On-Demand, interactive quoting
Protolabs, the global leader in rapid digital manufacturing, collaborated with SDG to build its next–generation digital quoting platform with interactive design analysis.
Core application integration
Custom Application Build
Integration strategy and execution
When it comes to partnering with a strategic consulting firm few things are more telling than their willingness to help you succeed. From the beginning SDG was an integral part in the architecture vision, commitment to quality and execution we needed to be successful. In a testament to the shared commitment, execution and quality, people outside of our project couldn’t tell where the employee line ended, and the consultant line started. This partnership columnated into one the rarest events on the technical landscape today, a successfully completed digital transformation journey.
Re-imagining the customer experience
Protolabs is the world’s fastest digital manufacturing source of rapid prototyping and on-demand production parts. Its mission is to provide customers with the best possible digital manufacturing experience in the industry. To do that, the company leverages its robust quoting and ordering system, which not only provides the ability to enter and track an order, but also conduct design analysis to ensure that the part to be manufactured will meet engineering standards. This software is what drives the speed and agility that customers have come to expect from Protolabs and it’s this commitment to the customer that was at the center of the system redesigns.
Facing increasing customer needs, and competition, Protolabs recognized an opportunity to re-imagine the entire ordering experience for its customers. In addition to creating a new, more user-centric e-commerce experience, the team wanted to rebuild their other core systems and integrate them into the commerce experience, creating complete connectivity throughout the parts ordering, manufacturing, and fulfillment process.
The project was bigger than anything Protolabs had ever embarked on before. The digital manufacturer quickly determined the need for a knowledgeable and trusted partner to help execute this ambitious plan, and it chose SDG to collaborate with from ideation through implementation.
Setting the foundation
Integrating all its systems into a unified architecture was the first challenge that needed to be addressed. To determine the best approach forward, SDG facilitated Kaizan workshops with Protolabs Business and Technology Leaders. The result was a comprehensive architecture that brought all the systems in its enterprise together to support the immediate vision, but one adaptable enough to handle future versions of the software. The new architecture also created the need to re-consider tools and SDG conducted multiple tool selection initiatives to help Protolabs choose the tools and technologies that were the best fit for them and their ecosystem.
Helping where needed
SDG was engaged across many teams during the build phase of the project. Our technical and delivery consultants collaborated closely with the Protolab’s’ teams to implement best practices and bridge the gap between business needs and IT solutions. We supported the introduction of development and operational tools and proficiencies that accelerated development and improved the overall performance of the system. Our delivery specialists reinforced the evolution of scrum execution methodology to help teams drive to a common solution and scale the project across multiple platforms, as well as a human centered approach to quality testing practices.
Guiding the launch
The cut-over strategy was extremely complex due to the global scope of the project, and the number of systems being refactored and integrated. In addition to the transition of data and customers to the new platform, improvements being made concurrently to the legacy commerce system needed to be incorporated, and the tool and architectural differences in all the systems being brought together needed to be accounted for and reconciled. SDG was entrusted with the planning of, and leadership over the execution of this critical process, promoting collaboration across all the necessary teams to produce a successful result.
Commitment to on-going success
Protolabs engaged with many methods and tools that were new to the company throughout the implementation. Our teams collaborated not only to build the software, but to ensure the continuity of knowledge across the Protolabs teams. SDG consultants provided formal, and informal, training and mentoring to Protolabs’ teams and individuals, and helped champion development and delivery best practices across all the teams it worked with. Collaboration was the key to this successful initiative.
I think one of the biggest values SDG brought was the high level of competence in the consultants, who were ready to roll-up their sleeves and do the work with the development teams. They met the internal teams where they were and helped bring in new ideas and technologies. They helped us build the competence of our existing teams and left us with a modern software architecture and capable teams who are able to extend the software to meet our business needs for a long time.
The new platform has increased efficiencies in ordering for customers by giving users the ability to collaborate and adjust their projects in real time, and by bringing all of Protolabs’ services together as a single source for multiple manufacturing capabilities. This innovative approach and continued commitment to customers earned Protolab’s’ re-imagined digital quoting platform a 2021 Gold LEAP (Leadership in Engineering Achievement Program) Award.
Going forward, this platform and Protolabs’ employees are well-positioned to support and adapt to the changing needs of its customers, as well as continue to lead the digital manufacturing space.
I highly value the technical and process competencies of the SDG team. The SDG consultants delivered value and coached our internal teams. Their presence was seamless, supportive, and professional from delivering code to leading teams to setting strategies. We developed oneness as a team that was rare and valuable.
Images courtesy of Protolabs