Choosing a Product Manufacturing Company

Overview

Manufacturing products is a complex process that requires careful planning and execution. Finalising the product design, selecting the right manufacturing partner, investing in prototyping and testing, and understanding manufacturing costs are all critical steps in ensuring the success of your product. In addition, it is essential to consider other key factors such as domestic vs. overseas manufacturing, vetting potential manufacturers, questions to ask, negotiating terms, and cost-saving strategies.

Step 1 – Finalise the Design of your Product

One of the most critical steps in the process of manufacturing a product is to finalise its design. Without a finalised design, it is impossible to accurately estimate the cost of manufacturing or to create a realistic timeline for production. Therefore, it is essential to invest adequate time and resources into designing a product that is not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing.

To ensure that your product design is as detailed and finalized as possible, it is recommended to use Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software. CAD software allows you to create precise design blueprints, making it easier to communicate with manufacturers and ensure that your product is manufactured exactly to your specifications. Additionally, consulting with a product designer can provide you with professional insights on design optimisation, which can help you improve the functionality and aesthetics of your product.

Woman carrying out quality control on a product during manufacturing

Step 2 – Choose between Domestic or Overseas Manufacturing

When it comes to manufacturing your product, one of the key decisions you’ll need to make is whether to choose a domestic or overseas manufacturer. Each option has its own set of pros and cons. Domestic manufacturing might offer shorter lead times, easier communication, and potentially fewer logistics issues. However, it can also be more expensive due to higher labour costs and greater regulatory requirements. On the other hand, overseas manufacturers often have greater production capacity. However, it can also present challenges such as language barriers, cultural differences, longer lead times, and potential quality control issues.

Step 3 – Vetting Potential Manufacturers

Once you’ve decided on a geographical location, it’s important to start vetting potential manufacturers. Look for manufacturers with experience in your product category and ask for references and samples of their work. It’s also wise to visit the factory in person, if possible, to get a sense of their operations and capacity. Other ways to vet a manufacturer include checking their online reviews, contacting trade associations or business organisations, and consulting with other businesses in your industry. Also don’t forget to ask the manufacturer to provide English speaking references who you can contact.

D2M team inspecting prototype and materials with a client

Case Study: Choosing the right product manufacturer

As someone who’s worked in the baby product industry for years, I know how challenging it can be to launch a new pushchair. For one of my clients, a brand committed to creating the safest, most innovative pushchair on the market, the journey from concept to product launch was a long and meticulous one.

The biggest challenge we faced was finding the right manufacturing partner. Our client was determined to manufacture their pushchair in the UK to ensure the highest standards of safety and ethical manufacturing practices. However, we soon realised that the UK’s supply chain for pushchair manufacturing was dwindling, which prompted us to explore global manufacturing options.

I set our sights on the world’s largest trade show for the baby product industry in Germany, which promised access to a vast array of manufacturers, particularly in the Far East. However, with so many options available, it was crucial to find a manufacturing partner that could deliver on our client’s high standards of safety, quality, and design innovation. Read on to find out what happened later in the article.

Step 4 – Questions to Ask

It’s important to ask the right questions. Inquire about their minimum order quantities (MOQs), lead times, experience with similar products, and their quality control processes. Understanding their capabilities and limitations upfront can help prevent misunderstandings and disappointments down the line.

Man writing notes during manufacturing negotiations

Step 5 – Negotiating Terms

Once you’ve selected a manufacturer, it’s important to negotiate terms that protect your interests. This includes clarity on pricing, delivery schedules, payment terms, and what happens in the event of quality issues or delays. A contract with your manufacturer is essential, but it’s also important to build a good working relationship to ensure long-term success. Make sure the contract includes details of what happens in various worse case scenarios.

Step 6 – Understanding Manufacturing Costs

A clear understanding of the costs involved in manufacturing your product is essential for pricing it correctly and ensuring profitability. You need to consider factors such as manufacturing costs, tooling and setup costs, MOQs, and cost-saving strategies. Explore strategies to reduce costs without compromising on quality. This might include ordering larger quantities to benefit from economies of scale, simplifying your product design, or substituting expensive materials with more cost-effective alternatives where possible.

A clear understanding of the costs involved in manufacturing your product is essential for pricing it correctly and ensuring profitability. Here’s what you need to consider:

Manufacturing Costs:

    • What does the manufacturer’s quote include and not include.

    • What are the MOQs.

    • How long is the price fixed for?

    • Complete tooling and setup costs.

    • Cost for tooling alterations.

    • All potential cost saving strategies investigated and applied where appropriate.

D2M's product in John Lewis after a successful launch

Case Study – Choosing the right product manufacturer continued

To select the right manufacturing partner, we embarked on a meticulous selection process that involved evaluating manufacturers based on their displayed products, quality of materials, and design innovation. We also engaged in detailed conversations with each manufacturer to understand their capabilities, safety standards compliance, and willingness to collaborate.

We created a shortlist and then visited their factories over the next few months. Various factories were eliminated due to basic issues like no doors on the staff toilets (would you believe it!), dark and dingy working conditions or revelations once the factory owner was bit drunk. A good and honest translator was critical for these investigative trips!

Finally we found an ideal manufacturing partner who was the perfect size for our requirements and eager to start working with us. We completed the rest of the steps outlined here and produced the first 300 products. It passed the EU certification and got the senior buyers approval at John Lewis, so we must have done something right!

Conclusion

    • Ensure that you are comparing apples to apples by interrogating the quotes.

    • Prep a manufacturing contract. (You might need a commercial solicitor for this.)

    • Create comparison tables to compare manufacturers on a range of criteria. Weigh what’s critical for you and your product.

    • Take references before commissioning and ideally meet them in person.

    • Finally, consider the payment terms offered by the manufacturer and their impact on your cash flow.

In summary, to ensure success in manufacturing your product, it’s essential to consider factors such as domestic vs. overseas manufacturing, vetting potential manufacturers, negotiating terms and understanding manufacturing costs. By taking a strategic approach and investing adequate time and resources into each step of the process, you can set your product up for success and achieve your business goals.

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