Drura Parrish is the founder and CEO of MakeTime, an online business that offers to manufacturers a marketplace where they can buy and sell machine production capacity by the hour. The stated mission of MakeTime is to revolutionize manufacturing by changing the way businesses negotiate and transact to produce goods across the world.
Tom Martin: Buying and selling machine production capacity by the hour. Before we get in to how that works, take us to the origins of the idea.
Drura Parrish: It starts many years ago in Henderson County. I'm a third generation of a manufacturing family there — bootstrap, self-made people. So, growing up in that environment, you saw the tides of manufacturing, how work tended to flow overseas and then come back and then people were hired and then they were fired. I subsequently went into design, digital fabrication, and landed in Los Angeles where I was a senior vice president of a 3D printing company. And in my position, I maintained the supply chain feeding into us and saw the same tide of business leaving, coming and going, people doing well one month and doing awful the next. It was mortifying and I just realized that there's a lot of intelligence, a lot of technology, a lot of ability and there is no reason why people had to suffer when all those tools were at their disposal. And so, I started running around manually buying time on machines; saying to a machine shop owner, "Hey, I know you're not using your laserjet, or your laser cutter, or your waterjet this month. Let me buy it outright — cost plus 10 percent," whatever it was. But I get to run whatever projects that I want just to prove to them that machines were agnostic about what kind of business they did. It was just a matter of putting work on the machines. And so, I did that for 10 years here in Lexington through the Land of Tomorrow where we would give machine time to artists to prove out their abilities. And so, Dima Strakovsky, a really close friend of mine, and I, through Land of Tomorrow put this into motion.
Martin: So, how do you monetize idle production time?
Parrish: That's easy. You just call a machine shop. You're like, "Hey, do you have machines?" And they say, "Yeah." And you say, "What's that sound?" And they say, "What sound?" And then I say, "Exactly. Shouldn't they be running?" And so, from there, you convert, you know, any machine shop into a potential seller, right. It's no different than a car. A machine is a machine. It runs on the hour. They quote by the hour and it can be used by the hour.
Martin: So, it's up to the individual manufacturer to determine that value?
Parrish: Yeah, that's right.
Martin: Now, does that mean that a manufacturer provides you with hours when certain machinery is sitting idle and you then find somebody else out there who's making a widget that can be rendered by that same machine?
Parrish: The transaction flow is this: I wanna make a bunch of steel circles and I know how much time it takes because I make steel circles. I've done this my whole life. And I do it so successfully that I might be thinking about buying a new piece of equipment to make more steel circles. So, I'm sitting there and I'm figuring out how much space I'm gonna need, the employees that I need, the electrical hookup, whatever. But instead of that scenario, we say come to MakeTime. Instead of buying a quarter million dollar piece of machinery, we say, "Why don't you try the exact same machine by the hour at a shop that needs your help?" Right? Let's close the circle. Let's help out a neighbor manufacturer that doesn't have enough work. Move your successes down the line, so to speak.
Martin: They would need to retool, I guess, to be precise.
Martin: Okay. You're offering a "marketplace-based counter-party feedback mechanism to establish reputation." Elaborate on that.
Parrish: The best judges of quality are manufacturers themselves, right? We're offering a complete peer monitoring system where manufacturer "A" says, "Hey, they did a good job, but they could have been a little bit faster" or, "Hey, they did a fantastic job, I would use them for every project that I could use 'em for." And they rank them on a five-star system the same way that you would, you know, going to a restaurant or whatever.
Martin: How do you provide scheduling support?
Parrish: It's up to them. We figure that manufacturers best schedule themselves. But in between, we allow them on our platform. If they say that they need 10 hours and somebody agrees that they can fulfill those 10 hours, it goes into a master planning calendar which both parties can view. So, I can see my virtual factory floor, so to speak.
Martin: How does MakeTime make money?
Parrish: We print it in the back.
Martin: One of those idle machines, right?
Parrish: Right. We take a transaction fee from the seller side. It's to ease as many barriers of entry as possible so that we get as much demand on the platform as possible. If a seller fulfills the job and they do it well and there are no problems, then we take a fee from the backside.
Martin: Can you give us an example of how this is actually being applied in Central Kentucky?
Parrish: For sure. We primarily focus in the region which is basically the heartbeat of American manufacturing thanks to the automotive and aerospace presence. But we've used aerospace manufacturers to make tables for a hotel. We've also used automotive manufacturers to make shampoo bottle holders in hotels. But we've also used the same kind on the other side. Furniture manufacturers to make elements for automotive manufacturers. So, the whole point is to show super fluidity across different manufacturing bases just to make product. We've made bike components. We've made brake cable holders, slips, discs, washers, nuts, nails. You name it. Any kind of industrial process that requires cutting.
Martin: How about the equipment? After a while, machines wear out.
Parrish: Yeah, that's not our problem.
Martin: So, the manufacturer who's letting their equipment be used takes on that responsibility?
Parrish: They take it on.
Martin: What does today's manufacturing ecosystem look like?
Parrish: It's extremely advanced, to the point where unfortunately and fortunately most don't realize the capabilities of their own machines. These are machines for the most part that can fly to the moon and back and you won't know that they're gone — but we are a result of that. We're a result of technological advancement allowing for more capacity even in the decline of labor in the region. Machines do more. But then you have to find more ways to use those machines. So, we fit in between. These machines can do all kinds of wonderful things, but all too often people forget that you have to come up with the things to put on these machines. You have to find a way to fill your own capacity to build those things.