Want to network, communicate with suppliers and access the expertise of a CAD designer with just a few clicks? This is exactly what Cadfolio is promising with its impressive new platform for the jewellery industry. We caught up with founder Ryan Edkins to find out more…
Professional Jeweller: How did you develop the idea for Cadfolio — a network that connects retailers, suppliers, workshops, brands, stone dealers, CAD designers and 3D printing services?
Ryan Edkins: I am a qualified goldsmith and I trained from the age of 16 to make jewellery by hand. It was during the end of my apprenticeship that CAD design and 3D printing really started coming into its own and was making changes in the industry in terms of bespoke jewellery. I began to invest my time heavily in CAD design, so I’ve nurtured my passion for making jewellery by hand into this modern manufacturing process. Recently, I’ve been working on the retail side of things more and it has given me a good understanding of what a retailer wants from this technology [Cadfolio]. As a manufacturer you just see one side of the coin essentially. A tailored service for a retail-friendly environment that retailers can understand and use easily is something that has been missing from the industry. This is the problem that spurred me on to create Cadfolio.
PJ: When developing the concept was there one instance when you thought ‘there must be something simpler and more efficient’?
RE: The actual process of getting a customer design made is chaotic, especially when you’re sending images over email or trying to describe it over the phone. Or even, and this still happens, where retailers will draw something on a bit of paper and send it in the post because they don’t know how to scan and email it — the process is stuck in the fax era in a way. Being able to submit a design and get it made is essentially what a retailer wants to do.
PJ: For retailers then, does Cadfolio offer a route to designers and manufacturers?
RE: Yes, so a retailer can go on to Cadfolio and see designs already cre ated, or they can get a custom design made. The beauty of it is, once a CAD designer sends the design to them [the retailer], the system automatically knows who their preferred manufacturer is and they can price it in any metal and diamond quality instantly in front of their customer. This is a completely automated process — you send the form to the designer, the design comes back, you open up the email link, you go to Cadfolio and then you’ve got your price there.
PJ: Does this mean that retailers tell Cadfolio who their preferred manufacturer is when they set up their account?
RE: Yes, during the sign-up process they can specify who they currently use for bespoke manufacturing. Most retail- ers have one main person or company they use. What we didn’t want Cadfolio to become was a comparison website, and this was also the feedback we received from the main manufacturers. They didn’t want to be compared by price directly against each other.
PJ: For this to work the manufacturer the retailer uses also has to be signed up to Cadfolio…
RE: That’s correct. We are working with large manufacturers, such as Hockley Mint, who have shown great interest and signed-up, and Weston Beamor. We are also working with some smaller manufacturers too.
PJ: Getting feedback from these manufacturing companies must have been invaluable for the development of Cadfolio…
RE: Yes, I visited them a number of times to get their feedback on processes and things that would benefit them. Cadfolio is not just a system for retailers or designers; it is actually a manufacturing management system as well. Imagine when the retailer places their order for a design and they want it in 18ct gold. A diamond comes from a diamond dealer automatically; the retailer can then track their order through the manufacturer at every point because it’s got an in-built tracking system, so the retailer doesn’t have to get on the phone. They can just get an instant ‘it will be four days from now’ or ‘it is currently being cast’.
PJ: In terms of the practicalities, how does a retailer or manufacturer go about setting this up?
RE: It is a very simple process as we’ve developed plug and play technology. For a workshop, for example, for finishing and repairing work, it is literally just an iPad and a printer label that’s needed. You just start adding jobs to the system. It is a very simplified way of managing business activity, while still recording vast amounts of information in the cloud that can be accessed anywhere.
PJ: For a larger manufacturer will they need to upload their entire product offer to the system?
RE: No, the beauty of it is they just put their ground prices in and the system automatically generates prices for any CAD design instantly. This is possible because CAD designers can add thousands of designs [simply by uploading files to Cadfolio], so pricing is fully automated.
PJ: Do you think people are concerned it is going to be incredibly complicated and that’s what puts them off from signing up?
RE: The hardest thing is to convince people that the system is actually really simple to use. We are aiming to put a lot of time and effort into customer service and helping the trade to understand this new way of manufacturing and doing business. Diamond dealers are really excited and we are talking to the London Diamond Bourse at the moment about listing their members’ stones, and how they can use [Cadfolio] as an inventory management system. For example, a CAD designer may have a design with a 5mm diamond, and the system will automatically search all those diamond dealer inventories, find a perfectly fitting stone and serve it to the retailer instantly.
PJ: Is it fair to say then that everyone benefits in some way?
RE: That’s right because we are bringing all of those different elements of the manufacturing process together in one place, and then automatically matching the most suitable parts together for the retailer within a split second. Imagine on a weekend when all the diamond dealers and manufacturers are closed — Cadfolio allows the retailer to search all of those inventories and get instant prices for thousands of designs on the weekend, while guaranteeing the price they are quoting to the customer is accurate.
PJ: There is also an area of Cadfolio dedicated to 3D printing, what’s the reason behind this?
RE: We’ve split that area off as we don’t know how it is going to go at the moment — we don’t know what 3D printing people will make of it. Manufacturers that have their own 3D printers have been listed already, but there are hundreds of wax printers out there in the UK, so we’ve allowed the workshops and independents that have them to list them and actually get business via the platform. It is allowing them to print for others as well as themselves.
PJ: There’s also an area of Cadfolio dedicated to brands — can you tell us more about this?
RE: Although Cadfolio was originally built around the manufacturing side we quickly realised that what we are really doing is bringing everyone together in one place. To leave out brands and designer-makers wouldn’t be fair and I think they will benefit from this platform too. Cadfolio allows them to have a profile where they can display their designs, interact with their customers and find new ones. It allows [retailers] who might not have usually seen a particular brand to browse through all of the brands that are online within the portal, helping them to find those that would suit their stores. Also what’s really important to mention is that the system offers a news feed and weekly or monthly updates, so companies and brands can connect with each other and their customers.
PJ: Is it fair to say then that there’s also a social network aspect to Cadfolio?
RE: The social side is a very big part of this platform. Users can put out press releases, for example, and groups can be created. The CMJ, for example, could have all its members within a group to discuss issues from a single platform. In this industry people are closed door about everything, but I would love to see more collaboration and industry recognition. We are here together and we can, as a group, make the industry better for everyone.
PJ: When you present the platform at International Jewellery London what do you think the biggest misconceptions will be?
RE: I think there will be people who are scared of technology and they are going to see it as something they are never going to understand, so won’t try. That’s my biggest fear because there is a lot of reluctance to change in our industry. Another thing will be the fear of opening up your business to more customers while allowing your competitors to see more of what you’re doing. This will generate more competition, which some people don’t think is a good thing. I disagree, and think this generates more innovative ideas and progression in our industry.
PJ: What are the costs associated with joining Cadfolio?
RE: For a basic membership it is free of charge to join. This includes creating a profile and connecting with other members to discuss your brand, review the marketplace and see inventories. When you want to buy something from another trader that is when we ask you to upgrade to a professional membership, which is £49 plus VAT [per month]. We want Cadfolio to be an unbiased platform that can really bring the industry together in one central place and allow designer-makers, who perhaps don’t want to pay out, the change to have a profile on the system regardless. I like to think all sectors in the industry will be pleasantly surprised with what Cadfolio can offer them. Not only to increase their customer base, but also to help streamline their business activities.
This feature originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of Professional Jeweller. Read it here.