On-Demand Manufacturing And eCommerce
3D printing is part of a growing on-demand manufacturing ecosystem that is in turn set to become part of the even larger eCommerce industry.
When we think of Industry 4.0, we think of an interrelated suite of advanced technologies converging in an industrial setting.
When we think of eCommerce, we think of deciding on our couches that we need something, clicking a few times around our smartphones, and awaiting a delivery.
A new partnership is challenging those initial assumptions by tying the two together as on-demand manufacturing marketplace Xometry recently announced a partnership with Alibaba.com.
Xometry is looking to take its place in helping “SMBs access a $23.9 trillion dollar eCommerce industry” as a Co-Marketing Sponsor for Alibaba.com’s US B2B ecosystem.
The announcement was made as Xometry joined several other companies in the announcement of the US-focused B2B offering with “anchor sellers” and B2B service providers.
Alibaba’s announcement builds on a strategic collaboration they announced with Office Depot back in March. Office Depot is now one of the first anchor sellors, along with the Robinson Fresh division of C.H. Robinson. Service providers signed up in the announcement include 71lbs, BigCommerce, Indeed, ShipStation, Skuvault, TeamViewer, Wellbots, and Xometry — rather a wide range of services.
The overall ecosystem is set to deliver “member-exclusive offers, discounts and premium content” through these businesses, Alibaba’s announcement explains. Xometry confirms that it will “provide Alibaba.com’s business buyers with exclusive deals on Xometry’s on-demand manufacturing services.”
The effort seems to be focused on SMBs — small and medium businesses — that drive important facets of the economy, as execs from each entity affirm:
“We welcome Xometry’s commitment to U.S. small businesses and their collaboration to give them the tools to succeed in today’s global marketplace,” said John Caplan, Head of North America B2B at Alibaba Group. “Together we’ll provide valuable options for SMBs to do business anywhere.”
“We’re thrilled to announce our partnership with Alibaba.com,” said Bill Cronin, Xometry’s Chief Revenue Officer. “Empowering small and medium-sized business success is one of the reasons Xometry was founded, which is why we are so excited to be part of this initiative. We look forward to driving new business both from the U.S. and global markets to our Partner Network of over 3,000 manufacturers.”
The Reach of On-Demand Manufacturing
So will ordering manufacturing parts be as easy as most eCommerce?
Accounting for general differences anyway between consumer shopping and B2B ordering, it seems that that is a pretty fair big-picture vision of the goal here.
One of Xometry’s claims to fame, and one that has kept investors interested, lies in its Instant Quoting Engine.
That tool is designed for ease of use, through which engineers and product designers can simply upload their CAD file and get an instant quote ahead of easy ordering for the specific parts they need. Xometry operates an extensive Partner Network of manufacturers — “many of them small and medium-sized businesses,” they note — that broadens the reach for more local demand, and to ensure access to the specified manufacturing technology. The Partner Network allows for 3D printing, CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, and injection molding, all on demand.
With more automated ordering options like this from Xometry, and ties to a major global brand like Alibaba, the intersection of on-demand manufacturing and eCommerce is very 2019. It’s something we haven’t really seen the likes of before, in terms of scope and scale, but somehow makes total sense with the way we’ve been seeing both of these platforms grow.