Is Your Product Ready for Manufacturing?
That idea that was scribbled on a napkin late one night or that popped in your head one morning in the shower is finally ready to come to life. You have discovered an amazing idea for a product and you’ve done some research. It’s clear this product needs to get in the hands of thousands, possibly millions of people. You’re past the initial idea phase, maybe you even have a working prototype you’ve proudly shown off to potential buyers. But where do you go from here? Are you ready for product manufacturing now?
We’ve compiled a checklist of items most frequently requested by manufacturers who are approached by entrepreneurs and innovators like you looking for information to help quote their product and get it into production.
If you can check these items below off the list, you are more likely to find a manufacturer who will be willing to spend time to talk more in-depth with you about your project and the best way to get your product mass-produced.
- Do you have a marketing plan in place for how you will spread the word about your product?
- How will you sell your product? E-commerce or retail stores?
- Does your plan include market analysis, competitive landscape examination, pricing strategies, potential sales channels, etc.?
Lori Greiner, star of Shark Tank and an inventor herself, recommends:
You need to arrange for the sale of your product before you arrange for 10,000 of them to be manufactured. That's where entrepreneurs hurt themselves. They put out thousands and thousands in inventory, which they haven't sold."
Strength of Ownership/Leadership
- Have you and your co-founders launched products at startups before?
- Will your new product be a part of a startup or join other products at an existing company?
A company that has years of operations already under its belt offers more credibility and project viability to a manufacturer. That’s not to say startups with new products won’t be successful, but it’s crucial that a new company with a brand-new product does thorough research and analysis on how their product expects to perform in the marketplace.
- Will you be paying out of pocket for the manufacturing of your products?
- Do you have other sources of capital, possibly through crowdfunding, to get this project off the ground and running?
- Do you have enough funding to run your business and develop your product at the same time?
Perhaps you have had success with major institutions that have been willing to invest in this product to seed its success. It’s possible your project may need a tool made for $10K, $20K, or even $100K+. A successful company needs enough money to operate its business and the cost of its inventory. Get a plan in place and nail down the funding details before you begin your search to have your product manufactured.
- Have you already manufactured your products and shipped them from elsewhere, or will you
need an initial production run to begin? (link to MOQ blog post somewhere in here)
- How many pieces of your product do you plan to purchase for your first order?
- If you’ve already produced and had product shipped, what was the market feedback?
Here’s where having a Marketing Plan in place can help again. Knowing what the market demands from your product will help determine the estimated volumes needed for first production runs, and possibly future production orders.
Is there Intellectual Property (IP) Protection in Place?
Is there another product like yours currently on the market, or is your idea truly one-of-a-kind?
If it is indeed unique, check out the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website and confirm there isn’t a patent already on file for a product out there already related to your idea. If you are ever in doubt of whether your product has been previously trademarked or not, seek out an attorney who specializes in patents and IP law to help ensure your product idea will be protected.
Have you worked with an engineering firm or had outside engineering assistance to help nail down the design of your product?
If your idea is still drawn on that napkin, it’s time to make the smart move to invest time and hard-earned money to work with an engineering company that will mock up your idea into 2D and 3D drawings. Engineering drawings should include time-saving information that helps the manufacturer prepare the most accurate quote on your project.
Details include the product’s material and finish, any tolerances required, dimensions, assembly instructions, packaging requirements and more. Prepare in advance for possible questions from the manufacturer after submitting a drawing package.
Depending on the nature of your product, be sure to do your research on the best manufacturer for your project. Have a cool idea for a device that can speak to other wireless devices in your home? Seek out a manufacturer who specializes in the Internet of Things (IoT). Have an aluminum die-cast thingamajig? Look for a source with extensive knowledge in metal products.
The better the fit with a manufacturer, the more expertise they will be able to bring to the table, the better value for you and your project.
So how does it look? Is everything crossed off your list?
Here’s a helpful graphic to show when it’s time to engage with a manufacturer:
You should look locally for an ideal manufacturing partner as you are starting off and ramping up. You can work side-by-side as production starts to make any final adjustments. Going offshore to start isn’t always the best option.
When you’re ready to contact a manufacturer for mass production, it’s essential to select the one that best suits your needs. In addition to ensuring a solid quality product, the right manufacturer can help with Design for Manufacturing (DFM), IP Protection, offer engineering services, and possibly have “feet on the street” in other countries to help competitively source materials.
Dreaming, developing, and eventually getting your product manufactured can be a long road with plenty of twists and turns. But with careful preliminary research, in-depth planning, and professional consulting in specific areas, it’s likely you’ll enjoy a path to success and have the thrill of watching your idea turn into reality.