Luke Smoothy, Director of Get It Made Ltd tells us how his company is a manufacturing partner for prototyping and production of custom parts.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Luke Smoothy: The few family members that caught Covid found it both physically and emotionally exhausting but luckily recovered without any long-term effects. In lighter news, our first baby was born in the middle of a lockdown in the UK. We were very worried during the build-up to the birth; was I going to be able to support my wife? But in the end, it all went smoothly, and the only difference was that I wore a mask. So like most, the year was full of family ups and downs!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Get It Made Ltd.
Luke Smoothy: My background was in designing award-winning office furniture, which taught me how to expertly manage complex projects from design to production.
Design and engineering are hard skills to master, but something that is even harder is getting things made. You can see where the name comes from! I spent a great deal of my time working with factories, getting prototypes made and getting products into production for clients. I realized two things, I was good at it, and most importantly, there was a huge difference in service and quality between great suppliers and average suppliers. I am completely ignoring the many bad ones!
So one day, I set up a “side hustle”, arm in arm with my few great manufacturing partners. I worked evenings and weekends helping people and businesses, initially with their CNC Machined parts. Get It Made adds a slick layer of personalized service to manufacturing, something I always found was lacking. When Fin and I occasionally request quotes from suppliers, we come across some that can make you feel very awkward for even daring to ask for a quote… which blows my mind.
Now, at Get It Made, we always try to offer some help, pointing people in the right direction. I believe that manufacturers can sometimes forget they are service companies too. They need to care about the experience people have when they come into contact with your company.
We aim to be the oil in the process, removing friction, making sure projects run smoothly from quotation to delivery of parts. I always focus on developing a service I would have wanted, which made my job easier. Our clients can stick to what they do best, designing and selling world-leading products and services.
Get It Made is set up to offer a one-stop solution for bespoke manufacturing. This new service focused division of the manufacturing industry is now known as MaaS, Manufacturing as a Service.
In the first few months of business, I struggled with getting to grips with Get It Made’s position and identity in the manufacturing industry. I asked myself, ‘would clients work with us if we didn’t personally own and operate the production machinery?’ But I now realize the industry needs a whole bunch of people and companies that are manufacturing enablers, we get things done, and that is what our clients ultimately want, people they can trust, who understand their wider goals.
How does Get It Made Ltd innovate?
Luke Smoothy: We tend to innovate in the behind the scenes stuff, tools the clients do not see but do feel the results of them. We spend a lot of time removing friction in internal processes, building tools that allow us to quote faster, communicate smoother and offer the best service we can.
As a business, we may be considered a little old school in our approach to customer service in a world that is increasingly trying to digitize and automate interactions. However, we are very smart in applying many micro-automation to our workflow. The goal behind this is so that we have more time to be customer-facing. Over the years, these micro-automations add up considerably. We have eliminated hundreds of hours of repetitive tasks; these tasks added no value to clients and only spent precious hours in the day, so we automated them. We get excited by low-tech solutions that are actually very smart solutions. High-tech isn’t a synonym for better.
We offer a bespoke/flexible service and a one-stop-shop for most manufacturing needs under one roof. We harness the benefits of both local and international manufacturing, coupled with a responsive, customer-focused service. We often reply to our clients within minutes. Many other suppliers might take several days… speed of service is everything.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Luke Smoothy: The only way coronavirus impacted our finances was that our growth slowed. The first 4-5 months of the UK lockdown, orders were pretty low, but there was huge pent up demand, so August 2020 was the busiest month ever in terms of orders. We also deliberately held cast reserves for a rainy day. I think that it comes from my experience of bootstrapping the business from the start and always having the fear that every order will be your last.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Luke Smoothy: When the UK first announced its lockdown, the first thing I did was tell my team members that their jobs are safe. Financially we may have initially been better off cutting costs and jobs, but we were lucky enough to be able to sustain our fixed costs for more than a year with little income. I wanted us to be able to use this possible quiet period to knuckle down and spend that time on business development and marketing. This was with the belief that we would be in a great position when we came through the other side; we were marching forwards when others stalled.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Luke Smoothy: We always look to improve the customer relationship. A big part of what we do focuses on the human relationship that our clients desire. Our competitors push on with automated self-service platforms; whilst they have a place, our clients demand something much more bespoke. Two particular tools we love are Airtable and the Gmail plugin called Hiver. These tools really help us work as a cohesive team in managing our customers.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Luke Smoothy: We received a grant of £10,000 that was paid directly to us by the local Government. We didn’t request it, but it certainly did help us in continuing to market our services when we may have reduced our marketing spend.
Your final thoughts?
Luke Smoothy: We have an extremely close relationship with our factories. Other platforms boast 1000+ factories with “unlimited capacity”, but in our opinion (and experience), this leads to a ‘race to the bottom in terms of price/quality and reduces the level of trust. We are proud that we work with a small handful of trustworthy, flexible and capable factories. We always ask, would our suppliers be there for us when we need them most? And the answer is yes. Our clients are able to quickly and easily tap into these great working relationships we have built.
Some “Manufacturing as a Service” (MaaS) providers pride themselves on how many manufacturing partners they have signed up to their platforms. Get It Made prides itself on how few we have because we have such deeply integrated and trust-based relationships with our UK, EU and Chinese partners. You can count our suppliers on the one hand. I strongly believe these relationships that have been built and developed every day, over many years, is a key part of why Get It Made has been consistently beating clients expectations.