Digital Strategy

Four Lessons Learned From Formlabs’ Business Agility

May 13, 2020

Formlabs, whose mission is to provide better accessibility to 3D printing so that anyone can make anything, has become a welcomed relief to many in the medical community by printing COVID-19 nasal swabs, test kits, device parts, face shields, and more.

Massachusetts-based 3D printer company, Formlabs, is providing critical supplies and equipment to help flatten the coronavirus curve.

Formlabs, whose mission is to provide better accessibility to 3D printing so that anyone can make anything, has become a welcomed relief to many in the medical community by printing COVID-19 nasal swabs, test kits, device parts, and face shields, for example.

Formlabs is dedicated to helping the medical community use 3D printing to address the COVID-19 pandemic and associated supply chain shortages. We are working with dozens of hospitals, health systems, and government agencies around the world on various projects spanning COVID-19 testing, PPE, and medical equipment. Read more.

Prior to the crisis, Formlabs was already using innovation to solve key business challenges within its own walls and for product manufacturers across industries. The company built resiliency into their organization by getting ahead of potential obstacles where breakdowns in communication and collaboration tend to arise.

Here are 4 key takeaways you can learn from Formlabs about building agility into your business:

1. Be realistic about your current operations

Formlabs experienced rapid growth, which naturally led to communication barriers across teams. The company enjoyed the scrappiness that carried over from earlier stages, but as their product grew in both popularity and necessity, so did their workforce. They quickly required another level of maturity to efficiently process competing demands from multiple stakeholders.

Upon this realization, streamlining communication became an immediate priority. Formlabs was using multiple systems to manage their product lifecycle, including familiar technologies like Asana, Google Sheets, and Slack. They were also using Salesforce for CRM and Service cases, which gave future solutions they deployed a natural prerequisite: a cloud-based tool that enabled contextual collaboration, ideally built on Salesforce in order to tie into their existing processes and leverage their existing team's knowledge of the platform.

“Is there a way to solve this problem on Salesforce?” - Daniel Snow, CIO

2. Identify your pain points and act on them

Growing companies experience growing pains beyond communication alone. For Formlabs, these pains came in the form of introducing new products across geographies and getting users to adopt new solutions. Chief Innovation Officer, Daniel Snow, was also interested in security and access controls in Salesforce to improve their ability to protect their intellectual property. 

For Engineering Chief of Staff, Danielle Class, resolving these issues was critical for business growth. By first identifying what was and wasn’t working, she could then lean on the more successful parts of the organization to implement those learnings elsewhere. This also meant appropriately valuing enthusiasm and getting quick wins early.


3. Know what you need for your future growth

On the technical side, Formlabs was clear about what they needed to scale. Because the company had identified pain points as they grew, they were aware of what was required to both survive and thrive; namely, configurability, a single source of truth in the cloud, and the ability to spot and resolve issues immediately.

By first looking for traditional solutions that would integrate well with Salesforce’s Customer 360 platform to manage the product lifecycle, Formlabs came up short. Just about every legacy PLM was still on-prem or fumbling it’s way to the cloud, and none successfully connected to their service side or incorporated quality management. This made it easier to select the only solution that checked every box on their list. 

4. Build flexibility and responsiveness into your business

Formlabs had been serving the medical device community through sales of their 3D printers prior to COVID-19. As the company grew and resolved collaboration challenges that previously hindered their ability to get products to market faster, the coronavirus crisis became an opportunity to provide further aid and accessibility. 

In addition to printing much-needed COVID test kits, Formlabs engineers also helped healthcare providers convert sleep apnea treatment machines into emergency ventilators and aided at least one doctor in creating face shields for colleagues. In an ever-changing environment, the company has maintained business continuity in real and valuable ways.

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Formlabs is a shining example of being nimble in the face of novelty and uncertainty. That ability to act quickly on unexpected circumstances is a result of forward-thinking, a clear digital strategy, and the desire to push through together – and thrive. 

formlabs-covid-response


To learn more about Formlabs' path to digital transformation, read their customer story.

Want to accelerate COVID-19 relief like Formlabs, but not sure where to begin? Join our open-access Healthcare Manufacturer Community to get started manufacturing crucial ventilators.

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Author

Be'Anka Ashaolu

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