Manufacture your invention, product, or idea the way the pros do.

How do you get your product/idea manufactured without going bankrupt?  Learn the Secrets here.

 

Creating a product idea is amazing. You get to use your knowledge and creativity to deliver something people really need and will benefit from it’s use. However, having an idea is one thing, manufacturing it and bringing it to the market, where the public will find it is something else entirely. People watch the TV show Shark Tank and think it is easy.   Manufacturing your invention is not easy!

I could share literally hundreds of stories about people to lost their savings, their retirement, their fortune by trying to make it big with an idea.  Going about it wrong can have disastrous results.  Doing it right can be both profitable and personally rewarding.

There are many different steps that you need to go through in order to narrow down how you approach the manufacturing process, who you work with and how much it all costs. Here you have a guide to help you figure out the manufacturing process for your product idea.

What do you have right now?

Before you get started, you want to figure out the exact idea you have and where you are in the process. Do you have just a concept of an idea?  A cartoon on a napkin? Photographs? A working design? Engineering or production drawings? A prototype of the finished product? Whatever you have, you must be honest with yourself about where you think you are in the process.  It is good to make some notes and create some goals to help you. 

What do you need at this point?

Do you need a patent?  Probably not at this point.  Patents are expensive and there are other ways to protect your ideas until you know you want to pay up for the protection a patent provides.

Additionally, very few inventors get their idea right with their first iteration of the idea.  They make changes and improvements to make a good idea better.   If you get a patent too soon in the process, you may find the patent you originally paid for and received does not cover important features on the idea you now want to market.

Too many people think they need a patent and pay thousands of dollars to protect an idea they will never bring to the market.  So unless you have too much money and want to give some to a patent attorney, check out some other options Here

Ideally, you want to gather and organize the information, content, and samples you have before sharing it anyone outside your inner circle.  You may have notes, sketches, physical samples.  You must evaluate who you are sharing information with, and decide the purpose of sharing what you plan to share and consequently create a plan.  Making sure that you have enough to present the idea is extremely important. Who will you share the idea with?  Logically, you may want to share with investors.  You may want expert help from a technical person in a particular field. You may to speak with a manufacturer to help you with cost reduction ideas before you get too far down the road and a good product that is too expensive for your ideal customers to buy.  You may want to show your idea to marketing people to help you assess if you have a good idea or not.  Unless you can do everything yourself, (and you cannot) you will need help from others along the way. 

You want to do this for multiple reasons. One of them is that you want to connect with manufacturers and investors and marketers. Always make sure to protect your idea when you share it with anyone outside your inner circle.

Presenting your current documents to investors is crucial if you want to receive funds from them. The truth is that many times you may not be able to support those manufacturing costs on your own. That’s why having investors ready to help you is the exact thing to keep in mind, since they can help bring your vision to life a lot faster.

You also want to document and research your idea, to ensure no one has already patented it or marketing it.  There is an old saying…”There is nothing new under the Sun”.  Just because you are not aware of it, does not mean it is not already out there.  If you find there is a similar idea, you may still be in business by making sufficient changes so that your idea is not infringing on someone’s patent.   In all cases, be aware and protect yourself to ensure that you’re reaping the benefits from your idea in the long run.

How do I know if I have a winner?

The best way to know if you have a winner is to find knowledgeable and objective people and ask them about your product and its usefulness. First off- you must realize that not everyone’s opinion is of the same value. Family and friends can be a good option, however it is quite normal for them to be either to encouraging or too negative in their assessment and feedback.  Who is a good and objective source of feedback?  How do you ask them for their opinion?  The answers to these questions may be easier than you think!  

 

Surveys can be great, but I do not recommend using them until you have protection from a patent application.  With this condition met, surveys can be helpful if they are correctly written.  When this is the case, they are objective and typically the information you receive is good.  The value of a survey for moving forward is typically not extremely high unless it is a relatively high volume of survey takers(at least in the thousands).  However, if they results are overwhelmingly negative, even a small survey can be helpful to keep you from preceding down the wrong path with your idea.

If you do a survey and receive feedback, use it to your advantage.  If it points out problems and issues, address them.  If you find the feedback offers improvements to your product, use it to your advantage.  Do not let pride get in the way of product improvement.  You would be surprised at how many inventors will not take great suggestions to help with a product improvement.  They feel all of the ideas must be their own.  I would tell you that some of my very best thinking has been done by others.

In any event, you must be the ultimate evaluator of your idea, its value and how you want to move forward.  You are the captain of your ship and one responsible for its navigation.  Just make sure you are making your decision with the best information you can obtain, do your best to keep emotion out of this.

Do you need an investor?

If you plan to move forward with your idea, the simple answer to this question is YES!   The investor(s) will either be you, someone else, or a combination thereof.  If you need help in this area, I highly recommend you begin to look at the idea or product like an investor would.  The main focus for an make a profit.   They may be interested in helping you.  They may believe in you or your idea, but they  are investing to make a profit.  They are not interested in giving their money away.  If they were just interested in giving their money away, they could just write you a check and no product or idea need be part of the transaction.  I assure you, the very best investors want and expect a profit, just like you do.  An investor may well expect part the ownership of your product or idea.  They may require involvement in manufacturing, marketing, or both.  Remember, profit is not a dirty word.  The best investors want a profit.  They are invested in making a profit, so they are invested in the success of your project.  However, investors come with their own expectations and requirements. Always be realistic of the value an investor brings to the table and make your decisions accordingly. 

How do you find one? What will they expect?

There are many investment websites online, you can start your journey there. On top of that, there are investment companies all over the world, you can contact them directly. Finding local venture capitalists and angel investors can also be a great idea. And yes, it’s also possible to contact businesses in your industry, they might be interested to invest in your product too.

When it comes to expectations, every investor is different. Some of them will ask for a certain cut from the profits. Others will just want to receive 5%, 40%, maybe even the majority of the business.  And you will also find investors that invest the money and expect a certain amount back, pretty much offering you a loan.  

Will you be the investor?

You can invest money on your own if you want. Some people choose to do that instead of asking others for money. They do that because they don’t want to lose control over the company. You can be the investor, but that means you will need to borrow money or just use some/all of your savings to cover manufacturing costs.

Should I borrow money?

If you want to cover manufacturing costs, you will most likely have to borrow money. Either that, or you accept an investor or a business partner. But if you want to go the solo route for now, borrowing money is the main option.

Who should I borrow from?

You can borrow money from a bank, third party lenders or even investors that expect a certain amount back. It’s up to you to find the ideal option, depending on what you need.

What material should my product be made from?

This really depends on the product and its anticipated use. What environment with the product be expected to be used in?  Are their special considerations that need to be made for the product to function correctly?  What type of EAU(estimated annual use) do you expect for the product?  How long will the product be expected to last? You may know exactly what materials should be used, that is great!  If not, you will be doing some research.  You may also find it beneficial to work with a manufacturer in the same line or field as your product.  They have the experience and knowledge to help you succeed, 

What manufacturing process should be used?

Again, this is going to be dependent on your product and its intended use.  The important thing for you to keep in mind is that you are working with someone who has the knowledge and ability to make it happen.

There are innumerable different types of manufacturing processes. Repetitive manufacturing means you have an assembly line doing the same products over and over. Discrete manufacturing allows you to do the same thing, but you can switch the assembly line to create more than a single type of product.

And then you have batch process manufacturing where custom products are manufactured and a lot more specific attention is needed for every batch. Continuous process manufacturing is very repetitive and it creates similar or the same type of products in large order quantities.

Each manufacturing process has its fair share of pros and cons. But in the end, you will need to identify one that fits your requirements. In many cases, when you start manufacturing your product you can’t really afford large batches, so you have to go with something simpler.

What should I expect for a timeline?

Depending on your idea or product this can vary greatly.  The There really is no “average” when it comes to a timeline for taking an idea from the idea stage to the “on store shelves” stage.    The most important thing to bear in mind here is  a realistic goal for your idea.  How will you know what a realistic goal is?  Ask people with experience in the market you are hoping to penetrate.  IMPORTANT  **Never knowingly market unsafe produces.  Your integrity is more important than any amount of profit.  It is important to do your best to bring safe and quality products to the consumer. Having the right product made to a good quality standard is normally more important than rushing to market.  This does not mean you should not push to have your product ready for an event or show.  It just means you should bring high quality products to the marketplace.

And then there is the other extreme.  I have also seen many inventors keep “tweeking” their invention to the extent that it is never ready for market.  They go bankrupt before they see their idea gain favor in the marketplace.  What a tragedy!  It is important to use common sense and listen to people who have the knowledge and expertise to help you succeed.

If we talk about developing and then manufacturing, it all comes down to the manufacturer you choose. If you have a larger scale manufacturer that has the proper equipment and systems in place to delivery, you should be in pretty good shape.

In the end, a lot will depend on the your ability to bring good quality information to the manufacturer you are dealing with.  Poor quality information or a bad design that the inventor is unwilling to take positive suggestions on will likely require multiple prototypes, and much time and effort to get the product ready for production.   The process of product development takes time.  If you do not have experienced with this, I recommend you work with someone who does.  I also recommend you be open to their suggestion for improvement or cost reductions.   Otherwise, expect this process to take longer and cost more.   

What can I do to keep the cost down?

The best way to keep costs down when you are ready to deal with a manufacturer is:

You must be realistic. 

Be as knowledgeable as possible. Do your homework before contacting the manufacturer

Know what you need

About your design

About the industry your product will be marketed in

Be open to suggestions on design and process from people more knowledgable than you.

Be honest and share required details

Be ready to ask the manufacture about their process.

Be ready to negotiate with the manufacturer.

Be ready to pay the manufacturer promptly when they deliver.

 

Other factors—will you need tooling or fixturing to produce your parts.  For example, If you are not talking about a product that 10,000 or more units made at a time, you may be able to proceed with less expensive tooling. Also if you try to have your product designed in such a way to minimize tooling expense.  If you are talking about high volume production, you can likely save money on your per unit cost, but expect your tooling costs to be much more significant It pays off in the long run, but it is expensive on the front end.       So once again, the general rule is to think about total cost if your quantity need is smaller(and it almost always is at the beginning;  And think about cost per unit if you are talking about high volume production.  

That’s why you have to think about the manufacturing scale first. A good idea is to keep it simple and not overdo it, build up your manufacturing scale to size as needed. This may initially slow down growth, but it’s the safer way to approach manufacturing.

How do you find the right manufacturer?

In finding the “right” manufacturer, it is critical to know what you are looking for, so when you see it, you can say…”this is a good manufacturer for me to work with.”  Let me give you an example.

For my work, I may be required to travel to other companies to assist them.  Sometimes this includes air travel.  The companies can ask to pick me up at the airport.  When this happens, I always try to send them a recent photograph of me.   When my plan lands and I walk through the airport, looking for the person who is picking me up, I often spot them before they spot me.   It is easy.  They will be scanning the faces of the incoming passengers, then looking at the photo on their phone, then scanning more faces, then looking at the photo, then scanning more faces, then back to the photo…until they see me as the man in the photograph.   This works well because they have an photo with an image of the who they are looking for.

It works the same exact way when you are looking for a manufacturer to work with.  If you know what a good manufacturing partner looks like, it will be easy for you to recognize them when you see them.

A great manufacturer will have great character.

A great manufacturer will have a lot of experience.

A great manufacturer will have the equipment required to do a great job on your project

A great manufacturer will knowledgeable and highly skilled.

 

When you see those four traits in a manufacturing company, you will know you are in the right place.

The fact that you are reading this far into this material shows you are on the right track.

 

If you do not have any manufacturers in mind, it may work well to find a manufacturer by checking with various online sources where you can directly connect with manufacturers. You can also connect with US manufacturers through their websites on the internet.

What should you look in a manufacturer?

  • Check the manufacturer reputation, this will give you a good idea of what you can expect and the manufacturing service quality.

  • You want a supplier to be price competitive, but using price as the main criteria is almost always a mistake for inexperienced inventors. You will quickly find out they get to the low price by leaving out what others build in to the product.  One of those being quality.  Another being on time delivery.   Low price is NOT the same as low cost.   This is also why millions of US companies are res-shoring their products to US manufacturers, rather than leaving production in China.   The low price does not count if you cannot get delivery on the product.

  • Do they have a lot of experience in the type of manufacturing required? That experience comes into play when issues arise. Remember, most people’s first impression of your company will be formed by their experience with you and your product.  You do not want any mishaps.  That’s why experience is crucial whenever you choose a manufacturer.

  • Pick a manufacturer that is focused on getting your product right. Some manufacturing partners are good at this, others are not.  You want a partner that is all about the relationship, not the financial transaction.

  • The location of your manufacturing partner also matters a great deal. If you choose an overseas supplier, your communication and process just became way more complicated. US based manufacturers may be the better choice, after you check out all your options

  • Select a manufacturer that is financially strong and able to deliver.

These are some of the things to look for when you want to find the ideal manufacturing partner for your product. While there are other things to consider, these are the main ones, and they will make it easier to narrow down the entire process and ensure you receive the right results.

Production Manufacturing

Your design is complete, production drawings are approved.  You’ve selected your manufacturing partner and understand his quote for your production requirements.  Your financing is in place and and you are ready to place an order.  Once you purchase order(PO) is accepted by your manufacturing partner, you can sit back and enjoy the experience. You have done the groundwork to have a great experience.  That being said, you should make yourself available to your partner for any questions or issues that come up. You should regularly check(about 1 time per month if things are going well, more often if they are not) in with your manufacturing partner to make sure things are on track and to ensure the process works as expected.  

Conclusion

These tips and tricks will help to ensure you produce the product you want and ensure the process goes as expected. It is important that you end up with the product and result you hoped for.  This will not happen by accident.  You must be intentional and work with professionals that are also intentional.   There are always challenges that arise when it comes to manufacturing any product. However, making sure that you have the right documentation and even a prototype, working with investors and finding the right manufacturer are crucial steps in this process. You want to avoid surprises, and rushes , and instead ensure that you take every step seriously and do what you must to get the quality of product you require. After all, you want to create the best product you can.  You want to become successful. So dependability and quality are integral to the process along the way. 

 

Carlson Manufacturing, Inc., has been a highly regarded manufacturing partner for over 50 years.  If you have a metal fabrication or machining project, we can help you.   We offer competitive costing on Laser cutting, metal fabrication, cnc machining, welding of all types, including steel, stainless steel, aluminum, and robotic welding.   Located in Western Minnesota, we are a highly competitive resource for your manufacturing needs.  Contact us at carlsonmfg.com

 

Also, feel free to check out greatmfg.net  a fantastic resource when it comes to marketing your ideas and products.