Industry: Lifestyle & Consumer
Products: Men’s Rings
As a jewelry distributor, Eric Laker was surrounded by men’s wedding bands. Looking at his products, he saw a lot of gold, some platinum, and not much else.
“I saw an opportunity in creating a titanium wedding band,” says Laker. “I did a little research, contracted with a local machine shop, and I had a company and a product line less in less than 90 days. We’ve been running ahead of the competition ever since.”
Nearly 17 years later, Lashbrook has found its niche in making custom wedding bands. “We’re in 2500 stores,” Laker explains, “and we get requests every day to make something we’ve never made before. In lean manufacturing, you want to be really good at efficiently producing a batch of one. We’ve had to accumulate a massive amount of equipment to do that.”
Lashbrook Designs produces 5,000 – 6,000 pieces a month with 4,000 – 4,500 SKUs represented. “I tell retailers at various shows that we have over 100 employees and 100,000 pounds of technology to make whatever the customer wants.”
The manufacturing process starts with most materials brought in as bar stock. “We forge it together, twist it, form it, machine it, cast it, polish it. We also bring in exotic raw materials to our Draper facility such as fossils, rare burls or even meteorite,” Laker says.
In forming the rings, Lashbrook relies mostly on relatively old CNC technology and processes but Laker knows lasers and 3D printing may change the way everyone in the industry does business.
“Even now, we can use lasers to take a thumb print and engrave it on the ring. If a client has a beach wedding, we’ll etch a 3D picture on the ring itself of the beach. We can put a sound wave from a couple’s wedding vows and etch it on the ring. And 3D printing has the potential to be phenomenal. Right now, the technology is too expensive, too impractical. It’s not there yet, but we will see it,” Laker says.
Challenges: Standardizing customization. Lashbrook used to pay finishers a piece rate. “We ended up with too much variation in the way things came out,” Laker says. “We have standardized the process, placing finishers in teams to improve consistency. Our niche is mass customization, and that is a huge challenge.”
Opportunity: New website. Lashbrook is currently updating its existing website. Once the new one is launched, a client or a retailer can request a custom ring and get a price. An instant rendering will be the next addition. “With all of the features and add-ons we offer, the website can potentially offer over 300 million variations. It’s crazy to think of all the rings that can be created in our system, but it will add 15 to 25 percent to our special orders sales.
We are also working to improve our efficiency so a ring can be ordered on our website, produced from scratch and shipped within 36 hours,” Laker says.
Need: Efficiency. “We need to be better at what we do and everything needs to be more cohesive,” Laker says. “When we create a ring, it goes through a lot of hands, a lot of equipment, and a lot of processes. That means we have to be excessively efficient.”