As many of us know, MakerBot, a Stratasys subsidiary, recently made headlines by laying off 20% of their employees, causing many to wonder exactly which direction the company is headed. Over the past several years, MakerBot has emerged as the leader within the desktop 3D printing space, however the company has seen many changes take place over the past year to year and a half, starting with the exit of two CEO’s, Bre Pettis and Jenny Lawton. New CEO Jonathan Jaglom was announced as the one to be taking over the reigns at MakerBot back in February, and since his arrival there have been indications that lead us to believe things within the company are being handled a littler bit differently. As Jaglom looks to get things back on track by cutting costs, the year ahead should be an interesting one for the company.
3DPrint.com recently had the opportunity to interview Jaglom about the recent layoffs and the direction in which the company appears to be headed. The interview in its entirety can be found below.
Ultimately what was the cause of the massive layoffs at MakerBot?
Jonathan Jaglom: The recent layoffs were painful, but they were necessary. MakerBot has experienced incredible growth — more than 600% from 2012 to 2014 — and tried many ways of making 3D printing more accessible. Most of these initiatives were successful. Some were ahead of their time and less successful than we had hoped.
We had to reevaluate our strategy and make changes. The recent restructuring will help us to further improve and iterate on our products, grow our 3D ecosystem, shift our retail focus to our national partners, and expand our efforts in the professional and education markets.
Was it a difficult decision to make? I noticed a lot of long time employees who contributed quite a bit in getting MakerBot to where they are today, lost their jobs.
Jonathan Jaglom: Of course it was. Layoffs are incredibly difficult. They are the last resort after exhausting all other options. I’m grateful for the contributions of each and every MakerBot employee. We wouldn’t be where we are today without them. We had to make this difficult decision to stay focused on what matters most to our customers and return to growth.
Can we expect to see more layoffs in the near future?
Jonathan Jaglom: No. We spent a lot of time evaluating our business before the restructuring and we can and will move the company forward with the current team.
As CEO of MakerBot, what is your goals as far as putting your team together and keeping them all on the same page?
Jonathan Jaglom: MakerBot has always been a very daring company and has never been afraid to try new things and surprise the industry with them. I’ve been very impressed by the talent and team spirit at MakerBot since I got here. Maintaining this mindset and culture, which has earned MakerBot its position at the forefront of the desktop 3D printing market, is a priority.
MakerBot will continue to operate as an independent subsidiary. We will take advantage of Stratasys’s international distribution network as well as its years of experience in R&D and QA, while preserving what makes MakerBot special.
With HP entering the market, do you envision jetting technology ever being available on a desktop level 3D printer, at a desktop level price? And who will be first to do it? Stratasys/MakerBot or HP?
Jonathan Jaglom: MakerBot will continue to lead the desktop 3D printing market and we’re working on interesting new ideas. Stay tuned.
Any talks within MakerBot about joining the 3MF Consortium? Any idea if you guys will join it? What are your thoughts on the Consortium and new revamped file format?
Jonathan Jaglom: Making 3D printing more accessible for everyone is a strategic priority. We’re excited to see a company like Microsoft embrace and promote the technology. We will keep an eye on this consortium to understand its alignment with the needs of our customers.
What do you see as the most important areas that MakerBot needs to concentrate on? Hardware, Software, or Materials?
Jonathan Jaglom: MakerBot has the most comprehensive 3D ecosystem out there and we will continue to work to make 3D printing more accessible. Providing hardware, software and materials that work well together is key, so we will continue to innovate on all three fronts. And we want to make it easy for customers to take advantage of future innovations in the MakerBot 3D Ecosystem.
For example, the MakerBot Smart Extruder. When we introduce new materials like MakerBot Composite PLA, our customers won’t have to buy a new 3D printer. They will simply be able to purchase a Smart Extruder uniquely made to handle the new filament, and start printing with new materials. I believe that we need to continue to think along those lines and offer a truly integrated experience between software, hardware and materials.
For consumers, content and software will be especially important. MakerBot already laid the groundwork with offerings such as Thingiverse, which has over 700,000 downloadable 3D designs, and the MakerBot PrintShop app, which makes it easy to create 3D designs on an iPad.
Customer support is another area that I take very seriously. 3D printing is not yet at a point where it is plug and play and we want to make sure we provide our customers the support they need. We currently offer a comprehensive online knowledge platform, phone support, email/case support and chat. For our MakerCare customers we offer extended evening and weekend hours and over the last year, we’ve grown our customer support team 44 percent. Our wait times on the phone are now 34 seconds and email cases are responded to in less than one day versus 11 minutes or 7-10 days respectively six months ago. We manage these key performance indicators rigorously and are committed to improving upon and exceeding our customer’s expectations.
MakerBot faced some challenges with the Smart Extruder when it first launched. What has been done to address this?
Jonathan Jaglom: The modular, swappable MakerBot Smart Extruder is groundbreaking in its approach. It minimizes downtime and prepares you to quickly adapt to future innovations in the fast-evolving world of 3D printing.
MakerBot was first to try this concept and we faced challenges when we first introduced it. As customer satisfaction is a top priority for MakerBot, we tripled the core Smart Extruder team in size and over the last couple of months the team has dramatically improved print quality and reliability through iterative software and firmware updates. As a result, we’ve seen a 40 percent decline in customer support cases related to the Smart Extruder since February 2015.
What is MakerBot doing to develop the consumer market?
Jonathan Jaglom: We will continue to work hard to make 3D printing accessible to more consumers, but desktop 3D printing is still in the early stages of the adoption cycle. I believe that it will take another 5-7 years until this technology will be adopted more broadly. The MakerBot 3D Ecosystem already makes it easy for anyone to get started with 3D printing and we will continue to expand our software and content offerings.
I believe that education will serve as a catalyst for consumer adoption, just as it did with the PC in the 1980s: Schools introduce new technology to students, who take it into their jobs and homes. It took about 30 years from when the first mainframe computers came out until they became prevalent in schools. We’re at that point with 3D printing today. Leading and innovative schools around the world are adopting and integrating desktop 3D Printing into their lessons and curriculum, and it’s having an immediate impact.
For example, Florida Polytech University uses a MakerBot Innovation Center to fulfill its mission of hands-on STEM learning and applied research. Students are developing skills that will advance their studies, help them find internships and jobs, and start new businesses. But it’s not just happening in Universities. The Whitby School in Greenwich, CT, uses MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printers in the school’s Design Technology classroom to spark an interest in 3D printing and design and to teach problem solving. MakerBot 3D Printers are already in more than 5,000 schools. We’re just getting started!
What do you think about this latest interview? Are you looking forward to MakerBot’s future? Discuss in the MakerBot forum folder on 3DPB.com.