First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Jim Quinn: Our family has hit our stride leading a happy and healthy life amidst COVID-19. We were fortunate enough to have a baby girl in December of 2019, which keeps us busy and amazed every day at how she grows. Since moving to the Atlanta area mid-2019, we have settled into our home and are focused on enjoying this time with no travel.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Plethora.
Jim Quinn: My experience spans six industries: Machining, Class II Medical Device, Semiconductor, Consumer Electronics, Fashion Retail, and Agricultural Biotech. I’ve worked for global organizations, traveling globally to manage procurement strategies and sourcing operations. I am equally comfortable in large corporate and smaller company settings, with a special ability to create responsive and nimble companies.
Plethora’s drive to transform the manufacturing industry drew me in when I joined the team as COO in early 2018. My initial focus was scaling business operations, and after a year, the board of directors asked me to step in as President & CEO. From there, my passion for results and metric-driven decision making has enabled further growth of technology, a world-class team, and our overall machining business.
How does Plethora innovate?
Jim Quinn: Plethora uses software to empower manufacturing. Our software analyzes 3D CAD files in three ways. AutoDFM software automatically analyzes part designs for manufacturability and provides feedback to design engineers on their part designs. AutoQUOTE delivers pricing for manufacturable parts. And AutoCAM programs the toolpathing necessary to manufacture the part via CNC Machining. All of this happens in just seconds, allowing design engineers to get their parts made faster, and more accurately, than ever.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Jim Quinn: We’ve been lucky that we have several customers deemed essential, which has allowed us to remain open all year. We’ve also added PPE for our employees, and we’ve spaced apart our mills, lathes, and various departments to help keep our employees safe.
Beyond that, we saw a shift in our business. Some customers had less work while we saw a surge in new customers. The market had a lot of procurement professionals looking to re-shore their production from overseas, to hedge against risk, and we saw some new business from that.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Jim Quinn: We learned a lot about our own supply chain. We had only been in the Atlanta metro area for less than a year when COVID hit. The virus put a strain on supply chains nationally and globally, and we definitely felt some of that ourselves. We had to put some processes in place to help make sure that we were pricing material appropriately.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Plethora in the future?
Jim Quinn: Coming from a supply chain background, at Plethora, we take the approach that we need to be scalable. We can’t just focus on running the machine shop we need today, or this month. We have to think about putting in place the infrastructure we’ll need six to twelve months from now.
We continue to see this approach pay off for our teams, from development to production to quality. Focusing on long-term goals allows us to continue to evolve our core technologies, yet we’re nimble enough to adapt to short-term trends and changes.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Jim Quinn: In custom manufacturing, the biggest chunk of the market is still held by smaller, local, privately run machine shops. We believe our proprietary software allows us to deliver parts far faster than those traditional shops, and at a higher quality.
Other companies are bringing technology into this manufacturing space. Some are really just marketplaces, matching up engineers and buyers with those independent shops throughout the country. Others are larger scale companies, offering a multitude of different manufacturing options.
We really think we’ve got the sweet spot though. We do CNC machining, and we do it really, really well.
Your final thoughts?
Jim Quinn: The events of 2020 have definitely changed the way that American companies think about sourcing. We see reshoring and domestic production as important drivers of economic growth for the coming years. As a tech-enabled, custom manufacturer, we’re confident that we’ve got an important role to play for years to come.
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