There are several interesting and compounding steps towards bringing a product dream or design to reality. We must apply ourselves to every stage of that process in order to achieve a good result.
Yet while it’s true much research and design investment must be placed into the formulation of an idea, and the slow but sure legal protections you apply for in order to define this intellectual property as yours help actualize that, this is just one of the first steps in the process.
If you’ve ever seen television shows like Shark Tank or Dragon’s Den, you know that many would-be entrepreneurs are happy to accept selling equity in their business for a large initial investment. But it’s not necessarily the cash injection they’re hoping to achieve here, or at least, not solely, as they’re also acquiring the connections, guidance, and full-process production cycle expertise from an industry veteran.
For many entrepreneurs and the small first they follow, solidifying all elements of this production cycle is one of the foremost mountains they must climb. In this post, we hope to inform you as you make those decisions along the way.
There are frequent decisions to be made as you hope to bring a product through the manufacturing stage. We’ll outline various choices you will need to make before bringing your product to market, helping you achieve the best-manufactured product while getting the most value for your investment.
How do you get a product manufactured?
Before you even begin with this process, you must have solidified all aspects of your design stage. Confirming that the product can be manufactured using the chosen materials, knowing that the dimensions are properly established, and even curating a prototype model by outsourcing the manufacture of a sample product can prove that mass production if possible is necessary.
It’s also important to make certain that your product meets the established standards of regulatory boards and the rules placed upon your industry. For instance, many products must meet electrical safety standards, and depending on the materials you’re using, must conform to fire safety regulations. This is not a pursuit you take care of during manufacturing, these decisions must have been asked and answered before you decide to locate a manufacturing firm ready to take on your project.
It’s also important to understand what a manufacturer is there to do. Sure, their primary purpose will be putting your product together and making sure every part works, but finishing a product requires more than fitting pieces together or designing an automated process for speedy manufacturing. They will source all of the essential components for putting your products together, which contributes to the overall supply chain you will rely on to gain access to your products.
They will also establish essential testing and quality assurance procedures, conform to compliance standards, and of course, manage the labor and expertise that fuels this entire enterprise. Manufacturers, then, are responsible for taking an idea and giving it true form, providing the end value to your customers.
This is why sourcing the right manufacturer is so essential.
How do you source a manufacturer?
Some manufacturers will be more suited than others for taking on your product. Note, this might not mean that the manufacturer you choose now will also be suitable for the next product you design. For that reason, a bespoke solution must be sought after each time.
If you have connections in the industry, it might be that recommendations for certain manufacturing outfits are given to you. It’s healthy to look over these, but be forewarned that recommendations aren’t enough to make a final decision.
For instance, if your company places a high value on sourcing sustainable materials, it’s important to select a manufacturer with experience procuring those for their supply chain. It’s also a good idea to opt for manufacturers that are familiar with producing the kind of product you have designed. If you’re hoping to have a range of camping tents manufactured, opting for a firm with experience in this specialist field is essential.
There are several factors that may contribute to which manufacturer you ultimately select. Note that opting for the cheapest service doesn’t necessarily translate to finding the best value. It’s important to make sure they can source the materials you need, that you are given exact estimates for how much volume they can put out, what their logistics network is like, where they’re located, and how much experience they have – which can define the speed of manufacturing and the quality assurance they provide.
Furthermore, remember that not all manufacturing outfits will have the necessary specialized skillsets for curating elements of your particular product. This may limit where you source your manufacturing. For instance, right now, China is dominating Lithium-Ion battery production.
Why is it so important to vet manufacturers?
Remember that manufacturing businesses are just that, businesses, and so it’s important to look over their prior product portfolio and make sure they can take on your project, rather than taking their promises at face value.
It is possible to hire a sourcing agent to better connect you with possible manufacturing firms. They will act as an intermediary to help source and arrange a meeting between the two parties and provide you with a plethora of options you can consider. However, it’s important to vet the agent you hire to make sure they aren’t receiving sponsorship for pushing their clients in a certain direction.
Quality assurance is everything. You need to make sure that uniform standards are applied. Additionally, manufacturing is never perfect, and so the promise of having defective items replaced and bulk orders discounted can be healthy. Makes sure you attend a full tour of the factory should you wish for the best results. This will help you view the conditions and manufacturing process for yourself.
It’s also healthy to establish regular on-site visits by either a representative of your firm, or an appointment by your firm set up ahead of time. You have a right to know the details of your manufacturing process and to see the production cycle in action. Most transparent firms will be happy to provide you with this.
Should I opt for domestic vs. overseas sourcing?
Opting for domestic manufacturing services can be very beneficial. Up to 70% of people in the United States, for instance, say that they’d be willing to pay up to 20% for a product manufactured in America rather than overseas. This has also become quite a branding tactic for many firms in recent years, too, as supporting US businesses and making sure that manufacturing standards fall within the strict regulations of the western market can be reassuring for those purchasing goods.
Furthermore, having your product patent established in the United States can help you more easily defend your intellectual property, as certain countries, including this one, tend to take copyright and intellectual property law more seriously, and prosecute infractions more readily, than other nations.
China is the biggest manufacturing nation on Earth, and may also be suitable for your firm depending on the needs you have. A big reason many firms around the globe choose countries like China and Indonesia for manufacturing is their much cheaper labor costs. Of course, cheaper costs can sometimes come with certain concessions that you have to make. For instance, copyright law in some countries isn’t as strong or easy to enforce on your behalf. This is why it’s somewhat understood that similar low-quality Chinese products often make it to market as alternatives to the big brands, skirting legal protections that may not be so easy to navigate through elsewhere.
Furthermore, while it’s true that many firms in countries like China operate with the height of professionalism, there will be something of a cultural and possible language barrier that you need to adapt to when solidifying this business relationship. For you, that may be worth the cost, and conform more than reliably with your best practices and intentions. Yet it’s best to weigh the pros and cons of each option, and what your firm is prepared to deal with.
What are compliance & manufacturing standards?
Manufacturing standards are defined by government regulatory bodies. They define that products must conform to essential standards when being manufactured in order to ensure safety, and in some cases, contribute to essential larger initiatives, such as being produced with environmental protection as a necessary feature. For instance, many firms that manufacture using industrial spray paint equipment as part of their process must install regenerative thermal oxidizers to burn the harmful vapors and convert that to harmless steam as necessary.
Depending on what market you hope to sell in, manufacturing standards can differ. For instance, while manufacturing standards might differ in an overseas manufacturing plant, bringing the product home and placing it as part of your national market must mean it is approved by the regulatory bodies for sale, conforming to the standards they set out. To use an example, the European Union is known to have some of the strictest regulatory standards possible for the production and sale of goods.
It’s important to make sure you are familiar with those necessities and network of standards your product must adhere to before sale. This must be an essential part of your design process before manufacturing begins. Negotiations with manufacturing services must always touch on this topic, and guarantees must be made in your contract that every effort will be undertaken to meet these compliance standards. If opting for manufacturing firms in your country you hope to sell your products in, this confirmation is likely to be easier to gain.
How does manufacturing influence branding?
Manufacturing is not only the process of getting your product made, but it can also influence how you market your firm and to what degree you are transparent about your process. As mentioned above, the ‘made in the US’ stamp you can place on products are likely to be looked at favorably by those who wish to support businesses within their own economy.
Sustainable manufacturing processes using sustainable materials are also popular with the increasingly aware and interested consumer base you may hope to appeal to. Transparency is becoming an improved means of establishing customer goodwill and trust. Customers may even be willing to pay more for a product that is proven to be crafted with sustainable products in a non-toxic environment, especially if those sustainable materials are sourced in a sustainable, fair manner.
Manufacturing is also a numbers game. You must make to-scale orders of your product, or work out a contract with how many units a manufacturing firm will provide to your business within a certain span of time. It’s important to make sure you curate those estimates appropriately and make sure that your supply chain is resilient enough to handle that.
As of 2021, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and additional market trends, such as the acquiring of computer parts like graphics processor units for cryptocurrency mining, have made the procurement of silicon chips more and more difficult. As a result, even large global firms like Sony have had trouble acquiring the materials to manufacture enough video games consoles to meet consumer demand. As you can see, market shifts and compounding procurement problems can cause issues for even established firms.
You can’t control every element of this process, but you can make decisions that help you establish optimized output that will end up being satisfactory for your goods.
Where does packaging fit into the manufacturing process?
Packaging and assembly are essential parts of the manufacturing process, but it’s not always the case that all firms can provide this service. Sometimes, a manufacturing firm may be able to provide this necessity, other times, delivery of your products to another manufacturing service to take part in that stage of the process is important. This means making sure both businesses are synchronized and communicative can be essential, and this will be a part of your negotiation and hiring process.
With this advice, we hope you can curate your manufacturing chain in the most reliable, efficient and valuable manner possible.