Lexington, Kentucky is known as the “Horse Capital of the World, ” where multimillion dollar thoroughbreds graze on well-manicured rolling hills.
Companies also know Lexington for its handy location. It’s within a 600-mile radius of 50 percent of the U.S. population and at the crossroads of two major interstates, giving companies direct access to both north-south and east-west routes.
This makes Lexington the ideal headquarters for MakeTime, an on-demand manufacturing platform that allows companies to produce machined components quicker and more efficiently.
“We have a proud Kentucky heritage, ” notes founder/CEO Drura Parrish, a third-generation manufacturer from western Kentucky. “We’re in the heartbeat of American manufacturing. If you draw a four-hour ring around Lexington, you’ll find nearly 30 percent of U.S. manufacturing.”
MakeTime has improved procurement and manufacturing by building new technology while leveraging old technology in new ways, using software designed to simplify computer numerically controlled (CNC) machining production.
“Anyone that needs machining done needs MakeTime, ” Parrish says. “Our customers range from some of the most progressive automotive OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) in the market to midmarket aftermarket manufacturers to guys just getting started and designing their very first swaps.”
The company collects unused CNC machine time from pre-qualified machine shops throughout the United States and matches each order with the right shop for the job. Manufacturers in need of CNC machined parts get them from qualified U.S. machine shops that have idle machine time.
Suppliers must pass a background check and meet credit history requirements. Suppliers must also meet quality standards, have the ability to execute and a commitment to digital manufacturing.
MakeTime’s Director of Fulfillment Doug Campbell says the company regularly visits suppliers to audit processes and reinforce expectations, procedures and policies while building long-term relationships.
“We audit production systems for controlling production through scheduling and job tracking, processes for guaranteeing quality products, material management systems and procedures for packing and shipping parts, ” he says.
MakeTime does not make any of its own parts. Instead, it gives access to MakeTime’s nationwide network of qualified suppliers to manufacturing companies that need parts.
“What this means for a company in need of parts is unprecedented visibility into the supply base around them, a supply base that has already been vetted, and on-demand access to those suppliers, ” Parrish explains. “That alone eliminates at least 50 percent of the procurement process. Our matching algorithm is able to analyze the part that needs to be made and match it to the best supplier for the job.”
Yet MakeTime’s services and value extend beyond supplier matching, says Parrish. The company also manages production from pricing through delivery. The request for quotation process has been eliminated and replaced with data-driven pricing, which saves time that would otherwise been spent negotiating prices.
“Our proprietary algorithm is able to analyze a part and take into account things like historical data, fluctuating material cost and current economic conditions. Since it is powered by machine learning, it gets smarter with each part that it prices. If something is not designed in a way that is cost-effective or easily manufactured, then our engineers will flag it and send feedback.”
Once the job is matched with a supplier and the price has been signed off on both sides, the company delivers materials to be machined. Inspections and other quality check-ins are arranged. Suppliers regularly provide status updates, which are made available in real-time feed on the MakeTime online account of the company that ordered parts.
When parts are delivered, purchasers are given the opportunity to review their parts before MakeTime releases payment to their suppliers. “This all results not only in time savings of weeks and sometimes months, but significant cost saving as well, ” Parrish says.
“Some of our customers are able to sell machines they were using to produce things in-house, removing substantial capital expenses. All of our customers are able to dramatically reduce the operational costs associated with sourcing and procurement. What’s left is manufacturing as a direct cost. You’re only paying for machining, materials and shipping.”
MakeTime launched in 2014, but as a business model has been in operation since 2003. Parrish ran a small business renting out blocks of time at local machine shops to have items made for a limited number of clients.
Parrish grew up in the 1980s and 1990s as U.S. manufacturing began to decline. He saw the effect on his family’s business and knew that while CNC machines rarely ran at full capacity, gaining access to one sitting idle was not easy.
So, after graduating from Southern California Institute of Architecture, he got involved in digital fabrication, making objects and parts for companies on the same machines his family’s business used. But instead of buying machines, he invested in local shops where he rented out blocks of time on their machines to manufacturers in need.
“I kept track of it all by hand at the time and took on the burden of the RFQs myself, ” Parrish recalls. “Turns out, it was a really good idea, and the company grew and grew. I was in a coffee shop with a friend writing down a few matches and juggling phone calls and he joked, asking if I had ever heard of the internet and MakeTime was born.”
Today, MakeTime employees more than 50 people in its Lexington headquarters. Product design, user experience and development teams design the MakeTime platform. A data science team makes data meaningful and adds value. MakeTime’s proprietary algorithms are powered by data and are continually improved through machine learning.
MakeTime was recently selected for an affiliate program with NVIDIA that will enable the company to build its machine and artificial intelligence programs more rapidly. NVIDIA is a Santa Clara, California-based technology company that designs graphics processing units for gaming, automotive and other markets.
A few companies have similar concepts, Parrish says, though none are quite the same as MakeTime in developing new technology to simplify domestic manufacturing.
“We’re not attempting to automate the old way of doing business. We’re also not just throwing the internet at an inefficient process. We’re eradicating inefficiencies in their entirety and changing the way the world makes things.”
As automotive manufacturers find themselves going toe-to-toe with Silicon Valley heavyweights like Google, Apple and Tesla, they are looking to “lead the charge” in producing autonomous vehicles, smart vehicles and personalized vehicles, Parrish adds. He points out that nothing is more important than innovating faster and getting to market first. The traditional way of manufacturing is no longer viable, he notes, and the first company to fully embrace this reality wins.
“MakeTime is leading this charge and we are the catalyst. We’ve made it possible for a new product to go from prototype to mass production in a quarter of the time it takes anyone who is not using us.”
He also points out that everyone involved in the process — the consumer included — reaps the benefits of a simpler way of manufacturing.
“As we move toward smaller volumes with higher customization to meet today’s consumers’ demands, MakeTime makes it possible and simple to manage tens and even hundreds of different production runs at once, ” he says. “This is the automotive industry’s future, and we hold the key to making that happen.”
TEXT By jessica armstrong // Photos by aaron borton