Makelab is an innovative and rapidly growing 3D printing service bureau located in Brooklyn, New York. Founded in 2015, the company now serves a number of different industries, including engineering, design, jewellery, architecture and entertainment. Operating a dozen 3D printers in-house, Makelab’s growing team of industrial designers and technical experts provides a range of manufacturing solutions for its customers, including rapid prototyping, 3D modelling, finishing and full-colour printing.
Seeking the digital thread
For any service bureau, ensuring a smooth customer experience is a key priority. Makelab goes above and beyond this by placing a heavy emphasis on customer service throughout the entire process, from the first interaction to the last. Part of ensuring a great customer experience means ensuring that the quotation process is as quick and as seamless as possible. As a result, Makelab was looking for a way to simplify its quotation process – which, at the time, was done through a manual form submission on the company’s website.
Additionally, Makelab faced the challenge of trying to connect the incoming requests received from customers to its internal project management and production operations.
As Co-Founder and CEO of Makelab, Christina Perla is responsible for overseeing all areas of the company’s operations, from production to company strategy, marketing and PR. In an era of rising demand for 3D printing services and increasing competition within the sector, Christina and her team recognised early on the need to digitise in order to provide a seamless customer experience and achieve maximum efficiency in its internal operations.
“Before, customers had to send manual requests through the old manual form on our website, but we wanted a digital solution that would allow us to be able to control and manage all the incoming projects coming in one place,” says Christina.
“Ideally, every 3D printing service bureau would love to have a fully digitally connected office that connects with the customer-facing side as well.”
Managing Makelab’s growing volume of projects is no easy task. With clients that span so many different industries, balancing the different workflows and fluctuating demand throughout the year can be challenging. The lack of a dedicated software platform to track key statistics made this even more difficult.
“A lot of the projects we receive are project-based. Our customers could be repeat customers but that doesn’t mean they’ll print with you every month – it heavily relies on what they’re working on. While we can’t control those industries, we do make ourselves always available and aim to educate our customers on other ways of utilising 3D printing.”
Makelab was therefore on the search for a solution that could help to digitise and automate each of its key functions, from quotations to project and production management.
Finding the right digital solution
After researching existing solutions on the market, Makelab finally opted for AMFG. AMFG provides workflow automation software for additive manufacturing, helping to automate manual tasks and streamline internal production operations.
“We’d looked into quite a few solutions,” Christina comments.
“We were even using a different platform for a while but found that it just wasn’t comprehensive enough. Most of the functionality was for the customer-facing front end, but this didn’t flow into production management or even customer management. We needed something much more professional and powerful, and AMFG provided a good foundation for us to build upon.”
During the trial period, the Makelab team tested AMFG’s software extensively, including both the frontend and backend, to be able to fully gauge user experience on both sides. They spent time working with the different settings, such as AMFG’s customisable templates and job sheets, noting how the software could be integrated into their existing workflows.
In the months following its implementation of AMFG, Makelab has already seen improvements for its business, for example, in its quotation process. “It’s a lot easier for us to handle manual requests via the platform now,” Christina explains. “If a customer sends a request to our email, we’ll quickly move them onto AMFG and quote them through the platform. So AMFG serves as a unified internal experience for us, which is extremely helpful and much simpler for our customers too.”
With the dedicated customer portal located on Makelab’s website, customers are able to upload files and receive a quote in just 4 easy steps. Additionally, customers can set up accounts and view the status of their projects as well as their order history – a real boon for repeat customers. And since marketing is a vital aspect for any service bureau, the customisable web portal also serves to reinforce Makelab’s clear branding, offering a “professional feel that elevates our brand.”
Another key benefit has been the ability to use the platform to collect data and optimise the customer experience. Christina explains:
“We use data heavily to predict, analyse and strategise. With AMFG, we’re now able to collect more data on the backend, like analysing customer acquisition costs and customer retention. As a growing business, it’s so useful to be able to quantify how many people are receiving quotes versus how many are actually going through to order – this is perhaps one of the most useful data tools we have.”
Makelab has plans to implement AMFG’s production management module in the near future, including projecting the software’s production scheduling chart on a big screen, so that staff can immediately see which projects have been scheduled.
As for Makelab itself, the future is bright: the company has recently launched its e-commerce line, Makelab Market, and plans to ramp up its corporate services, which includes 3D modelling and finishing on a larger scale project basis. AMFG provides the foundation to scale these strategic moves effectively.
“With AMFG, we’ve found an end-to-end solution which not only takes care of the auto-quoting in a more user-friendly and intuitive way, but also takes care of managing production, which is a huge advantage for us,” says Christina.
“As we scale our business, we’re always looking for innovative ways to solve key issues like keeping track of all our machines, effectively packing builds and ultimately, optimising our workflow for maximum efficiency. AMFG answered all of these questions and more, so we can provide a faster, more efficient service for our customers.”
Images courtesy of Makelab.