Turning your product idea into a reality is easier than it’s ever been these days.
Manufacturers are easy to find, and it doesn’t matter whether they’re halfway around the world or in the same town. Electronic communications make it easy to address things quickly when problems come up. But when you’re putting together a proposal for your product, it’s easy to make some mistakes that can hurt both your time and bottom line.
What do you need to do to make sure you’re not hurting yourself?
1) Send High-Quality Design Images
This is absolutely crucial, and the area where a lot of things can go wrong.
When you’re putting together a design, the images need to be clear and packed with information. You should include every possible scrap of information that you think a manufacturer could be interested in, because they’ll probably use it.
Include specifications for every tiny part of the design—if it’s a handbag, for example, have dimensions for every part of the buckle, the strap length and width and thickness, the size of the bag itself, and all the other possible specifications a manufacturer might ask about.
Make sure your images are clear and high resolution, too. Some email clients or servers restrict the size of attachments, so you might have to compress the images slightly if they’re several megabytes each. But it should only be enough to make them fit.
The more information you can provide up front, the less time you’ll have to spend in prototyping down the line—and the more time and money you will save.
2) Know Your Materials
When Daniella Samper got the call from a store that the buttons were falling off her dresses, she started to get worried. There had been a similar problem with one of her sample dresses, but she didn’t think much of it at the time. But when they went back through their stock, they found that every dress in stock was having problems with buttons falling off.
Daniella had to go through and fix all the buttons on every dress in that clothing line. But it could have been avoided if she’d used metal-shank buttons in the first place instead of plastic buttons, which didn’t hold up under the strain. She knew most of her materials, but the plastic buttons tripped her up.
It doesn’t just apply to textiles. When you’re manufacturing a product, you have to know your materials and choose the right option, or you’ll run into issues like Daniella did. Creating a good packet to send to a manufacturer (especially a tech pack) necessitates you knowing what you want.
Know the grades of material that you can use, their strengths and weaknesses, and what you can expect them to hold up to. Consult with your manufacturer, too—sometimes you can use a material that works just as well, but is faster and easier to work with on their end, or cheaper to procure.
One owner of a pet clothing company found that her material was hard to use on her manufacturer’s cutting machines, and it was causing a higher defect rate. Changing the material slightly cut her costs by 5% and made her product quicker to produce. Not all factories will volunteer this information up front, so make sure you’re checking.
3) Make Sure to Prototype
You need to have a prototype for them to work with.
Drawings and images can only communicate so much. When you’re trying to translate an idea that’s been floating around in your head into something that’s able to be manufactured, nothing can come close to the effectiveness of a prototype or sample.
Sending your manufacturer a prototype can answer questions about material, weight, dimensions, and overall functionality. It also allows you to make sure your bill of materials is as accurate as possible, and the more you have ironed out ahead of time, the better the chance that the samples you receive from the manufacturer are going to be close to production quality.
4) Plan Ahead
So you’ve made your prototype, your design images, and all the information you need to send to the manufacturer. It’s time to send them off. You’ve located a manufacturer that happens to be located in China, and it’s February, so you figure you’ll be able to get through the sampling process well in advance of Q4.
Surprise! It’s Chinese New Year, and you’re not going to get anything to happen for a month.
You have to know the production schedule of your manufacturer. This goes double for overseas companies. Know when they’re open and when they’re closed, and make sure that you’re not sending orders to get fulfilled when they’re not open.
Communicate with them about busyness, too—make sure you’re not one of fifty people trying to get their products made in time for Q4 at the last minute.
5) Use Pre-Made Molds
When our founder Nathan Resnick was running the watch company Yes Man, he were trying to figure out what kind of case to use. Originally the case had a slightly more unique design, which would have needed a new mold.
Switching to a more generic mold the manufacturer had on hand both cut down on the time needed to create new molds and lowered the total production cost. If the molds already exist, the factory already has experience with similar production runs, which can also help efficiency.
When you can find a way to have someone else do the legwork for you and use the molds they’ve already created, you’re reducing production turnaround and making for a more efficient process.
Better and Faster
Creating a product comes with unique challenges, but you can cut down on your turnaround and make sure that you’re getting maximum efficiency by implementing these tools.
Sending high-quality design images, knowing materials, prototyping, planning ahead to maximize the production schedule, and using pre-made molds can help you both cut costs and cut time. Reduce production turnaround and watch your COGS go down and your margins and customer satisfaction go up.