The Munich startup Shift offers a digital platform for suppliers and buyers of individually manufactured metal parts. With help from machine learning, the complex process of CNC (computerized numerical control) part distribution should soon become completely automated. The startup was founded in 2017 and already mediates orders in 25 countries. An interview with the founders.
1. Who are you and what do you do?
Shift has three founders: Albert Belousov (38), Dmitry Kafidov (40) and Alexander Belskiy (38), and we founded Shift in March, 2017. We know each other from college and jobs that followed. We’re all from Russia, which is where we first worked as engineers. We then studied economics in Western Europe and worked in different companies for a longer period of time.
Shift is a digital platform that brings together CNC part suppliers and buyers. During our time working in companies, we realized that there are excellent SME manufacturers throughout Europe that often do not work to full capacity. At the same time, many buyers are urgently looking for suppliers to take care of urgent orders for metals and polymers. We bring the two together.
Our customers send their orders to Shift. An algorithm then analyzes the data and creates either 2D or 3D models. Based on that and further calculations involving materials and subsequent process steps, the platform generates a preliminary price. The price has also been verified by “real” engineers so far to avoid errors. We’re increasing our use of machine learning for the process to make completely automated soon.
Building bridges between regions and cultures
2. But that’s nothing out of the box!
Marketplaces do already exist in the field. But they’re nothing but address distributors. We, in contrast, offer comprehensive service, because we know how the industry works. If you order through us, you don’t have to deal with the hassle of negotiating prices, dates or materials. We take care of that as well as all correspondence and documents regarding the order. The customer only has one single point of contact: Shift.
3. What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Our business is active throughout Europe. As a result, we constantly interact with different cultures and deal with different linguistic situations. It took some time for us to put together an effective, multicultural team. Our efficient workflows now build bridges between regions and cultures. Today we mediate metal and polymer products in 25 countries.
4. Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: How is business going?
We celebrated our first financial year this April. In those twelve months, we manufactured 128,352 metal and polymer parts in 21 European countries. Those parts were sent to several hundred customers in 20 different countries. With our manufacturing network of then 250 CNC workshops, we supplied a broad spectrum of industries such as automotive, mechanical engineering, robotics, electronic engineering, metalworking and furniture manufacturing. These figures are just from the first year. We’ve already doubled in size since then!
Shift: Helps mediate “inaccessible projects”
From the very beginning, we’ve been able to pass inaccessible projects on to our manufacturing partners. That has helped them make better use of their machines. We’ve created jobs, and not only at Shift, but also for our partners — machine operators, technology engineers and many others. Half of Shift customers have now ordered CNC parts repeatedly through with our digital platform. That is a clear indicator that we’re really giving the market what it needs with our service!
5. What does Munich mean to you?
Due its density of skilled professionals, the city is very attractive to us. We’re always looking for experts, which is easier near renowned universities and tech companies. Moreover, Munich is a great place to enjoy life. We’ve all seen a lot of the world and very much appreciate the high quality of living here. The gorgeous area around Munich and the relaxed urban way of life: It really is fantastic here!
Ordering metal parts as easily as a taxi
6. How will your startup become the next unicorn? Or will we be seeing you at an Epic Fail Night soon?
If you look at our course to date: most definitely a unicorn! With metal and polymer manufacturing, we’re talking about a multi-million euro market — in Europe alone. The industry is still quite traditional and conservative. But that’s changing. A growing number of companies are banking on digitization. Our customers have already been using digital offers in their private lives for quite some time. That’s why they’re pleased to be able to order metal parts for their business with Shift as easily as a taxi or hotel room. And suppliers are able to accept digital orders without needing to know much about them. That makes it a win-win situation for everyone.
7. Isar River or English Garden?
Isar! You can always find a nice, secluded spot there. But the English Garden also has its magnificent aspects — particularly in winter when snow and ice make it so magical.