Cloud manufacturing is disrupting the traditional supply chain, exposing underlying inefficiencies that will get erased systematically.
Whilst the so-called discrete manufacturing industry will be affected most by the concept of cloud manufacturing, this disruption is also applicable to process manufacturing.
So what’s the tangible value of cloud manufacturing?
Robert Henzel Msc, a doctoral student at the University of Stuttgart, is currently authoring his dissertation on the subject of cloud manufacturing.
He analyzed three companies in the cloud manufacturing space in order to explore the cloud manufacturing landscape in more detail.
“The following three companies are well suited for an interesting comparison, as they do differ quite obviously in their characteristics.
Here I’ve evaluated the business model, the order process flow and the standardization needs of Techpilot, 24/7 Tailor Steel and Fractory.
Techpilot was founded in 1999 and is a B2B marketplace for mechanical components. Nowadays, they have approximately 15,000 buyers and 23,000 suppliers in Europe.
The platform aims to facilitate the interaction between suppliers and buyers of mechanical parts. Techpilot itself does not own any machines.
The business model consists of enabling the matchmaking process between a buyer and a supplier. They do this by providing a shortlist of possible providers to the customer, after receiving and evaluating his technical request. The respective shortlist is presented to the customer, who can then choose one or more (or none) of the shown providers. After this allocation step, Techpilot’s roleis complete.
This business model is scalable, as Techpilot can simply integrate more buyers and more providers in order to grow more.
Regarding the order process flow, it is as follows; shortlisting or custom search.The former involves looking for a suitable manufacturer according to the selected manufacturing capabilities originated from the customer, at which point Techpilotwill establish a direct link via provisioning of a short list
The other way (customized product search, no availability within regular catalogue supplier search) is by building an RFQ and uploading a design drawing, the platform will then research for possible manufacturers.
Regarding standardization needs: There are no restrictions on the standard of the design drawing uploaded to the platform.
Techpilot does not own any machines, hence, standardization of requests is not needed directly, as Techpilot simply establishes a direct link between manufacturer and customer (in case one and case two) e.g. file standardization is not their business.
24/7 Tailor Steel
The next interesting firm is 24/7 tailor steel. It is a virtual marketplace for incoming orders with availability 24/7, 365 days a year. Unlike Techpilot, they do own their own machines.
It is a Dutch company operating in the Netherlands and in Germany. Since 2015 it has had an online platform (virtual marketplace).
The business model is based around aiming for a high automation rate with relation to their laser cutting, tube laser cutting and bending machines – so they enable automatic collection of orders which are matched with manufacturing capabilities and scheduled internally accordingly. Orders are collected 24/7, 365 days. They are granting the economically viable fulfillment of small batch orders (reasonable price, huge impact factor for SME´s).
Scalability is impaired here due to resource capacity of solely one firm (24/7 tailor steel). For the order process flow, it is as follows. For 2D metal sheets – upload the DXF 2D file, add necessary information and receive RT quotation, within minutes.
For customized tube fabrications, customers can submit them via a tridimensional CAD / CAM application owned by 24/7 tailor steel. Acceptance of designs, if and only if they have the related manufacturing capabilities, all other orders will get rejected
Regarding the standardization needs:
Limitation to orders which are in their possible field of actions (2d metal sheets DXF 2D file) or to orders, which are producible as a customized product via their own CAD / CAM application. They do not possess or inhibit each standard, rather they restrict themselves. It is a two-sided coin (good: you can 100% receive what you want as a customer after clicking submit order button, no uncertainty; bad: possible loss of customer’s perception as you do not provide everything in their mind with relation to accepted standards within the industry)
Last but not least: Fractory. Fractory was founded in 2017 in Tartu Estonia. Like Techpilot, they do not own physical production facilities. But: they are not just connecting suppliers and customers, but rather they facilitate and take care of the just-established order relationship
Fractory has two offices; one in Estonia and one in the UK. Their main markets are the Baltics, Scandinavia, the UK and the US. They ship to more than 15 countries.
Regarding their business model, they provide full service from quoting to manufacturing and delivery. According to the respective requirements of the customers regarding an implemented manufacturing order, a most suitable provider is determined automatically, instead of a short list like in Techpilot.
With their stance as an active care taker of the manufacturing process, they take responsibility for the order, for the final quality and finally for the delivery of the product. Scalability is highly possible, as one can simply integrate more providers and customers, as is the case with Techpilot.
Regarding the standardization needs, Fractory’s philosophy is to limit order acceptance to STEP and .DXF files. Other files are accepted, too, but they will get evaluated manually within 12-24 hours. The following will describe the order process flow.
If the uploaded file is a .DXF or .STEP file, the user will get a quotation for manufacturing instantly (within seconds, industry leader here!), for all other file types, it will be evaluated manually and a quotation will be sent within guaranteed 12-24 hours.
After the quotation display, the user can accept the order (or not). After acceptance, Fractory will receive this confirmation and will then send it directly to the respective provider. This provider will also receive necessary information about packaging and delivery. The job from Fractory is done after the successfully delivery of the manufactured product.