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Episode 3: Digitizing Manufacturing for Better Products and Future Growth

March 07, 2023

It's a common problem: someone's laptop or phone dies and they don't have a charger. Or they have a charger and need to find an outlet to plug it in to. Matt Buscher noticed this with colleagues and especially travelers needing access to outlets in an airport. He knew he could solve that problem with power station kiosks that could provide a charge. But those kiosks could do more, he realized, like rent laptops. Buscher saw a need in the market for this, especially at universities and public libraries, and LaptopsAnytime was born. Located in every continent except Antarctica, LaptopsAnytime has frequently appeared in Inc. 5000’s Most Successful Companies in America.

But how do you build and assemble products that are constantly changing? How do you successfully scale a company with such intricate manufacturing considerations, going from subbing out manufacturing and assembling to bringing it all in-house? Matt might have provided a much needed solution for those wanting access to rental laptops, but there were more problems to be solved, as he explains in this podcast episode.

Finding Solutions to Changing Manufacturing Needs

One of the biggest challenges for LaptopsAnytime was being able to produce products when every product made is different. "Most people build a product, and they build it once. We build this product every day, and we build it different every single day. So the part may change by 50 thou or 100 thou, the part may get a little bit longer because your laptop gets a little bit bigger, or the device we're checking out is square, not rectangle. So all of those factors come into play," Matt explains in the episode.

Those challenges could only be solved through digital tools, yet Matt found that some of the manufacturers they worked with still did everything on paper. But once they moved manufacturing and assembly in-house, the challenge for digitalization still continued. "I have to have a vision for digitizing. Right? And if you don't know the tools, then how are you supposed to have a vision on how to bring all these digital parts into play in these assemblies? And how do you use them properly? And what are the latest tools?"—just some of the questions Matt had to ask when learning and adopting new technology to improve his company.

Another challenge? Having the knowledge of how to build these products in order to make the best decisions for the business. Matt made it a priority to learn everything he could about the business, and "I taught myself to be a machinist, so that I could talk to [machinists] in their language. I could converse with them and come up with new ideas, make new suggestions, and learn those tools that everybody was starting to use."

In This Episode…

What digital solutions did LaptopsAnytime put in place to solve their manufacturing challenges and position themselves for growth? Listen to our conversation with Matt Buscher to learn more about the evolution of LaptopsAnytime's operations, how digital tools are making that evolution possible, and what attributes manufacturing leaders should possess to bring their operations and employees into the future.

Topics include:

  • The role of technology at LaptopsAnytime and the necessity of digital assembly tools, especially as manufacturing their various products changes each day.
  • The challenges of working with "old school" manufacturing shops that have experience but don't rely on digital, and younger employees who are digital natives but don't yet have the experience.
  • What training is involved to get new employees up-and-running, and how manufacturing leaders themselves should continue to be students of new technology and approaches.
  • The evolution of LaptopsAnytime's manufacturing process, from having everything built off-site to building in-house operations, including manufacturing and assembly — and how technology ties it all together.
  • Why manufacturing companies should challenge themselves to be a different company year after year through continual iteration and upgrades.
  • How working in the restaurant industry and walking station to station made Matt a better manufacturing leader.
  • Actionable advice to manufacturing leaders about hard work, doing your own research, and continuing to be a learner.

Connect with Matt and LaptopsAnytime

Website Matt’s LinkedIn

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