3 keys to product manufacturing for startups
Insights from a veteran designer on delivering your product to market
So, you’ve created an innovative concept, one that fills a niche in the market, and are ready to take it to the next level. We’re here with some advice for getting your product manufactured and into the hands of your customers as efficiently as possible.
I’ve led new product development for local companies for 15+ years and work with clients every day to bring brilliant consumer products to market. Our team has partnered with dozens of start-ups navigating the pitfalls of manufacturing, and even help established companies who’ve developed multiple products and know the ropes become more agile and proficient.
Your team, and the investments you make in the process, will play an integral part in your success or failure as a company.
Below are three tips for getting your idea from the prototype stage to a finished product.
Ensure your design is optimized for manufacturing
Design for Manufacturability (DFM) cannot happen soon enough in the product development process. Very early on, you should envision where you want your product to be mass produced, and what type of manufacturing processes you want to use, with target costs of goods sold.
Most companies get all the way through prototyping and testing before they task their designers to make each component easy and cost effective to manufacture.
The mistake here is waiting too long, and DFM changes end up being band-aids on a flawed architecture.
Teach your industrial designers to think about how the parts will be made and incorporate those strategies in the sketch phase. We also advise having your designers and engineers tear down and rebuild the production prototype over and over to ensure the design has been optimized for assembly.
Documentation and addressing those assembly pain points will lead to less scrap later down the road.
Invest in a good supply chain manager
There are dozens of individual components that make up a product’s “bill of materials” (BOM), and many will come from different sources, which is why investing in a good supply chain manager is key. A savvy supply chain expert will connect your team with the right manufacturers and can help navigate potential hiccups or delays in the process.
Your supply chain manager will act as an advocate for your product and someone who thinks ahead and is capable of sourcing supplier back-ups for each component production the BOM, in the case certain suppliers falls through. They will also be informed on tariffs, shortages of raw materials, geopolitical supply chain issues, and lead times due to COVID-19 or other potential shipping delays (i.e. Chinese New Year, if you are manufacturing oversees).
A good supply chain manager will also look after quality control, assuring your production partners are continuously making a good component to your specifications.
Time is money and choosing a reliable, dedicated supply chain manager will save you big-time in the long run. Going at this on your own is overwhelming and tedious, and your time is better spent marketing and securing orders and customers.
Choose a strong supply chain
Trusting your suppliers is also a major component to the manufacturing process and building a strong supply chain will be significant to your outcome. Due diligence is key here. Interview suppliers like you would an employee and ask for references.
Will they deliver on time, and be financially accountable for delays? Will they stand behind their quality? What is their communication process? Do they have a dedicated project manager? Weekly manufacturing meeting?
In addition, if feasible, check out their shop floor. Is it clean and tidy? It will likely reflect the attitude they have for their customers, qualify and communication. The old adage that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link couldn’t be more applicable here.
Your product needs 100% of its individual parts to be ready to deliver to your customers, and one delayed or faulty part can ruin a timely product launch and lead to disappointed consumers.
Having a complete and masterful team throughout the entire manufacturing journey will be the foundation and greatest asset in bringing your product (and successive products) to life. Your company will greatly benefit from building these strong relationships out of the gate to enhance your entrepreneurial journey and path to success.
Marc Hanchak is the founder of Denver-based LINK Product Development.