Inhouse Manufacturing with Erik Polumbo of Mini Materials

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Erik Polumbo from Mini Materials jumped onto the eCom Ops Podcast to share his knowledge and experience in eCommerce operations and inhouse manufacturing . Check out all the other episodes here.

To learn more about Erik Polumbo and Mini Materials here: 

Selling On:

  • Shopify
  • Amazon
  • Barnes & Noble (Planning stage)
  • Walmart (Planning stage)

Tools/Resources Mentioned:

Key Takeaways:

Erik’s journey into eCommerce

It all started in 2015, when Erik’s business partner thought of an idea to sell miniature building supplies like thick Lego, Lincoln logs and connector sets, which would be unique and explode the world. A few months later, he invited Erik to manage the projects with him. They both learned about eCommerce by themselves, since their idea was new to the market and had no competitors. Hence, the foundation was supposed to be based in its unique self. 

Another, extremely unique factor of Mini Materials is that they use the supplies that are utilised as the real building materials, it’s just made smaller so that we can play around with them on our desks!

Inhouse manufacturing at its best – How does it work? 

The entire manufacturing at Mini Materials is done inhouse. Erik specified that it is done by hand, and is a very tedious process. 

In order to fulfil an order, everything is done off site in their warehouse. They perform their pick, pack and ship process by themselves. Navigation between Etsy and Shopify platforms are independent, where everything is done through Shopify while Esty is used to ship out the goods directly. 

The trio of Erik, his wife and his partner makes Mini Materials keep their game up. Erik’s wife looks after quality control and fulfillment, Erik focuses on the sales calls and accounting, while his partner looks into the marketing. They have two employees who take care of the manufacturing and packing in the shop.

Impacts of COVID-19 on Mini Materials

‘Covid-19 has impacted Mini Materials in 2 different ways’, Erik says. On one hand is the Sales. With people now sitting at homes, be it office folks, students or hobbyists, business has become busier than it ever was, sales have drastically increased with the uplifting trajectory of eCommerce during COVID. 

On the other hand, the supply chain has been difficult since some of the stuff they use is outsourced from other places, even overseas. Erik states that the shipping process has taken a hit in the US. FedEx, UPS and DHL are a couple of days behind the norm since the volume is so high right now. 

Automation plans of Mini Materials

Mini Materials plans to automate their manufacturing completely. The challenge of scaling up with manufacturing is that most of the Mini Materials products are handmade. 

They have to wait for concrete or cement to dry up and check. Cement at this small of a size can be very fragile. According to Erik, the aggregate and the chemistry in the solution need to be perfect, so that it doesn’t break during the delivery to long distances.

Erik ensures that they are researching for a number of automation strategies along with testing and development. Right now, they have achieved only 20% of the 100% they would like to get to. Erik hopes that in future, instead of the 200 units they will be able to get to 10,000 units run with the help of automation. 

It’s all about Customer Satisfaction

The novelty of what Mini Materials sell is the wow factor for people. Erik revealed that the customers are very surprised when they jump on the selling platform and see all the crazy things Mini Materials have come up with. 

Efforts of having to keep up with the difficulty of shipping within 2 days via Amazon have been truly commendable. Erik believes that keeping their process streamlined and efficient is the key to customer satisfaction.

To Erik, making sure that customers are completely satisfied when they receive their goodies in the post while maintaining the turnaround time makes even a small shop like Mini Materials, highly efficient. 

The Future of Mini Materials

The operations team at Mini Materials will be focused on ways to improve efficiency. In order to gain margins they will try to lower their cost of goods and also expand exposure to  two different markets. They have plans to get into retail chain stores such as Walmart and Big-box, but ‘that does not seem likely until they come out of Covid-19’, states Erik. 

Nevertheless, they will look for new and innovative ways to be profitable and have a lot more brand insight in future.

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