By Tim Heston, Senior Editor
Several years ago Peter Keshishian ran a 16-employee sheet metal job shop in Ger- many, though the product mix was a little
odd. The shop fabricated very small runs; one, two,
or three pieces were typical. And many of those
runs were somewhat simple: a circle, a rectangle,
a square, a hat channel. The shop processed about
800 of these small orders a month, each delivered
in five to eight days, plus shipping time.
Keshishian’s shop in Germany didn’t sell to other
manufacturers. It didn’t follow a business-to-busi-ness (B2B) model; it was business-to-consumer
Say a person needs a piece of sheet metal to
make a strong kickboard for the back door. Sure,
some hardware stores have sheet steel available in
certain widths, lengths, and thicknesses, but they
probably don’t have one cut exactly to fit the door.
And if the customer tries to order such a custom-cut
sheet from a job shop, delivery can take weeks unless he pays extra for expediting, if the shop accepts
the order at all.
“If you buy a product from metal companies, the
first question they ask is, ‘How many pieces or tons
do you want?’ The consumer never needs tons or
a massive number of pieces,” Keshishian said. “He
probably needs just one, maybe two pieces. And he
also doesn’t need to know about specific grades or
chemistries. To the end user, it doesn’t matter. He
wants a certain look and feel. All he wants to know
is, ‘Can I use this for my project?’ and ‘How easily
can I order it?’”
This is Keshishian’s niche. An American citizen,
the entrepreneur has since sold his operation in
Germany and moved to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Late
last year he opened a similar B2C fabrication busi-
ness, called MetalsCut4U, for the U.S. market. Peo-
ple can visit its website ( www.metalscut4u.com),
choose a material and its shape (rectangle, circle
triangle, ring, etc.), specify basic dimensions (width,
length, radius), and receive a quote instantly.
It’s no surprise that before entering the sheet metal
business, Keshishian worked in marketing and sales
in the IT market. He knew the potential of software.
“I wanted to do something different,” he said.
Several factors drive MetalsCut4U’s business
model. First, software automates quoting and order
processing, which Keshishian said is the company’s
intellectual property. It calculates costs and includes
packaging and shipping costs based on information
Second, the company makes ordering as simple
as possible. The website does allow customers to
request a quote for a custom part, and they can attach a PDF or CAD file. But usually people choose
specifications from drop-down menus: steel, stainless steel, and aluminum materials; 1⁄32-, 1⁄16-, 1⁄8-inch
thicknesses; and mirror, brushed, plain, or tread finishes. They have just a few options, not hundreds.
Again, consumers are the intended audience, not
project engineers at other manufacturers.
From another drop-down menu, they choose the
2-D or 3-D shape: a rectangle, a triangle, a circle, a U-channel, a hat channel, and so on. The 3-D shapes in
the drop-down menus incorporate only 90-degree
angles (though Keshishian said that the menus may
offer shapes with other bend angles in the future).
Customers fill in the dimension information, including which side of the cut
and formed sheet is the cosmetic side.
They then click a button and get a price,
which includes the price for the job and
shipping. (Most project dimensions and
volumes need to be small enough to be
handled by UPS.)
If the customer accepts, he pays via
PayPal, and the project is sent to the
shop’s backend enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. From there the operation resembles that of many sheet metal
job shops. Jobs are grouped by grade
and gauges, parts are programmed and
nested, and the job is sent to the laser
and press brakes.
This keep-it-simple approach helps
streamline software development and
production, and it also happens to suit
the company’s target audience, DIYers.
“Hardly anyone is serving this B2C
area,” Keshishian said. “That’s our niche.
And I hope that it will be as successful as
it has been in Germany.”
Read more from Tim Heston at www.thefabricator.com/author/tim-heston
One fab shop takes on B2C
A new business sells sheet metal
cutting and bending services to the DIY market
At Peter Keshishian’s new fab shop,
consumers are the intended audience,
not project engineers.