Meeting demand in the pandemic: Why the world’s largest materials marketplace trusts Talend and Passerelle

By Talend Team

Material Bank, the world’s largest materials marketplace, provides a fast and powerful way to search and sample fixtures, construction materials, and textiles from hundreds of different brands. They serve both direct customers and retailers in the architecture and design industry, including massive companies such as Ethan Allen, Home Depot, and Lowe’s.

Meeting demand during lockdown

Material Bank logoMaterial Bank logoRecently, Material Bank moved out of their 75,000-square-foot warehouse into a new, 380,000-square-foot facility. To keep pace with shipping demands, they station a FedEx 18-wheeler outside the warehouse throughout the day. But during the COVID-19 lockdown, many of the designers who are Material Bank’s target customers started working from home. If the company was going to continue to guarantee overnight shipping — now to private residences as well as offices and stores — they would have to rethink their distribution process.

Keeping track of this volume of orders and shipments is no mean feat — which is why Material Bank turned to Passerelle and Talend. “We would either have to build a 25- to 50-person team to work with Mulesoft, or hire just one or two engineers to work with Talend. It was a no-brainer from there,” says Juan Lopez, Material Bank’s EVP of Engineering.

Passerelle logoPasserelle logoThe data experts at Passerelle helped Material Bank build an inventory system that would provide real-time status updates on thousands of items. Lopez explains, “With the new tracking system, our customers — or ourselves — can query the API and say, ‘I put in an order this morning. Did you pack it? How many did you pack? Give me the tracking numbers.’ And then the data feeds directly to the customer’s website.” By coordinating both the incoming and outgoing orders, Talend orchestrates both ends of the business.

Thanks to this new approach, Material Bank has been able to increase their productivity when it comes to shipping. “Healthy data has enabled us to ship over a thousand packages a day, and we expect to ramp up to tens of thousands per day by the end of this year,” explains Lopez.

A fleet of autonomous robots stand at the ready in Material Bank’s expansive new logistics hub A fleet of autonomous robots stand at the ready in Material Bank’s expansive new logistics hub

Building the future — with APIs

In addition to managing an inventory of millions of SKUs (with 600 attributes per product), Passerelle and Talend are helping Material Bank establish a third-party selling system, which gives retailers like Ethan Allen the ability to offer samples on their store site that are fulfilled by Material Bank.

Talend’s Cloud API services connect the store’s ordering system directly to Material Bank’s warehouse management system. Material Bank then ships the swatch or sample directly to the customer so they can try it at home and see how they like it before they make a final purchase.

This system had been in the works for some time. “We were talking about APIs way before we actually had the first third-party fulfillment customer — before Ethan Allen, before Home Depot. We already knew that this would be the future. Now the future is here,” Lopez says. “I've never seen something go up so fast. And with no problems. We could literally go to market with a new customer in a week.”

Material Bank continues to grow rapidly. They now have one of the world’s largest digital sample catalogs, with over a million SKUs seamlessly loaded into AWS, thanks to Talend. Operations can be trusted to run seamlessly to fulfill orders and meet client expectations. Lopez credits Passerelle and Talend with this impressive achievement: “We are going to pursue every opportunity in front of us, really fast and really aggressively. Some are going to be successful, some are not. But having Talend in the middle keeps us going all day long. Otherwise we couldn’t do it. Talend is the center of our org and the most important software that we have today, hands down.”