custom parts, small series and single pieces that are increasingly in demand.

Additive manufacturing also opens up opportunities for developing new business models. One result of this are services that support a digital value creation chain. Aligning spare parts management to 3D printing, for example, yields advantages such as the reduction of storage costs and faster procurement of spare parts.

More and more companies are focusing on agile manufacturing. How can your services support such endeavors?

Agile manufacturing utilizes flexible production practices to be able to react rapidly to changing market conditions or customer demand. FACTUREE relies precisely on this principle and is therefore the ideal supplier for agile manufacturing companies. We can produce on demand and guarantee extremely short delivery times. Thanks to our large manufacturing network, we always have free capacities. Around 15,000 machines are constantly available for projects. This means that our customers are agile and able to act even at very short notice.

Can FACTUREE help companies to be more sustainable?

Absolutely. With our concept of Online Manufacturing, components and spare parts can be manufactured on demand, preventing overproduction and waste of resources.

And using processes such as 3D printing can also conserve resources and reduce the need for transport. Since components and parts can be produced faster and more efficiently following our approach, energy consumption is lower and rejects and waste are reduced.

Furthermore, we assume responsibility for the environment as our express delivery of goods throughout Europe is completely climate neutral. All CO2 emissions arising from shipping are fully offset. We implement this in cooperation with South Pole, one of the world’s leading service providers for climate protection projects. Projects with proven effectiveness (Gold Standard certified) are supported. One example is the Prony climate protection project that builds wind farms in New Caledonia.

Can company networks such as FACTUREE help return some production back to Europe?

We have activities in many countries with corresponding manufacturing capacities, including large-scale operations in Germany and Europe. This ensures short distances. The advantages of Online Manufacturing benefit not only our customers – we also strengthen local production. Many of our manufacturing partners come from Europe and work with us because they no longer want or are able to be constrained by the limitations of conventional contract manufacturing. Joining our production network gives them a strong multiplier effect and they receive customized requests with no scattering losses. Online Manufacturing platforms are thus an important model for the future for all involved.

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