You’ve come up with a great product idea. Maybe you’ve even designed a prototype. But if your product is too complex or expensive for you to produce in bulk, it’s time to start working with a manufacturer.
Choosing the right manufacturer can be a complex process: Many will likely turn down your company because your production needs aren’t large enough for them to bother with you. With others, their standards may not be up to the quality that you need. Here are some tips for choosing a manufacturing partner that will work well with your business.
Research manufacturers to find the best fit for your company. First, decide whether you want a U.S.-based manufacturer, or if you’d rather outsource overseas to China or another country. There are pros and cons to each model: U.S.-made products are generally better quality and are an easier sell to discerning consumers, while internationally manufactured products have cheaper costs for labor and parts (though overseas shipping can add up). Consider your audience to determine whether image or cost is a higher priority. Once you’ve made your choice, browse manufacturers’ websites to learn more about their qualifications and criteria: The National Association of Manufacturers’ Buyers Guide provides listings for U.S.-based manufacturers in a wide range of industries. To find an international manufacturer, try an international sourcing site like AliBaba.com. Check out references and images of the other products the manufacturer has produced to make sure that the supplier’s quality meets your standards.
Be prepared. Want a manufacturer to take you seriously? Then be sure you’ve done all the necessary research and groundwork before meeting with one. If possible, create your own product prototype or hire someone to construct it; if the product is sophisticated, work with a product engineer who can advise you on how feasible your concept is to mass-produce before building the prototype. You’ll also need an estimated budget and a business plan that states your goals for the product and its manufacturing needs. Remember, you’re not just choosing a manufacturer: The manufacturer is making a decision on your company as well. If your manufacturing contact doesn’t think your idea is there yet, you probably won’t even get a meeting.
Tour the facility. Before making a commitment to contract with a supplier, take an in-person tour of the facility to check out the manufacturer’s factory and showroom. You’ll have the opportunity to get a better sense of the manufacturer’s capacities and how well the supplier understands your product and your company’s needs. Try to visit at least a few manufacturers before making a final decision: This company will ultimately be responsible for your product’s quality, so you’ll want to find a manufacturer that you know you can trust.