It can be quite a challenge to find a manufacturer -- one you like working with and whose factory produces a quality product at a fair price. Here are some tips on how to navigate through the process of finding one, as well as how to optimize your relationship with your manufacturer so that you -- and your customers -- are happy. For more infor visit: http://www.focuspdm.com/
Step 1: Creating a Prototype
Creating a working prototype or finding someone who can do it for you is the first step in the manufacturing process. During my early days, I was able to sew most of my prototypes. But as my product, Planecomfort, was refined and the components used and the skills necessary to create the product I envisioned moved beyond my sewing expertise, I knew I needed help. Searching online, I found a wonderful yet small cut-and-sew business in northern California called Left in Stitches.
This relationship proved valuable to me in a number of ways. They not only helped refine my original prototype, but they offered many suggestions and ideas for making the product easier to manufacture. Many of these smaller domestic companies offer prototyping services that are invaluable to new entrepreneurs.
Once you have a prototype, there is quality and design testing and tweaking. At each stage of development, and every time I received the newer version of my product, I washed, dried, pulled, stretched, zipped, unzipped, and put my product through the proverbial "ringer." Making sure your product will exceed your customers' expectations is a sure way to keep them coming back and referring your product to others.
Ideally, you want to have a dozen or so finished prototypes. Manufacturers will want one or two samples sent to them as a reference to compare to the finished product their factory is making.
I thought I would be able to use Left in Stitches for the long term, but due to logistical reasons and production costs, I had to find an overseas manufacturer. Moving your manufacturing operations overseas means you want large quantities (usually thousands) of the item you are producing. If you want hundreds of something, you may be better off working with a domestic manufacturer.
Step 2: Finding a Manufacturer
I located my overseas manufacturers through referrals, which provided me with an immediate level of comfort and confidence with these factories. One referral came from a fabric manufacturer. Most fabric manufacturers have relationships with product manufacturers.
Another factory was referred to me by a marketing services company. This company manufactures both soft and hard goods and was happy to provide their contact with another business opportunity. Call domestic manufacturers and inquire about their overseas connections. Ask everyone you know if they know someone who manufactures the type of products you are creating. Search online for companies with products similar to yours and call them. Who do they use? How did they get started? My experience is that most people will want to help you.
I found it was best to work with at least two different companies when trying to decide who will win your business. Who is easiest to work with? Who meets (or beats) your expectations? Is one more knowledgeable than the other? Having a comparison is essential to ensure you are getting a quality product at a fair price.
There are two common ways you can deal with overseas manufacturing. You can find a broker or agent in the U.S. that represents the factory, or deal with a factory directly.
Once you have determined who you might like to work with, you must check references on your contact and the factory. Some of the important questions to ask:
Was the product made to specifications?
What percentage of the shipment was defective?
If there was a problem with the shipment, did the factory make restitution?
Were deadlines met? If not, what did the factory offer to make amends?
Is what was promised delivered?
How is the quality of goods they produce?
How long have you worked with this person and factory?
How many orders have you placed?
Is your contact easy to work with?
Is he/she responsive to calls and emails?
What type of projects does the factory excel in producing? Soft goods, hard goods?
What types of companies do they normally work with?
Who is responsible for landing the goods in the U.S.?
Text by Ann Merlini, founder of Pac'n Nap, LLC.
For more information on How to Design and Manufacture a Product visit: http://www.focuspdm.com/