You Have a Product, Now How to Find a Manufacturer to Make Your Product
There comes a time during every innovators’ process where they wonder how to find a manufacturer to make their product. Product innovation is only the beginning of product development. Even the best product ideas and designs are meaningless if you can’t source a trustworthy manufacturer to produce your product at scale.
A manufacturer does more than simply put your product together. They are responsible for transforming your design into a finished product. The manufacturer sources all of the product components, forming a supply chain for all of the raw materials required to produce your product. They must create an assembly process with the proper tooling and testing equipment, establish testing and quality procedures, and hire people with the needed skill sets, just to name a few tasks. It is a big job and precisely why selecting the right manufacturer is so important.
While referrals from peers are valuable, finding a manufacturer should not be based solely on recommendations from other product innovators. Referrals may serve as a starting point, but every manufacturer has its specialties and proven practices around them. For instance, if your product is an eco-friendly athletic shoe made from sustainable materials, you want to find a manufacturer that has extensive experience producing that type of athletic shoe.
The more specific you can get with who makes your product, the greater confidence you have in the quality of the output. The experience of the manufacturer will have a direct impact on the speed at which they can deliver your product as well.
When it comes to finding a manufacturer to make your product, one critical decision criteria is geography: whether domestic or go overseas.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Domestic Sourcing
While domestic manufacturing costs are higher than overseas, there if “Made in the USA” is a key component of your brand and important to your customers, there can be real benefits to having your product made in the US.
Consumer Reports found that 78 percent of Americans say they would rather buy an American-made product over an identical one made abroad, even paying up to 20 percent more for the option. Surprisingly, they also discovered that more than 60 percent of Chinese survey respondents said they would buy American products over Chinese, even if they cost more.
There is a caveat to this, however. Increasingly more products require specific components, advanced skill sets, and sophisticated technology. Harvard Business Review says this modern paradigm means manufacturers must rely on specialists and subcontractors who focus on just one area, and those specialists must rely on others as well. This means that no matter which manufacturer you choose, they will most likely have many suppliers around the world who contribute components to your product.
Even with foreign parts, should there be an issue with manufacturing or you need to negotiate pricing or terms, you will be able to easily communicate with domestic manufacturers. There will be no language or cultural barrier that introduces the risk for errors and offenses due to miscommunication. You will be able to personally visit the site to view samples, conduct quality checks, and oversee manufacturing to ensure everything is running smoothly.
Because you do not need to worry with overseas shipping and customs, you will typically receive your product faster and at a lower transit rate that can help offset the increased manufacturing costs.
The US also has stricter intellectual property right protections in place than many other common manufacturing countires, meaning you own your product design. If you want to protect your intellectual property, you are able to obtain patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets to ensure no one else can steal your ideas and design without the threat of legal repercussions.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Overseas Sourcing
The cost of labor is the primary reason why so many US companies manufacture their products overseas. The quantity and variety of overseas manufacturers can be an advantage, but having so many choices makes finding the right manufacturer to make your product challenging. Online overseas directories like Alibaba can help, but there is no guarantee you land on a specialized manufacturer with whom you can build a trusting, long-term relationship.
Unless you work with someone experienced to help you find repuable overseas factories, there are always risks with quality, poor labor standards, intellectual property theft, payment recourse, and longer shipping times. You will also have to manage importing, customs, and compliance processes, each of which come with multiple steps and stakeholders.
Continually traveling overseas is expensive, and without a local presence to oversee and govern the manufacturer, you have fewer opportunities to identify issues before you render payment. Managing manufacturers remotely is difficult with the time zone difference. Even if you are able to conduct regular on-site visits personally, there is typically a language and cultural barrier that complicates matters.
Finding The Best Manufacturer to Make Your Product
With factory sourcing so critical in the product development process, you likely need to partner with someone with extensive knowledge about the ins and outs of overseas manufacturing, what to look for, and how to ensure you work with the best possible factory for your specific product. You can hire a sourcing agent, but be aware that there can be hidden commissions between some factories and agents. If you use a sourcing agent to help you find a manufacturer, be sure you have a way to verify they work completely independently and receive no kickbacks or compensation for their recommendations.
Alternatively, you can work with a company called Gembah. They are a US company that helps entrepreneurs and companies with the entire product development process, including research, design, sourcing and manufacturing. They have built an impressive network of resources, including designers, engineers, and manufacturers around the world that you can leverage to whatever capacity you need.
They also will guide you through sourcing best practices so you don’t miss any step and consider every angle as you make decisions. Their team has worked with factories around the world and know which ones are reputable and devoted to their customers.
Gembah will also provide you with a local presence if you decide to source an overseas manufacturer. Their local representative will conduct regular on-site visits to ensure the manufacturer is delivering on their commitments and provide you with reports and photos to keep you updated throughout production. The representative speaks the language and understands the culture, helping you establish a trusting relationship with the manufacturer.
Having this knowledge base and network of vetted resources is a huge advantage that will save you significant time and hassles, as well as costly mistakes. While there is risk with sourcing overseas, there are plenty of reputable manufacturers that can be trusted to produce your product with the utmost quality and prioritize your best interest.