Developing an idea for a product is meaningless if you can’t adequately produce it. Properly manufacturing your product requires an understanding of the design, materials and budget required. For most businesses trying to turn ideas and prototypes into tangible products, you’ll need the help of a manufacturing facility, especially if you’re trying to produce in bulk. Here’s what you need to consider as you search for a factory to produce your product.
Follow these steps to help you find potential manufacturing facilities and make an informed decision when choosing the best manufacturer for your product.
The process of choosing a manufacturer begins with conducting thorough research via online searches, industry directories and recommendations from your professional network. The goal is to compile a decent list of manufacturers you can evaluate more closely in the following steps. Later in this article, we’ll outline some good resources for your factory search.
Once you’ve identified several manufacturers that match your company’s needs, it’s time to create a list of prospective candidates to pursue. For each supplier, conduct further research to learn about each facility’s lead times, options for custom orders, policies for defective products and setup fees. This information can help you determine which manufacturers to keep exploring and which ones to cross off your list.
The next step is to request quotes from the manufacturers on the shortlist you’ve created. When requesting quotes, provide as many details as possible about your manufacturing needs and products for fabrications so the estimate you receive isn’t far from the price you’d actually pay. Once you receive the quotes from each factory, evaluate and compare them in detail. This way, you can determine which suppliers most align with your production needs and budgetary constraints.
Don’t rely solely on the quote to make your decision. Actually speak with the manufacturers to ensure they can accurately produce the design you have for your products. Share your detailed product specifications, including design, materials, quantities and any other relevant details. Each manufacturer has its own process, so speaking directly with a representative can help you choose the company that offers what you need.
If you’re considering a local manufacturer, request a tour of its factory. This on-site visit gives you firsthand insight into the manufacturer’s capabilities. Visiting the facility in person can also help you build a strong, collaborative relationship with the manufacturer.
At this point, you should narrow the possibilities down to two facilities. Before committing to a full-scale order or a long-term contract with either one, order some product samples. This step serves two purposes. It allows you to evaluate the quality of the manufacturer’s work and ensure it aligns with your expectations. It also gives you a reference point you can use to highlight any discrepancies you notice in later orders.
Use the results of the sample process to make a final decision on which manufacturer to move forward with. Once you and the supplier have agreed on expectations, it’s time to write up a contract. Before signing on the dotted line, negotiate prices and terms to arrive at an agreement that works for both you and the vendor.
Business News Daily interviewed multiple experts about manufacturing and the process of finding the right facility to meet your business’s production needs. Based on their guidance, we recommend looking for the following attributes when investigating factories to partner with.
Marco Perry, co-founder and partner of strategy, design and engineering firm Pensa, advised looking for a factory that not only has the tools you need, but also operates as a partner to help you make a great product.
“More often than not, the factory is going to assist in many other aspects of production than just making and assembling parts,” said Perry, who has more than 20 years of experience as an inventor. “For that reason, as much as possible, you should look for a factory that makes products in the same category. General-purpose factories are not as knowledgeable in the nuances of what makes a product great.”
Because so much can go wrong, the vetting process is crucial when you’re choosing a factory. Here are some essential questions to ask potential manufacturing partners:
With as much value as you place on your products, it’s vital that you find a superb manufacturing partner. Doing your research and vetting potential manufacturers to find the facility that’s right for your business leads to a better finished product.
Reliable production facilities exist in both the United States and other countries. Your decision as to whether you manufacture your products in the U.S. or overseas should come down to personal preference, budget and the types of products you want to produce, as well as your patience.
If your product can be made in the U.S., you should consider that some consumers respond better to products made wholly in America. In addition to the personal connection customers may feel to your American-made products, the following benefits of partnering with U.S. manufacturers might also sway your decision.
American factories let you order small batches of a product, whereas overseas factories tend to require large minimum orders, said Tanya Menendez, co-founder of Maker’s Row and Snowball Wealth.
Checking in at your manufacturing plant isn’t much of an issue when it’s within 100 to 200 miles of your company’s location, but if your factory is on the other side of the world, logistics can prove difficult. This can cause problems if the quality of your goods isn’t produced to your standards and you can’t rectify the issue in person.
“If you have manufacturers outside of the U.S., quality control is definitely something you want to keep an eye on,” said Sabrina Hartel, CEO of home decor company Sabrina Hartel Home. “I have known entrepreneurs who had manufacturing facilities in China, and quality control was a constant issue. It’s very expensive to visit China every few weeks.”
Businesses may want to consider supplier diversity; that is, not relying on a single manufacturer or solely on one geographic region for manufacturing in case of supply-chain disruptions.
To be fair, both U.S. and overseas options come with logistical challenges, said Edward Hertzman, founder of Sourcing Journal and Hertzman Global Ventures. Due to globalization and the number of American factories that have declined in the past few decades, it’s not always possible to find a U.S. factory that can make the type of product you want, he said.
Research comes first when deciding whether to manufacture in the U.S. or abroad. Look at your customer base and find out if manufacturing exclusively in the U.S. matters to them. You’ll also want to investigate the price and quality of the goods produced at the different manufacturing plants you’re considering using. By conducting extensive research, you’ll reduce the chances of getting blindsided by a factory that overpromises and underdelivers regardless of location.
By manufacturing within the U.S., you can produce your products in smaller quantities and monitor the production process more easily. Logistics will be less complex, and consumer perception of your brand may be stronger.
When selecting a manufacturing partner for your small business, certainly you want to get your product on the market as soon as possible. However, it’s critical to take the time to ensure the company you’re considering working with reflects your values and goals. Below are some of the potential risks you face if you enter into a manufacturing agreement without doing your due diligence first.
If your business espouses that it cares about its employees, you should make sure this value extends to your manufacturing partners. Failing to do so will, if nothing else, pose a PR risk. When choosing a manufacturing partner in the U.S. or abroad, find out how well the workers are compensated, how safe their working conditions are and if these conditions are compliant with existing regulations.
Some foreign manufacturers are in countries where corruption is rampant, so it’s imperative to do your homework. Ask to look at a potential partner’s finances, and request references from their other clients. By seeking out only experienced manufacturing companies and regularly conducting audits on their performance, you can vet your partner to make sure it’s acting in good faith.
Your company’s intellectual property (IP) is critical. It’s what makes your products unique and sets you apart from your competitors. Unfortunately, there are countless stories of foreign companies improperly using a U.S. business’s IP. To protect against this, you can do things like using multiple suppliers to source your materials, moving forward only with partners you already have a relationship with, and ensuring your legal protections, like contracts, patents and trademarks, are ironclad.
Resources for finding a factory
Once you’re ready to start your factory search, use these online sources to find a good manufacturing partner for your product:
In some ways, choosing a manufacturer is one of the last aspects of the production process. Before you hire a factory and start producing your products, you need to do a few things:
The production process will be easier if you check these boxes before seeking a factory to partner with. Only then will you truly be ready to bring your product to life.
By taking some preliminary measures, you can enter business negotiations with a potential manufacturer armed with more knowledge about your product and your target market, and you can safeguard your company against IP infringement.
Finding the right factory to manufacture your product requires careful planning and an eye for detail. Following the processes outlined here for setting up a product for production and choosing a plant will ensure your finished goods meet your high standards and strengthen your business’s long-term sustainability and success. As you begin your search for the right facility, remember that the best manufacturing partner isn’t just a producer. This partnership is the foundation of a successful future for your products.
Andrew Martins and Bennett Conlin contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.