Bridging the talent gap: This startup lets manufacturing companies hire skilled workers on demand

by Michael Hines
December 17, 2018
FactoryFix on-demand work startup
PHOTO VIA SHUTTERSTOCK

Finding skilled talent in the tech world isn’t easy. Turns out, it’s a major problem for the manufacturing industry as well.

FactoryFix founder Patrick O’Rahilly knows all about the staffing struggles manufacturing companies face. In 2007 he co-founded Compass Automation, an Elgin-based company that built custom automation machines for factories. Compass grew quickly, landing at number 55 on the 2014 Inc. 500 list. However, that growth brought new challenges.

“You never know when deals will land,” said O’Rahilly. “We’d have constant swings where we needed a bunch of people for a short time to hit a delivery date and other periods when we didn’t have a lot of work and were overstaffed.”

Compass did what many manufacturing companies do when faced with a shortage of skilled workers: They turned to a staffing firm. However, the firms they worked with often struggled to understand the nuances of the highly skilled and technical positions the company was trying to fill.

In search of a better solution, O’Rahilly began work on FactoryFix, a marketplace that connects skilled workers to manufacturing companies.

The company launched in December 2015 and initially focused on project-based work for automation manufacturing professionals. FactoryFix’s focus quickly expanded to include contract-to-hire and direct-hire roles, and the startup also expanded its candidate pool to include machinists, engineers, maintenance technicians and more.

“I wanted to jump into technology pretty much my whole life, and this was the perfect opportunity,” said O’Rahilly. “I knew this idea would solve a real problem right away in an industry that tends to be slow to adapt to the digital world.”

I knew this idea would solve a real problem right away in an industry that tends to be slow to adapt to the digital world.”

 

While the industry as a whole may be slow to adopt new technologies, O’Rahilly said the reception to FactoryFix has been positive. That’s likely due to the fact that the startup aims to make it as easy as possible to fill open positions. In addition to handling the sourcing, vetting and interviewing of candidates, FactoryFix handles all time sheets and payment, with the company taking a cut from the billable hours logged.

For companies, the goal is to provide the best aspects of an online job board — affordability and the ability to reach a wide audience — with the hands-on approach of a staffing firm. O’Rahilly said FactoryFix further differentiates with its subject matter expertise and focus on data.

“We’re collecting data on the types of machines candidates know and the materials and brands they’re familiar with, so that we can build up a more robust profile,” he said. “That allows us to match workers to companies with those specific machines in their factories.”

In addition to helping factories staff up, the company also sees itself as bringing the gig economy to workers who have been largely ignored by startups in the space. One of O’Rahilly’s goals is to enable manufacturing professionals to secure side gigs when they want to and make it easier for them to find higher-paying opportunities.

O’Rahilly said FactoryFix has about 2,000 workers and 200 companies on its platform, all of which are in a 200-mile radius of Chicago.

The team has a current headcount of 12, a number which will double in 2019 thanks to a recent $1.5 million funding round. The company moved its headquarters to Madison, Wisconsin while raising the round, but plans to keep and grow its Chicago-based sales office. In addition to growing its team, FactoryFix will expand into Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan in 2019.

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