By Eric Peterson | Sep 23, 2020
As the first hire at Ford's Silicon Valley Lab, Dave grew frustrated by the labor-intensive process of sourcing quality prototypes and long wait times for parts. His brother, Nate, was working as a startup adviser for an investment banking firm.
The brothers saw an opportunity in maximizing machines that went largely unused, similar to how ad-tech companies ensure ad space is sold. The duo founded Fictiv to manage machine capacity and availability and speed up the manufacturing process.
"Fictiv transforms a slow, opaque, expensive, and disconnected traditional manufacturing process into a seamless, fast, transparent, and efficient one that de-risks the manufacturing process by providing designers with intelligent feedback for optimal decision-making throughout the design process," says Dave. "In manufacturing, significant time and resources are dedicated to project management and communication -- both internal within teams and external with manufacturing vendors. Fictiv understands this and recognizes that one of the highest areas of friction when bringing a new product to market occurs in the design for manufacturing and communication processes -- before manufacturing even begins."
Fictiv's Digital Manufacturing Ecosystem (DME) is a cloud-based platform that integrates design, quoting, billing, and logistics systems with "a network of highly vetted and monitored manufacturing partners that together deliver high-quality mechanical parts at unprecedented speeds," says Dave.
"What makes Fictiv unique is that it doesn't own any machines -- it gives customers access to a world of manufacturing through a vetted network of worldwide manufacturers," he adds. "Unlike traditional contract manufacturers who are focused on managing their machine capacity, Fictiv is focused on developing software and technology that give companies access to quality manufacturing and help companies bring more products to market, faster."
The platform is supported by a team of industry veterans. "The ecosystem is supported by 'boots-on-the-ground' experts to manage programs, inspect quality, and provide DfM guidance along the way, in addition to industry-first transparency features for teams that can no longer travel to factory floors," he adds. A new radical transparency initiative for the DME includes on-demand production status, virtual inspection photos, and centralized access to manufacturing data.
Since 2014, Fictiv has manufactured more than 10 million parts for customers ranging from early-stage companies to large enterprises. The company now offers CNC machining, post processing, 3D printing, urethane casting, injection molding, and die casting.
Fictiv offers contract manufacturers a vehicle to market excess capacity. "As a Fictiv Manufacturing Partner, you connect into a small, elite group of the world's best manufacturers and get access to a consistent and forecastable floor of revenue for business growth," explains Dave. "There are no up-front fees or bidding involved to receive jobs. Fictiv's digital platform, which provides a portal for instant quotes, DfM, and customer service, enables manufacturers to increase operational efficiencies so they can maximize capital assets and profits."
The company has seen 150 percent year-over-year revenue growth after opening offices in Portland, Oregon, and Guangzhou, China, in 2018-19. To date, the company has secured $60 million through Series C in venture investments.
Challenges: "The global manufacturing and supply chain ecosystems have been among the hardest hit by the downstream impacts of the pandemic," says Dave. "For the first time in modern manufacturing history, the critical variables of demand, supply, and workforce are all impacted globally at the same time. And yet, the world cannot just pause to let COVID-19 pass. The critical need for essential goods -- from medical supplies to food and hygiene products -- continues with a vengeance, and the manufacturing and supply chain industries are called upon to be the heroes in the chaos."
He describes "an unprecedented opportunity" but highlights a survey of manufacturing leaders from Fictiv's 2020 State of Manufacturing Report that found 87 percent of executive teams had prioritized digital transformation, but only 14 percent of respondents believed those initiatives were well-funded.
"Fictiv's challenge is reaching these decision-makers and communicating to them the benefits of a Digital Manufacturing Ecosystem and the plug-and-play nature it provides in fully transforming their digital initiatives," says Dave.
Opportunities: Fictiv has opportunities in the automotive, medical, aerospace, and consumer electronics industries, especially in the robotics areas for each segment. "With wide-ranging capabilities, Fictiv can help robotics teams consolidate their supply chain and reduce sourcing costs. In addition to fast lead times, instant quotes, and intelligent DfM, Fictiv excels in precision part manufacturing, with tolerances as low as 0.0002 inches," says Dave.
A full 97 percent of the professionals surveyed for Fictiv's 2020 State of Manufacturing Report said COVID-19 created business opportunities, "specifically in the areas of innovation and supply chain resilience," says Dave. "Smart business leaders see the opportunity to turn the challenge of an economic downturn on its ear by enabling progressive thinking about the true cost of doing business." He adds, "This is where Fictiv thrives."
Needs: "Our biggest needs are around people and research," says Dave. "We want to continually invest in innovation and growth, and of course that requires talent, so our focus isn't so much on things like capital equipment, because we are a digitally-enabled company, our focus is on talent. . . . In terms of research, we are working on setting up a customer advisory board, to ensure we have up-to-the-minute input and feedback on market trends and drivers by industry focus."