So now the rubber really hits the road!
This is obviously the point all entrepreneurs want to get to with their idea. Making your product so that you can get it into people's hands and see the delight on their faces as they discover how great your idea is.
Getting your head around what it will take to manufacture your product can seem even more daunting than the other 5 steps before! But there are some simple things you can do to make the journey easier and some fantastic resources available.
LICENCE OR MANUFACTURE
The first thing you should do is think about the two main routes to getting a product manufactured.
- license the design to someone else to make, or
- set up a company to manufacture, market and sell the product
There are pros and cons to both options but the key questions you should ask yourself are:
- is my idea totally new to the market? (unlikely someone will license from you)
- am I happy to let someone else take on the manufacturing even if it takes longer? (license your idea)
- do I want to maintain control over the design and make something totally faithful to the original idea (don't try and license it)
- am I ready to make this my full-time job (you should set up a company around the idea)
- am I willing to put the time into making sure I get fairly paid my royalties every year (licensing is for you!)
- do I feel invested in a brand around my idea (you need to manufacture through your own company)
If you are starting to feel licensing might be more for you we recommend reading "One Simple Idea" by Stephen Key.
If you think you'd rather be more in control of how your product comes to market and the brand associated with it then you're probably going to need to find some manufacturing partners. If you've engaged with some professional designers they will most likely be able to help with this. But either way there are some really important things to understand about manufacturing.
- as a boot-strapping entrepreneur you want to get accurate quotes for manufacturing your product from a range of suppliers but manufacturers are sometimes unwilling to quote for work that they feel they are unlikely to get (time is money)
- you can deal with this situation by using a "one-stop shop" or one of the emerging online services that acts as a broker on your behalf
- understand the difference between "design" and "design for manufacture". The first can start the conversation with a manufacturer and could be a sketch or rendering. The latter is design that has been done in a specialist way that manufacturers can really understand and accurately quote against
- do your homework on the certification and testing that your product will require especially if you plan to sell into different countries with different product safety laws
One of the best resources we have come across for helping you to understand the world of manufacturing is the Dragon Innovation website. They act as a "one-stop shop" to help you right through the process including the selection of an appropriate place to make your product.
One big topic at the moment is whether to manufacture locally or in places like the Far East. There's no simple answer to this but when you are getting quotes you should always seek to understand the "landed" cost which includes shipping, import taxes and so on.
Don't forget about Assembly
One thing you must keep in mind is that the process of manufacturing a product nearly always involves more than one part (unless you're making something very simple). So, you have to think about how each part is made and then how they are assembled together. Much of the cost can be found in the assembly and if something is fiddly to put together the cost per unit can sky-rocket. Also, many quality issues with a product can come from the assembly stage. It's one thing to make sure a plastic part will survive being dropped but once you attach that part to something else it becomes much more complicated. Should it be glued or screwed? Has the assembly process caused some kind of weakness in the joint?
In the early days you will be tempted to assemble your first batch of products yourself to keep costs down. Weight this up against the risk of product returns due to failures in assembly.
Ensure you have not underestimated the cost of manufacturing. It is never just the cost of materials, the labour and delivery because there are usually capital costs associated with new 'tooling' required to make your product.
Depending on where you decide to manufacture you might need to understand the cost of shipping and import taxes.
- Do you want direct contact with your manufacturer or do you want to delegate this to an agent?
- Where do you want to manufacture? UK or abroad?
- There's always some level of returns. With all the best will in the world and the best manufacturers, something will go wrong. What % of returns can you afford?
- How will you manage it if manufacturing is abroad? Will they go to waste or will you ship them back to the factory?
- What will you do with returns if they do not biodegrade or can not be repurposed?
This final step always takes longer than people like to admit. It might take six months to get your design ready for manufacture and source the appropriate partners.
Then there will be the time to make the tooling and a quality manufacturer will go through several rounds of prototype production providing you with samples to test and approve. This does not have to be 'wasted' time as you can use it to market your product, get your business ship-shape and be ready for when the real hard work starts.
Probably the single greatest quality you will need to turn your idea into a product is RESILIENCE.
So fail fast and often, seek out the people who will ask the challenging questions and find yourself the right team to get you over the finishing line.
Worked through the six steps on the Entrepreneur Design Hub but still need some help?
If you want to contact us directly you can do that here.