Becoming a Service Bureau: What You Need to Know

Is 2020 the year you decide to make big moves? In the 3D printing industry, it’s typical for professionals to consider starting their own service bureau; they have the knowledge, the tools and the know-how.

Becoming a Service BureauBut do you know the ins and outs of running a service bureau? Do you know the pros and cons?

Before you make any decisions, read what the basic steps to becoming a service bureau entail:

What is a Service Bureau?

At its core, a service bureau is a company that offers businesses services to another company for a particular fee. A bureau will offer its services to companies that do not have the capacity, scale, budget or level of expertise to undertake certain actions ‘in house’.

Such outsourcing allows companies to effectively delegate specific tasks or business functions that the service bureau is better positioned to take on. As a result, your business is able to focus on what is does best, freeing up resources that can be prioritised for core business functions.

3D Printing Service Bureaus

Service bureaus have been extensively used to describe technology-based services, financial services companies and banks, but they are particularly common within the 3D printing industry.

For example, Stratasys Direct Manufacturing, GoPrint3D and Graphite represent just a few of the various additive manufacturing services bureaus out there.

Why are they so appropriate for the industry? Well, understandably, most companies simply do not have the capital to 3D print products on site or through internal resources.

3D printing bureaus have the industry expertise to ensure parts are produced to the highest quality by those who can effectively create and handle large or complex parts.

Service Bureau Pros & Cons

There are several pros and cons when it comes to becoming a service bureau.

The Pros: 

  • Familiarity and the ability to provide a service you already know how to do and love.
  • Being in control of the business you provide.
  • Potential for repeat business once the client or customer decides to keep ordering your manufactured parts.
  • Opportunity to be master of your domain since others don’t have the same capabilities that you can provide. Think about it, your business could become THE place to go for a specific task or order.
  • Being on the forefront of global innovation because you’re constantly working on products that could change the way we live.
  • Building expertise. Even though you’re already a 3D printing expert, with each new product you help create, you’re preparing yourself for the next opportunity after that.

Lewis Simms, Solutions Marketing Manager for Stratasys Direct, explains the pros of becoming a service bureau:

As a service bureau you get to work with these companies one on one to bring their idea to life. We fine tune designs, work hand in hand with engineers to select the right material and process and manufacture meticulously to ship the best possible product. It’s gratifying to see the amazement of others when a product rolls off the production line and know that we played a small part.

The Cons:

  • Economic risk – It is essential that you plan for the cost of becoming a service bureau.
  • Your schedule is not your own - Your schedule is dictated by customers, their deadlines, machines, maintenance, and processes.
  • There is no out of the box solution - 3D printing is unique and complex. Supporting your service bureau with off the shelf solutions and excel spreadsheets will get tiring quickly and will limit the potential for long term success.

“Managing requests from multiple people all at once and trying to keep the lights on can be a challenge if you don’t have the right tools,” says Simms. “Many companies turn to custom software development in order to ease the burden and simplify everything from quoting to manufacturing.”

GrabCAD Shop

OK, I was kidding. There IS an out of the box solution: GrabCAD Shop. This new software from Stratasys reduces time wasted trying to keep track of 3D print requests.

Are YOU Ready to Become a Service Bureau?

There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to become a service bureau:

  • If you want to become a 3D printing service bureau, you need to ensure you are equipped with the right team for the unique task at hand.
  • Your team needs to be properly qualified to carry out such complex work.
  • It’s essential that you already have or are able to purchase the necessary equipment, technology or software needed to undertake the needs of your future clients.
  • Addressing finances and time requirement are two essential considerations, as is considering how far you want to take your endeavor in terms of future growth.

In addition, you will need an advanced digital platform that enables the workflow to move seamlessly. Such coordination between managers, staff and clients is essential if you want to save on cost, enhance efficiency and improve overall company profit.

A web-based platform such as GrabCAD Shop is one example of software that simplifies workflow and provides intelligence so your team can achieve quality production in the most effective manner possible.

Taking the Big Step

It is imperative that you sit down and work out the logistics of becoming a service bureau before taking the leap, so that you are fully aware of what is required. Additionally, consider implementing a digital platform to streamline and simplify your business processes so you can dramatically cut time and take your business to the next level of expansion.

If you think becoming a 3D Printing service bureau is something you’re ready for, download the free eBook on Setting Up Your 3D Printing Model Shop, where we cover everything you need to know about creating your workspace and best practices working with employees and customers.

GrabCAD Shop eBook