Product Design Guide
MVR Product Styling

Source in China or design from scratch?

Soft goods products can cover a wide range of products including bags, clothing, tents and accessories. More often than not, the products we work on are not reinventing these as such, but instead will have a unique feature added. Therefore you might wonder why its not quicker and easier to go straight to a Chinese factory already making these products and ask them to make the adaptation you want. In some cases, this can work but it is rare and very dependent on the factory’s capability and desire to design as well as make. Factory workforces are very good at following a brief and making. When you ask them to design or develop an adaptation, it might take 3 or 4 rounds before getting it right. This can incur you a lot of cost and waste a lot of time. There are several reasons they are unlikely to get it right first time:
– Misunderstanding
The most common one is misunderstanding. This can be due to an unclear brief, not detailed enough design drawings or simple language miscommunication. Every time a sample is sent back to the factory for revisions is more time and money wasted.
– Lack of design skills
Product design skillset is very different to the product making skillset. As a product designer we consider usability, adaptability, materials, aesthetics, product life cycle as well as functionality and manufacturability. This is honed over years of experience of designing different products to solve different problems. A maker is very skilled at understanding design drawings and turning this into a 3D product.
– Motivation
Every factory is working towards the first big order. While they are happy to develop samples in order for them to practice the assembly line and quote accurately. Eventually, their interest and motivation will fade if an order is not insight. Therefore going directly to the factory to develop an idea will not give you the timeline and iterations you may require to get the product right before having to commit to a full order and not lose factory interest.

How to avoid this?

Ideally you want your design to be finalised and ready for the first sample to be made before contacting a factory. The best way to communicate the design to a factory is through a manufacturing specification. This technical document provides the factory with everything they need to know to make the first sample and quote accurately. This is the document factories expect to receive and so it shows them you are serious about taking the product through to manufacture and placing an order. In order to attain a manufacturing specification design and prototype stages are carried out to refine the design and communicate it in a clear way which is unlikely to change to much during the manufacturing stages. However, there are ways you can use sourced components within your prototyping stages, and even in your final product at manufacture, to save you time and money. Read this article which explains our top tips for a minimal viable approach using sourced components.
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