Ok, so you have a product idea, how do you find a manufacturer to build it for you? Finding a manufacturer is in-fact pretty easy given this whole internet thing came about. Before even doing that a manufacturing package which communicates the product idea needs to be put together.
The often missed first step
Most manufacturers are skilled labor, meaning they have a high school education and are used to working with 2D drawings; they do not have engineering departments, CAD software, or inventor type mentality. Sending them a message with a bunch of hand sketches will be about as effective as trying to play pictionary over email (often with a language barrier). Typically this is where a design firm like Ottermatics comes in, we can help translate the hand waving and napkin sketches into CAD models and engineering drawings that can be communicated to the manufacturer. A good design firm also designs for manufacturing which should help you save on the per part costs.
Zen and the Art of Alibaba
Besides being predicted to be the largest IPO in the last 20 years, alibaba.com is an excellent resource for finding overseas manufacturers. Most new product ideas are an improvement over existing ones, so searching for similar products on the website and then sending emails to the manufacturers will usually yield pretty good results.
What if the product idea you had doesn’t exist yet? Manufacturers are classified by their capabilities with materials. Some are good at bending metal, some at doing plastics work, electronics and etc. If you are inventing something completely new, then the best approach is to de-compose your product into the raw materials, and think of products which have similar material composition and then do the same search on alibaba.com.
MFG.com is one of our favorite places to get quotes from state-side manufacturers, and the coolest part is that it’s completely free. The idea is that you post a Request For Quote (RFQ) on the website with engineering drawings and in 7 days you will have manufacturers bid on the project.
Over the past 10 years, there has been a new desire for United States based companies to keep production state-side. Whether for patriotic, marketing or communication reasons this new shift in manufacturing approach has yet to still see widespread adoption for one simple reason - the cost of United States based manufacturing. Time and time again, we have seen US based manufacturers quote 3000% and sometimes even 20,000% more for the same project as an Asia based manufacturer. To this day, none of our designs have been produced in United States, not because we don’t want to keep things “home grown”, it’s just the business case doesn’t make sense.