First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Shai Terem: I’m doing well. As it has for most people, the pandemic has presented a unique opportunity to be with my family, which I really have appreciated. We’ve spent a lot of time outdoors and finding safe ways to have fun and enjoy each other’s company.
Can you tell us about you, your career, how you joined Markforged?
Shai Terem: As all Israelis, I served in the Israeli Navy for approximately nine years and studied at Tel Aviv University to earn my B.A. in economics. From there, I went on to pursue my MBA at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. A few years later, I joined the 3D printing industry, where I held several roles at Stratasys. I also served as President of the Americas region at Kornit Digital, a worldwide market leader in 2D digital printing for textiles, where I led the company through restructuring challenges including relocating its headquarters, optimizing its go-to-market strategy and growing customer satisfaction rates.
I joined Markforged in November of 2019, at which point I fell in love with the power of industrial 3D printing. It was empowering to hear about the company’s vision for revolutionizing manufacturing and knowing that I could play a role in that becoming a reality. Our Digital Forge, an intuitive additive manufacturing platform, really changes the game for engineers, designers and manufacturing professionals. I’ve spent enough time in the industry to know the immense value we can bring to organizations around the world by giving them the tools to go from a design to a functional part more efficiently and truly optimize the manufacturing supply chain.
How does Markforged innovate?
Shai Terem: It sounds simple, but our recipe starts with our strong team. Markforged employees are dangerously smart, scrappy, and responsive to customers’ needs while constantly moving the company forward.
Innovation is baked into our DNA. At Markforged, we believe that through 3D printing and our unique solution, we really lead in reinventing manufacturing. Consider electric vehicles, which illustrate a new way of thinking about old systems or solutions. Our 3D platforms are similar in that we take traditional manufacturing, which has always worked, and doing it faster, smarter and more efficiently.
And, when you add in our A.I. capabilities, we’ve reached the next critical evolution of manufacturing, just like autonomous vehicles are the next step for automotive. At Markforged, we are diligently working on Blacksmith, an A.I. solution that connects machines and automatically optimizes printing to ensure that every part is precise and expected. It will drastically reduce the need for extensive onboarding and make the overall process of 3D printing easier. We’re always working to solve traditional problems in innovative ways and challenging the limits of what’s possible.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business? How are you coping?
Shai Terem: At Markforged, we serve industrial manufacturers, the essential workers who make the products that keep our modern world spinning and keep the metaphorical lights on. As many businesses did, we had to navigate a brief period of uncertainty, but our business has remained strong in a way that showcases the true value we bring to our manufacturing customers.
The pandemic has also proven that 3D printing plays an important role in the manufacturing landscape—as manufacturing activity plummeted and factories shuttered, 3D printing levels recovered very fast. Markforged solutions have played a major role in the pandemic response, from enabling new innovations—like 3D-printed PPE—to filling gaps in the supply chain and printing nozzle swabs that were used to test for COVID.
Our Digital Forge platform has helped manufacturers overcome the issues that broke supply chains in March and April—from unpredictable supply and demand patterns and unreliable suppliers to broken line parts that could not be traditionally replaced. With the flexibility of 3D printing, manufacturers were able to rapidly engineer robust solutions, thereby simplifying logistics and shortening the response time to manufacturing problems.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Shai Terem: As many companies did, we had to balance the forecasted upward trajectory of our organization with an investment in that same growth, which, of course, led to some tough decisions. The world continues to move faster than it ever has, and we struggled with projecting for an uncertain future, waking up every morning in a world markedly different than the one we went to bed in.
As things continue to change quickly, we’ve learned that it’s more important than ever to remain agile and flexible in order to make the right decisions—decisions bound to come at inflection points you can’t yet predict.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Shai Terem: people who know me can attest, my previous experience has really helped me deal with stress and anxiety related to work. I try to keep things in perspective and commit to professionalism versus being led by my emotions. When I feel myself becoming tense or under a crunch, I fall back on an adage that I find quite useful—there is only one way to eat an elephant, one bite at a time.
How do you project yourself and Markforged moving in the future?
Shai Terem: At Markforged, we really want to reinvent manufacturing today so you can build whatever you imagine tomorrow. Our Digital Forge platform is designed for the future as part of the cultural and fundamental shift in the manufacturing industry, bettering how people do their jobs. We’re going to continue enabling creative solutions to problems manufacturers didn’t know they were going to have and open up manufacturing in a new way. This is especially relevant as industries across the board have experienced extreme disruption and shifts in how work is done in light of the pandemic.
With our cloud-connected fleet of printers, we can push out universal designs within minutes, creating a community of people who are able to solve problems across the globe using the latest in 3D printing technology as it’s available. This fleet is essential in gathering data to help analyze trends, which we can, in turn, use to help manufacturers quickly pivot their operations at a large scale to address whatever their business needs. This connected fleet helps Markforged serve its customers during the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to help in the future with other disruptions or global issues like climate change.
Our goal is a printer on every factory floor, and we’ll continue working to see the mass adoption of this crucial and massively beneficial technology.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Shai Terem: Our biggest competitor is the traditional manufacturing techniques. 3D printing has revolutionized rapid prototyping and empowered designers, shortening design lead-times and providing visualization aids since its inception. And, over the last 5-10 years, 3D printing materials have evolved with stronger engineering-grade composite and metal materials, all of which have disrupted the manufacturing and production environments.
For the first time, there is an alternative to traditional manufacturing methods, which yields parts with properties suitable for end-use. Markforged introduced continuous carbon fiber printed parts and a simple and affordable metal 3D printing process, which unlocked the problem that has plagued manufacturers for a long time: how do I efficiently produce complex low volume parts? Our Digital Forge has enabled many manufacturers to significantly improve their output, which they could not do before.
Unlike our competitors in 3D printing, Markforged is extremely focused on helping manufacturers, not just prototyping. Our platforms produce composite parts strong as metal in a much easier and cost-effective manner. Markforged is in a strong financial position to weather tough challenges and continue to provide strong service for our customers who know they can rely on us. With our invaluable product offering of printers and materials, we’re positioned well to compete for the long haul.
Any final thoughts?
Shai Terem: Manufacturing is a $12 trillion industry responsible for producing the world’s biggest innovations—but is constrained by machining techniques that haven’t changed in decades, inefficient supply chains that take too long to deliver replacement parts, high inventory costs and the risk of unplanned downtime at any moment. We’re well equipped to help solve these problems, as well as whatever comes next. Markforged is just getting started, and I’m excited to see what the team and I can do as we transform the way businesses innovate.
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