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Vicki Holt, president and CEO of Protolabs (Maple Plain, Minn.), keynoted the General Session of CAMX 2019 yesterday morning and explored for the audience her company’s keys to success as a leading source of fully digital rapid prototyping and on-demand manufacturing services.

 

Holt, who has a background in composite materials via work at Montsanto and PPG, has led Protolabs for the last six years and has helped the company grow to 12 global locations providing fast-turnaround manufacturing services via CNC, injection molding, additive manufacturing and sheet metal fabrication. Protolabs works entirely via an e-commerce portal and converts CAD-based designs into finished parts in just a matter of days.

 

During her presentation, Holt outlined six lessons she has learned at Protolabs. First, she said, iteration and prototyping are most effective when deployed quickly. “If there’s a big problem to solve, you can get a lot of value solving it quickly, she said.”

 

Second, she said, is that solutions require access to employees with diverse backgrounds who are willing and able to re-think and question assumptions, and in the process find new ways of meeting goals.

 

Third, I learned “how important it is to get a minimal viable product out into the marketplace quickly so that you can learn and iterate.” That is, the sooner a product is on the market, the sooner you can evaluate its fit and effectiveness.

 

Fourth, Holt said, is to stay true to your core – identify the habits and strategies that differentiate your business and continually fine-tune and optimize those. “Stay true to that source of differentiation,” she said.

 

Fifth, timing is everything, she said. At Protolabs, the birth of B2B commerce occurred nearly simultaneously with the birth of the company in 1999, and that became the foundation from which all of the company’s products and services grew.

 

Sixth, Holt said, “How we work makes a big difference.” Protolabs has a highly defined culture based on collaboration, change, multifunctionalism and learning. “We take culture very, very seriously,” she said. “If it gets away from us, we know that we will not become the company that we want to become.”

 

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Source | Composites World