Remember all of those B2B exchanges that were supposed to change the industrial landscape before they evaporated at the tail end of the last dotcom boom? Well, at least one of them survived—a small company based in Atlanta called MFG.com. Today, it is a thriving Web marketplace for manufacturers and their suppliers. I talk with CEO Mitch Free in this week’s episode of the New Disruptors.
MFG.com is a Website where engineers and purchasing managers from places like Apple or Northrop Grumman can put up CAD diagrams of parts they want manufactured and get bids from suppliers all over the world. In the past twelve months, over $2 billion worth of parts have been sourced over MFG.com.
But instead of trying to take a cut of each transaction like eBay does, MFG.com charges a subscription fee of about $6,000 a year to each supplier. Free says the company is on track to pull in $25 million in revenues this year and is running at break-even. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is the largest outside investor (he learned about it from one of the engineers at his spacecraft startup, Blue Origin). Germany’s Samwer brothers—their startup Alando became eBay Germany—also own a stake.
Free wants to turn MFG.com into an online platform for the manufacturing industry. Last year, he bought Europe’s SourcingParts (a Salesforce.com for purchasing managers), and launched a manufacturing social network last March called MFGx.com. “We’ve borrowed some of the elements from Craigslist, MySpace, and Wikipedia,” he says.
But perhaps the most potentially disruptive thing about MFG.com is what Free wants to do with his growing database of CAD diagrams for every imaginable fabricated part, metal stamping, and industrial mold. He hopes one day industrial designers and engineers will be able to estimate the true manufacturing costs of the products they are designing by comparing the parts they need with similar ones in MFG.com’s database. They could tweak the design and get instant feedback on the likely manufacturing costs. All that Free needs to offer such a service is a geometry search engine for 3-D objects that can work at a commercial scale. (video) (Full transcript after the break):