Fictiv’s Radical Transparency Features Set New Standards in 3D Printing Supply Chain

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In an industry-first, Fictiv has launched radical transparency and on-demand visualization features for its Digital Manufacturing Ecosystem (DME). The goal is to provide its customers with never-seen-before levels of visibility, traceability, speed, quality and efficiency in their design-to-production value chains. The introduction of these features is all the more timely since the pandemic has severely impacted business travel, hampered on-site work or operations, accelerated shifts toward digital supply chain transformation, and compressed New Product Introduction (NPI) timelines. Further, these features go a long way in reducing the opacity in overseas or distributed manufacturing, while also providing insights for risk-mitigation and cost savings.

“Historically, companies were working in the dark, relying on phone calls late at night, file transfers, emails and time-consuming site inspections, when it came to overseas manufacturing – a risky, expensive process that often resulted in delays and quality issues,” said Fictiv CEO Dave Evans. “Fictiv’s groundbreaking new radical transparency initiative is better because our quality engineers and customers can inspect a part all along the way.

“These features introduce a disruptive set of visibility controls and prompts that peel back the covers and make it possible for engineers and supply chain managers to clearly see, communicate, and track progress with manufacturing work and come away with complete confidence in quality outcomes, delivery times, and costs. Fictiv eliminates the need to spend time, money, and resources on sending teams of people overseas to inspect partners and facilities – a challenge even more pressing during this global pandemic,” continued Evans. “Our new transparency features transform the process of physical parts inspection into a seamless, digital one that saves time and costs while improving quality and time to market.”

                                                                                                                                                                        Image Courtesy of Fictiv

Key features include On-demand Production Status, Virtual Inspection Photos, Centralized Document Access, Order Configuration Details, Historical DFM, Reorders (and lock-in previous pricing), and Shipment Tracking.

Image Courtesy of Fictiv

These features roll into the Fictiv digital thread, which collects a variety of data on each part and enables automation throughout the supply chain. In fact, every part produced in the company’s digital manufacturing ecosystem has data captured, with a minimum of five dimensional inspections, and validated by service teams and customers.

Image Courtesy of Fictiv

The need and importance of such features is all the more relevant in a time when reducing cost and increasing supply chain visibility are among the top priorities for digital transformation initiatives today. It’s no surprise that these new features have received early validation from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, Lyft/Level 5, and small businesses such as Rise Robotics.

The impact for enterprise companies trying to orchestrate production of hundreds of parts at once is enormous.

“These new features on Fictiv’s platform are incredibly useful,” said Antonio Ruiz, Supervisor, Strategic Sourcing at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. “Having 24/7 visibility and access to the real-time schedule of things is a game-changer.”

Ibrahim Toukan, Head of Supply Chain at Level 5, Lyft’s autonomous vehicle unit, agrees stating, “Fictiv’s new streamlined end-to-end process is exciting, capturing the entire value chain from design upload through DFM with real-time pricing. Impressive stuff.”

“Everything is completely manual today,” said Blake Sessions, Director of R&D at Rise Robotics. “Having all this data updating live in one centralized place — part by part, order by order — is incredible.”

San Francisco-based Fictiv, founded in 2013 by Dave Evans (Forbes 30 under 30), has been developing its prototyping-through-production platform and a network of 250+ distributed manufacturers to streamline production and contract manufacturing for customers. Its on-demand manufacturing platform has helped companies produce 10 million + parts to date and is said to enable complex, high-precision part manufacturing at 100x the speed and 1/10th the cost of traditional methods.

Image Courtesy of Fictiv

Its platform offers a wide range of manufacturing methods from 3D printing to CNC machining and injection molding, for prototyping to production services. To do so, it uses AI and machine-learning to ensure efficient distributed manufacturing, strategic sourcing, real-time insight into quality, cost, and Design For Manufacturability (DFM) conformability for 3D models, and streamlines vendor pre-qualificaiton, quality assurance, and compliance.

Image Courtesy of Fictiv

In 2018, when the company raised $15 million in funds for expansion in the US and China, Forbes called Fictiv an ‘AirBnB for manufacturers’, for its role in connecting customers with a global network of manufacturing suppliers, matching design to manufacturing needs with latent service or production capacity worldwide. It’s customers have come to include Facebooks EdMod Labs (for development of a DIY VR viewer), Lim Innovations (prosthetics), IDEO, Ford, NASA, Quip (toothbrush), Joy (wearables), and several robotics companies among others. Recently, their partnership with Jabil, one of its key global manufacturing partners, is the latest example of how Fictiv is streamlining prototyping to full-scale production, and accelerating adoption of a single digital thread in supply chains to transform quality, flexibility, transparency and speed. Jabil’s manufacturing capabilities are accessible via this thread for mass production, while Fictiv manages prototyping and low-volume production. In addition, Fictiv’s platform also provides accurate data, packaging, and on-time fulfillment services for Jabil’s end-customers.

As one example, the company can produce steel tools to mold 100,000+ units in just two weeks. In another, Fictiv used its manufacturing network to produce 10,000 shields daily, with lead times of under 24 hours, during the pandemic. In terms of service innovation, the company employs a network of Supplier Quality Engineers (SQEs) to audit and inspect customer parts at every supply location, as well as its own Technical Application Engineers and Technical Program Managers to provide expert guidance and management to ensure the customer’s design requirements and delivery schedules are met.

This is the gap in supply chain and manufacturing that Fictiv’s cloud-based ‘quote-to-order’ precision services platform is looking to fill, as it drives the industry towards a more circular, agile economy. Some even believe it could become the industry gold-standard, such as Gregg Miner, an experienced product development and prototyping specialist who’s worked for Apple, Oculus, Facebook and Bell Helmets.

“Quality control for overseas manufacturing is an expansive, herculean effort, requiring multiple week-long trips every year pre-pandemic for an entire team, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars in hard expenditures and lost opportunity costs,” explained Miner. “Now, there isn’t even an option for travel, forcing companies to accept whatever product shows up at their door. Fictiv is breaking new ground with its initiative – no one has ever attempted this level of robust transparency at this scale before. I am excited to see this become the gold standard industry-wide as it will completely transform the way we conduct business.”

The company also releases an annual State of Manufacturing report covering the digital manufacturing and supply chain ecosystem, and their latest 2020 report, identifies opportunities and momentum towards digital supply chain transformation for companies impacted by the pandemic, to build more resilient, agile, transparent, cost efficient supply chains. In their 2020 survey, 86% of companies were found to believe that their digital transformation initiatives were not well funded with 81% finding difficulties in acquiring the necessary expertise. The report also noted that companies are reducing their focus from China, while not cutting off completely, and are trending towards reshoring production in future supply chains. In this context, Fictiv’s radical transparency features and digital supply chain solutions essentially provide companies with options, and end-to-end insight into their part production, not only to address today’s challenges, but to set the benchmark for the future in digital supply chain.

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