When working with outside suppliers and vendors to take your idea into manufacturing, there are many pitfalls that can hurt your chances as an Entrepreneur for a successful product introduction. Manufacturing a product is a process that must be followed with rigor. There are five common pitfalls that entrepreneurs encounter when taking their product into production. Review the advice below and improve your chances of a successful manufacturing introduction.
Take Ownership of the Design and Manufacturing Tooling
When working with outside suppliers to design and manufacturing a product, it is important that you maintain ownership of the product design as well as any manufacturing tooling. For example, the supplier might be hired to design and prototype the product per your specifications. If you are paying this supplier, it is important that you make it clear that you own the product design, intellectual property, and the entire computer aided design (CAD) files generated. Be wary when a supplier performs all the design work for free but will not allow you access to any of the original design files.
It is usually necessary to purchase production tooling in order to fabricate your product. This could include plastic injection molding tools or metal stamping tools. If this is the case for your product, be sure that any money you pay gives you full ownership of the tools and allows you to move them to another supplier if necessary. Supplier-owned tooling puts you at a severe disadvantage when negotiating the price of your product.
Sign off on all Manufacturing and Design Changes
One of the scariest situations in manufacturing is when changes are being made to the product without the client’s knowledge. Changes should only be made to resolve an issue or defect and change require a large suite of qualification prior to implementation. Therefore, it is necessary that all changes are approved by the client. Without knowledge of these changes, the client will most likely be surprised when new production units arrive.
Many times throughout prototyping and manufacturing, the supplier might say “We’ll solve that issue in the next batch of products” when discussing a current issue or defect. This isn’t an acceptable solution since there is no proof that the solution will resolve the issue. Be sure to make new prototypes with each change prior to kicking off a new order of production units.
Know the Price at all Order Quantities
Early in the relationship with a supplier, it is important that the client knows the product purchase price at all manufacturing quantities. Many times, a supplier will provide an enticing price quote for an extremely high quantity of products that is usually higher than the needs of the client. Chances are low that an entrepreneur’s first order will be a high quantity and therefore it is important to know the cost structure and supply chain costs at all order quantities. It is recommended that you get cost estimates at 1,000, 10,000, and 100,000 order quantities so you can get a good idea of the costs across all volumes. This will also give you an indication of the supplier’s ability and desire to supply low and high quantities. This will ensure that there are no surprises when you make your first orders.
Buy Only what is Necessary for Immediate Sales
Only buy as many products as you need to fulfill the immediate demand of your product. There is a high chance that changes will be required as you begin to sell you product so minimizing the number ordered will eliminate the expensive reworks or repairs required.
There are many entrepreneurs who are “up-sold” to higher quantity orders in order to get a lower price. There are some other entrepreneurs who are shocked to learn that a supplier is unwilling to take a low quantity order and will not work with the customer unless they order a higher quantity. It is important that you know the prices at all order quantities early in the relationship with the supplier. If the supplier is unwilling to fulfill low quantities in the range of 1,000 products, you probably should move to another supplier.
Don’t Pay until Quality is Confirmed
Finally, many suppliers will ask for 100% of the payment up front in order to start the product production. If you pay all the money up front, then you run the risk of having no recourse if the product does not meet your specifications upon receipt. It is more standard to pay 50% up front with the final 50% due upon receipt of your products.
You should also verify that the product meets all your specifications and quality levels upon receipt prior to paying the final 50% of the payment. Verify that the product meets all the specifications including product dimensions and materials as called out on the 2-dimensional prints and operational specifications as called out on the product specification document. With respect to verifying the materials, be sure to ask for Certification of Conformance on all the materials used in the product as it is important that no changes have been made since the prototypes were supplied.
When entering into manufacturing, be sure to own the design and tools, monitor all changes, know the pricing structure, buy only as many products as you need, and pay when quality is confirmed. This will ensure that you don’t fall into any of the pitfalls of manufacturing and successfully get your product into the hands of customers.
Need more information? Please contact us with any questions or contact me directly at joseph.donoghue ( at ) leardon.com