Scalable Press is using technology to reinvent the concept of mass customisation by delivering unique products to customers in the space of a couple of days
Scalable Press began as a schoolyard project when teen entrepreneur Raymond Lei sold personalised t-shirts to his high school friends.
After securing a deal with his school tennis club, Raymond saw there was a wider market for his customised apparel and began learning to code.
Within a year of launching the Scalable Press website in 2010, the company was turning over $1m (£780,000) a year and he was able to drop out of school.
From school yard project to contracts with Adidas
Today, Scalable Press claims to have more than 100 million visitors to its website a year and is on track to produce more than 12 million shipments across 185 countries – not bad for a high school venture.
The company has expanded from t-shirts to other garments, such as socks, and has secured contracts with major brands like Adidas.
Eric Zhang, vice-president of engineering, played a crucial part in expanding the company.
He says: “When the company was first founded, it was a simple website with good prices, and was selling to people who needed a t-shirt.
“But it was third parties that did the printing – we didn’t have the facilities to do it ourselves.
“My first project was working on technology for our new warehouses – by running our own facilities, we can do a better job, lower costs and offer faster speeds to our customers.”
Scalable Press brings new technology to manufacturing industry
Eric, a school friend of Raymond, was brought on board in 2014 to integrate new manufacturing technologies.
He explains: “Once our capabilities were better than our competitors, it really opened up our opportunities.
“It meant we could bring the savings to customers and offer turnaround times that were quicker than everyone else.”
As a result, Scalable Press is now able to take an order for a custom product, print it and send it out all in the same day.
Eric claims this can be achieved whether the quantity is one or 1,000.
“The way we’ve built the technology in our warehouses means it can handle those sorts of orders regardless of the print type,” he says.
“By controlling the end-to-end process from e-commerce to manufacturing, we are able to ship things out the same day – and 95% of orders go out within two days.”
How Scalable Press achieves same-day delivery for customised products
Eric explains the quick turnaround is only possible because of the approach the company takes to running its facilities across its 200,000 sq ft production space.
Eric says: “If you look at any manufacturing facility, especially in custom printing, the older companies are still passing notes around on pencil and paper, or flash drives, to share order numbers.
“It’s not that we’ve figured out a secret source to manufacturing, we are taking a very Silicon Valley approach to manufacturing – and that’s something that other people haven’t done.”
Scalable Press uses web-based manufacturing software to track orders and deploy every day, which means its team of engineers can make constant improvements.
The company also copies e-commerce strategies such as “A/B testing”, where slight variations to website design and warehouse workflows are tested against the company’s current techniques to see which performs better.
Eric explains: “At any given time, our warehouses will be using slightly different processes, and we collect all the data and analyse it to work out the most efficient workflows.
“The key to getting ahead and staying ahead is to keep iterating.”