Finding the right manufacturer for your product is absolutely essential, and should never be rushed or overlooked. When you’re finally manufacturer-ready and excited to start bringing your ideas into physical form and selling them to consumers, it can be easy to hurry to production before properly vetting manufacturers first.
But the manufacturer you select will have a massive impact not only on the quality of your finished product, but also your costs, timeline, and the overall success of your product launch.
Here’s everything you need to know about when to choose a manufacturer, what to look for, and how to know whether you’ve made the right choice.
What are the signs you’re ready to look for a manufacturer?
Before we dive into what to look for in a manufacturer, let’s first quickly touch on the first step— knowing when you’re ready for a manufacturer in the first place. Here are some of the main criteria you should meet.
Has your prototype been user tested, refined, tested again, and then improved again? Do you feel completely confident that the product as it’s currently designed is ready to go out into the world and be sold to consumers? Taking the time to refine your product’s design is vital before going to production.
Bill of Materials
Your bill of materials is the list of everything that will be needed for the manufacturer to properly produce your product. This includes raw materials, parts, sub-components, assemblies, sub-assemblies, and anything else that will be needed. Your bill of materials should also include quantities for each of these materials in order to give your manufacturer everything they need to know.
A good manufacturer will suggest a retail price for your product, but it’s your job to determine the sales price that will allow the product to be profitable by covering costs plus a tidy profit margin. Ideally, you want the cost to produce your product to be less than half of its manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP).
What to consider when choosing a manufacturer
Want to make sure you begin your manufacturer vetting process armed with the information you need to make the right call? Here are some of the most important factors to consider when looking for a manufacturer that will take your product across the finish line.
Understanding Your Vision
A good manufacturer will go beyond simply understanding the pieces of your product and how they interact. They should be able to see your vision for what the product is meant to do and be for its users. You should be able to explain your ultimate goal for the product, what makes it worthwhile, and feel that your manufacturing partner shares in that vision to at least some extent.
Far too many products have fallen to disaster because a company relied on a fresh new manufacturer that promised low prices and fast delivery. Manufacturers that can show a long line of clients and successful projects can do so for a reason— they know what they’re doing, and how to execute a production successfully. Look for experienced manufacturers rather than scrappy upstarts.
If you can’t tour your manufacturer’s facilities in person, you should at least be able to see images or video. You don’t have to be an expert on manufacturing equipment to get a sense for whether a facility is well-run, clean, and properly maintained. You should also confirm that the facility in question actually has the capabilities to manage your project.
A manufacturer or facility that doesn’t follow proper safety and quality procedures is just asking for a disaster. You don’t want to trust the project that you’ve poured so much passion into with a manufacturer who cuts corners.
Your margins are everything when it comes to a profitable product launch, so make sure you choose a manufacturer who can handle the project at a price you can afford— and won’t try to tack on additional costs along the way.
Warning signs to stay away from a manufacturer
Worried a manufacturer may not be right for you? Here are some warning signs that should tell you to stay away.
Your interactions with your manufacturing contact should be pleasant, and they should be easy to contact when necessary. If you wait days for email responses or information you request, you should take that as a major red flag.
All Talking, No Listening
Many manufacturers love to go on and on about their production capabilities, but does your manufacturing candidate take the time to actually listen to your vision and goals for the project? Listening is key when it comes to a good manufacturer relationship.
Changing Dates & Deliveries
Launching a product is stressful enough without having to deal with shifting deadlines, extensions, and delays. Choose a manufacturer who commits to given deadlines and then sticks to them.
You never want to be the very first company or individual asking for a specific task from your manufacturer. If one of your candidates doesn’t seem experienced enough to handle the task of producing your product, they’re probably not.
Signs of a Successful Manufacturer Relationship
We’ve covered the red flags, now here are the top 4 signs that you’ve picked a winner of a manufacturing partner.
Great manufacturing partners eliminate questions and communication issues. They’re always in touch, and contact you about any issues that arise before you ever have to contact them. They’re proactive about keeping you in the loop and are always happy to hear from you.
Plenty of manufacturers can make big promises, but only the best can actually meet and even exceed them. If your manufacturer consistently delivers finished products before deadlines, you’ve picked the right teammate.
Sees Your Vision
Is your manufacturer excited by the vision of your product? We’re not saying they have to be as passionate about it as you are (who could be?), but you do want to work with someone who is genuinely engaged with the work they’re doing. The fact is that this level of engagement will make them less likely to miss deadlines or cut corners.
Proactive About Efficiency
Great manufacturers recognize that keeping costs low is absolutely essential for their partners. If you find a manufacturer who goes out of their way to identify and inform you of opportunities to reduce production costs or streamline the manufacturing process, you’ve found a partner that is worth their weight in gold.