Manchester-based Fractory, a cloud manufacturing company connecting UK engineers to production capacity online, has expanded to the US market and opened an office in Chicago, Illinois. The company has automated the manufacturing procurement process from quoting to manufacturing and delivery, taking full responsibility for every step.
Expanding to the US manufacturing market has been the company’s goal since the very beginning as the problems in the manufacturing procurement process that Fractory’s product helps to solve are universal, and globally present.
“We’ve proven the value our service creates based on our experience in the UK and mainland Europe – that experience and the £6.5m we raised last year puts us in a really strong position to make an impact in the US market,” said Martin Vares, Fractory’s Co-founder and CEO who’s been previously listed in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
Left to right: US Country Manager, Nikodem Pancewicz and Fractory Co-founder & CEO Martin Vares
The new milestone is benefiting UK manufacturing
The US has a long history of outsourcing manufacturing from China – as it’s a cheaper option. There is an increasing need for an alternative, especially among the engineering companies looking for more sustainable and ethical manufacturing. The UK, with its strong manufacturing industry, could be one of the candidates.
“We have over 60 UK-based manufacturing partners whose quality of work is second to none. So we can answer the US market’s needs by enabling easy access to the UK’s resources,” added Vares.
Entering a market with tight competition
Fractory is now expanding to a market that already has several cloud manufacturing giants, such as Xometry or Protolabs.
“To be completely honest, we really like that. It illustrates that there is a gap in the field of manufacturing that we all – in different ways – can fill. The industry very clearly is heading towards the direction of adapting more efficient ways of working. Today, we are still in the stage of challenging the status quo and proving our effectiveness to the traditional manufacturing industry. Many engineers have never heard of the possibilities platforms create, so our first mission is educating the sector, rather than competing with each other,” said Martin Vares.
How are the European and US manufacturing markets different?
“Americans tend to be more receptive to digital services,” Vares compares the differences between the two markets. Although the US is a huge market for every company entering it, the fragmentation is less prominent than it is between European countries. Cooperation between the states is therefore easier.
Depending on the sector, the share of CNC machining is also higher: “There is a lot of production towards “consumers” in the US – electronics and more sophisticated technology. Large players in the aerospace and automotive industries also use a lot of CNC machining. “Although this is also the case in the UK, the habit of the engineering community plays a role here. Some engineers are using CNC machining, when sheet metal can get the job done. We can offer both – sheet metal fabrication and CNC machining. We will always find a solution to what the market wants, ” added Vares who is a mechanical engineer turned entrepreneur.
The company’s US operations will be run by Nikodem Pancewicz, a Harvard graduate who specialises in sustainable manufacturing and supply chains. Nikodem’s extensive experience, among other industry giants, is from ABB and Eaton. In both corporations, he has managed large-scale multi-million projects.
Nikodem said what spoke to him the most, is that Fractory is a company that’s built by engineers for engineers. “Every function within the company, from sales through marketing, to management is in large part run by people who spent time doing actual engineering work throughout their careers – that gives an intimate knowledge of the industry, allows us to have unique insights, and because of that we can build a solution that users value, enjoy working with, and come back to use it on a regular basis,” he said.
What is the void Fractory can fill in the manufacturing landscape?
The biggest gap Fractory is addressing is connecting the different players in the fragmented manufacturing ecosystem. Currently, the manufacturing industry is struggling with many challenges – including labour shortages, supply chain disruptions and the supply/demand imbalance.
“However, the US industrial sector capacity utilisation is only about 78%, meaning there is still over 20% capacity that’s not covered. The problem is understanding which facilities have that capacity and how to access it. This is the problem that Fractory is solving, along with providing additional features such as mechanical engineering expertise, order automation and management, as well as sustainability,” Nikodem added.
Fractory is an automated on-demand manufacturing platform connecting engineering and manufacturing companies. The company aims to make more efficient use of the available machinery, filling the production gaps by distributing jobs according to manufacturer availability, lead time, expertise and capabilities. The investment raised last year is used for business expansion, product development and hiring. Fractory is currently covering the UK, Nordic countries and now the US.