For new product developers who have identified the need to outsource their manufacturing, there are some key steps to take to ensure success.
1. Do a Market Study Analysis
It is essential to do thorough product research to be sure your innovation hasn’t already been patented or produced by another party in the past several years. Be prepared, as if you were speaking to investors, to support why your product fulfills an unmet need, at a better price than anything that is on the market today. You must demonstrate you understand the distribution channels where the product will be sold, why retailers will carry your product and that you completely understand and have proficiency in penetrating these markets.
2. Design for Manufacturability
Developing a MVP or Minimal Viable Product is essential for your proof of concept phase. Granted, there may be several revisions after the first generation of product, it is essential to design with the lowest manufacturing costs in mind. There are professional design firms who can assist with the mechanical fit and function of your product as well as identify the right materials.
3. Prepare a Professional RFP
The first is to prepare a professional RFP otherwise known as a Request for Proposal. This will immediately convey credibility and earn the respect of the firms quoting in your project. It also separates you from the hundreds of others who are asking for quotations. A well planned and prepared RFQ will speed up the quotation process, provide a much more accurate cost and be better received by a reputable manufacturer.
4. Do Your Research
There are hundreds of resources on the internet for finding competent outsourcing direction. A simple Google search of “Outsourcing Manufacturing” yields tens of thousands of results. You will want to select a firm who demonstrates an interest in your project, competency with your products and has a good track record. Spend the time and compile a checklist list of these companies, their websites, contact information, the date you reached out and date they responded, whether you have sent your RFP. Follow these Six Steps to Finding a Manufacturer as a guide to take you through the process.
5. Develop a Budget
It is critical to understand how much capital will be required not only to launch your product but also to finance the first and ongoing orders. Product cost is not Project Cost. Marketing a product and getting it to market requires detailed forecast and an understanding of the required funding. Here is what you’ll need to know about financing your project as well as supporting your brand’s growth. The real question is how many widgets will you need to sell to break even on your investment.
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If you are developing a new product and plan on investing your valuable time and capital to bring it to market there are a few key things you should put together if outsourcing your manufacturing.
A professional RFP (Request for Proposal) or RFQ (quotation) will immediately convey credibility and earn the respect of the firms quoting in your project. It also separates you from the hundreds of others who are asking for quotations. A well planned and prepared RFQ will speed up the quotation process, provide a much more accurate cost and be better received by a reputable manufacturer. In this. You should be able to include:
1. Write an introductory narrative
An introductory narrative about the product; perhaps some background or genesis info on what new innovation, function or unmet need your product delivers I.e. “Our product will be the first of its kind to _____”
2. Create professional 3D drawings
Professional 3D drawings call out dimensions, materials (type and brand or equivalent of resin or other), colors, specifications. This is essential for manufacturing most things and even applies to soft goods such as backpacks and apparel and not just plastics and metals.
3. Product and Safety Certifications
Depending on the product and industry there may be mandatory certification requirements. Most retailers will ask for prof and documentation. You’ll want to be sure the factory has produced products bound for similar markets and thus purchased and worked with similar materials, been audited for compliance and understands cGMP).
Fit and function and other testing requirements the production quantities will have to pass under inspection are crucial and should be well defined and documented for go/no-go for sub assemblies and pass/fail for finished goods
5. Accurate Quantities
Accurate quantities you intend to purchase. Include first six months, years 1–3 etc and she me supporting detail will also convey to the factories how you plan to scale up your business. These should be conservative and not “pie in the sky” forecasts to try and leverage better costs. In fact, you should really be looking for solid volume or tiered price consideration.
6. Request tooling costs
Request separate detail for tooling cost (molds) and whether you’d like this separately or amortized over the volume. Also, request cavitation of the tool (the number of pieces each mold will produce)
7. Indicate Incoterms
Incoterms refers to whether you’d like costs quoted Ex-Works (the price right at the factory and before it’s even delivered to a port)or FOB your city or distribution point.
These are just the basics but if you are serious about actually launching a product and have raised the capital to do so, you will be perceived much more professionally and obtain a much more credible response by suppliers. Otherwise just use the QAP (quote and pray) method which is only as valuable as the paper on which it’s printed.
From idea generation to a finished product ready for sale – the product development process is the journey in which every successful product undergoes to become a tangible reality with opportunity for monetization. A series of steps, this cycle includes conceptualization, design, development and marketing of new or rebranded goods. By understanding the product development process you’ll be able to gain a better understanding of the manufacturing process and therefore be able to accurately calculate your product’s arrival in the market place.
The product development process can be broken down into five steps:
Good concept development is pivotal. If poorly done can undermine the entire effort. During this stage, the needs of the target market are identified, competitive products are reviewed, product specifications are defined, a product concept is selected, market and financial feasibility analysis is conducted, and the project development outline is created. This stage provides the foundation for the entire development process.
In prior stages, the team was focused on the core product idea, and the prospective design was largely based on overviews rather than in-depth design and engineering. Once the development plan is approved, marketing may begin to develop ideas for addtional product options and add-ons, or perhaps an extedned product family. Designers and engineers develop the product architecture in detail, and manufacturing determines which components should be made and which should be purchased, and identifies the necessary suppliers.
According to product design and development expert, Robert Q. Riley, The product’s architecture determines how the primary functional systems and subsystems are designed and engineered, and how those systems will be arranged to work as a complete unit. For example, a computer consists of the central processing unit (CPU), power supply unit (PSU), a motherboard, memory, video card, and cooling fans. The architecture of the computer design determines the platform layout, whether the computer is a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smart phone computer. The architecture may determine the layout of the system, but it would not provide the detailed engineering needed to determine the dimensions of the speakers, the detailed design of the keyboard, or the engineering of the operating software. All of this impacts important attributes such as standardization of components, modularity, options for future changes, ease of manufacture, and how the project is divided into manageable tasks and expenses. If a family of products or upgrades and add-ons are planned, the architecture of the product determines the commonality of components and the ease with which upgrades and add-ons can be installed.
Development, tooling, and manufacturing costs will be economized on when a system or subsystem is used from another product line from the company. As the design stage matures, detailed design is done for every component of the product. During this phase, every component is identified and engineered. Tolerances, materials, and finishes are defined, and the design is implemented with drawings or computer files. Once developed, prototype components are rapidly built with computerized machines such as fused deposition modeling devices, CNC mills, or stereo lithography systems.
During the testing and refinement stage, a number of prototypes are built and tested. Prototypes emulate production products as closely as possible. Prototypes are necessary to determine whether the performance of the product matches the specifications, and to uncover design shortfalls and gain in-the-field experience with the product in use. Later, beta prototypes are built from the first production components received from suppliers.
Pilot manufacturing can also be thought of as ‘almost manufacturing.’ During production ramp-up, the work force is trained as the first products are being assembled. The comparatively slow product build provides time to work out any remaining problems with supplier components, fabrication, and assembly procedures. The staff and supervisory team is organized, beginning with a core team, and line workers are trained by assembling production units.
As the company is comfortable moving forward from its success in the pilot manufacturing stage, the next and final phase of the product development cycle is full manufacturing production. As full manufacturing kicks off, typically a review team including representatives from strategic sourcing, engineering, quality assurance, and operations monitor for any final flaws or failures. Once the review is passed and the design has been fully approved, final units begin to be manufactured.
Whether a business plans to outsource manufacturing or not, the transition from conceptualization to full manufacturing can be either a path to success or a long road with many delays to final product launch . Getting products to market on time and within budget is dependent on the speed and fluidity of each transition throughout the various manufacturing phases. Those with the ability to react fast to errors and quickly adapt to each phase may reap the benefits of a consolidated product development cycle. The end result – larger profit margins for everybody.
Michelle Scheblein is China Business Analyst at BaySource Global. She has a B.A. in international business from the University of South Florida and has studied abroad, worked, and traveled throughout China between 2011-2014. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
There is one reason and one reason only that decision makers elect to have products manufactured in China and that is cost savings. Assuming that manufactured costs are lower in China due to labor savings, there are many other cost levers to consider when manufacturing offshore in China. Here are the top five:
1. Freight Costs
Freight and logistics should not exceed 10-12% of your total cost of goods. In other words, if you ship a 40 foot container to the U.S. this will cost on average $5,000 including import fees, duties, tax and drayage (overland transportation to/from a shipping port). So if you can’t move approximately $50,000 of product, that should already be 20-30% below existing manufactured cost, you need to re-evaluate whether it makes sense.
2. Carrying Cost of Capital
Cash is king in any business. It is critical to produce inventory that will move once it gets to the U.S. otherwise each month that inventory is tying up capital and not producing top line sales revenue, you are eating into your cashflow.
3. Warehouse Space
Every square foot of a warehouse used to store products has a fixed cost. Unless you have excess space available, you need to be certain you are allotting this valuable real-estate to products that are generating revenue. Otherwise the savings will be offset by the additional cost of warehouse space.
4. Due Diligence
For items #2 and #3 it is imperative that analysis be given to not only finished goods but also raw material and components. Often overlooked is the advantage of using China to absorb the financial burden of not only managing but paying for commodity purchases, raw material, components and works in progress. Every month of financial responsibility taken on by your China producer is a month of cashflow freed up for your business.
5. Start-up Costs
Your China factory will absorb many intangibles associated with start-up costs including learning curve, purchasing coordination, and in many cases tooling not to mention infrastructure such as plant, property and equipment.
Quality, consistency and timing should only be the “cost of admission” and no sacrifices should be made in these areas.
Interested in learning more? You can right here.
As the #1 manufacturer in the world China now produces nearly $2.5 trillion of goods. While this is around 28% greater than the U.S., manufacturing makes up an astounding 30.5% of China’s GDP vs. 12.3% for the U.S. One thing experts acknowledge is at $2 trillion in manufactured output the U.S. produces more with less labor. It also indicates that low value added jobs with less profit margin have gone and remain overseas. So what does that mean for us? It means that China is still the factory to the world and if operations decision makers haven’t developed a competent model to outsource redundant, high labor and low value add processes, they are tempting fate. There is a cost to and not to doing business in China. and the time has come for most organizations to analyze synergistic offshore-onshore manufacturing & distribution strategies.
Assume for a moment that you are the SVP of Operations for a U.S. firm in Des Moines that manufactures some sort of metal and plastic assembly. Sales have been flat and finally in that Monday morning meeting the inevitable question arises. “What are we doing about China?” your boss asks. You have a solid team of purchasing professionals, none of which can point to Hong Kong on a map. However, through the internet one of your go-getters, Bill, has begun to put a spreadsheet together of die cast and injection molding companies in the Guangdong Province, which he’s researched as being a hotbed for these industries. Since Guangzhou is a FTZ (Free Trade Zone) Bill with his Operations Management degree, has identified this as the logical place to start. He’s shared a couple of months of emails with “agents” posing as direct factory managers and is ready to take his associates to China. Just say the word.
Assuming that Bill and the others now have passports and visas in hand, they begin booking flights, hotels, trains, and ferries to venture out into the Middle Kingdom. In all they’ll be gone for just under three weeks. Since this is the company’s first sojourn to Asia, you’ll undoubtedly accompany them on this exciting new foray into the land of the dragon along with your Ops VP. Now you and your four valuable employees will be out of pocket the majority of a month leaving yours and their day to day responsibilities to others or to simply take a break from existing projects. How much time and capital do you think this will require? You may be surprised.
The following lists conservatively typical expenses by line item for a 2 ½ week trip to China.¹ Remember, you’ll require a full 24 hour day of travel to and from and a day of recovery once you’ve arrived.
The good news is there are competent firms in place to assist in your project management initiatives. In a poll on Linked In, 150 Supply Chain professionals weighed in with their response to the question, “What is the best way to manufacture outsourcing in China?” (See diagram below). 57% of respondents chose “Establish a trusted partner in China.” Perhaps a good portion of the voters had already been through the trial and error process. Or it could be that those who have succeeded in tandem with a firm watching out for their best interests can easily quantify the decision to engage a reputable partner for monitoring manufacturing, quality control, packaging, labeling and logistics.
In his article https://baysourceglobal.com/10-tips-to-better-china-sourcing/ William Atkinson of Purchasing Magazine explains that regardless of their China story, those who have enjoyed a successful relationship with China have done so through proper guidance and preparation. In this critical juncture of global commerce, fluctuating currencies, and competitive pressure, it is imperative to select a reliable partner whom you can trust, knows the local governments and regulations, has engineers on staff who understand your products and who can help you gain a foothold in this valuable region of the world.
¹Airfares, four star accommodations and RMB exchange rates as of September, 2014
Baysource Global President, David Alexander can be reached at email@example.com
As companies weigh the pros and cons of working directly with a factory vs. dealing through an agent for their China sourcing needs there are many points to consider.
Top 10 Pros and Cons
1. The scale or dollar volume purchased annually. (I published an article in M&A Magazine which argued it requires $40-$50MM in throughput for any ROI on a direct sourcing office.)
2. The number of varying categories and SKUs being sourced.
3. The complexity of products being sourced. Cotton socks are a lot less difficult to make and package than electromechanical items with sophisticated firmware and specialized components.
4. Experience levels, competence and proficiency with the language of the country with whom they’re dealing.
5. The sheer number of factories the buyers/agents have worked with including access to the owners or very least factory bosses and relationships with those individuals; the length of time and history with those factories and dollars of business placed with them; the ability to get production bumped forward in the schedule; the ability to receive favorable payment terms which impacts cash flow of any business.
6. Competency with provincial government regulations and requirements. (How would a New Yorker fare in an Alabama factory or vice versa?)
7. Ability to travel to/from factory within one day for urgent matters, product/packaging changes, and production oversight.
8. Quality Control-Generally considered the most critical. The standard process for measuring QC and the depth of practices such as random and in production sampling, testing equipment and facilities, reports, photos, and now video.
9. Experience with logistics, freight terms and all export documentation and activities.
10. Does the agent or factory (for direct) share your sense of urgency and same philosophies and principals? Are they vested in the outcome and long term success of the business?
Many companies go it alone when embarking on an outsourcing project for the first time. Commonly, purchasing personnel will rely on web and email correspondence when initiating a sourcing project in China. Small and mid-sized businesses do not necessarily have the resources or personnel required to successfully launch a manufacturing outsourcing project in China.
Commonly, people will seek out a “sourcing agent” or other types of representative in China to act on their behalf. Baysource is different in that our team has been working with a select group of factories for over a decade and with that comes the required credibility to negotiate price, terms, and ensure products are manufactured to our customers’ specifications and expectations. Baysource doesn’t “sell” anything. What we do is get our clients exponentially closer to their project goals accomplishing in one month what would usually take a company one year.
We have all heard about or seen the Tip of the Iceberg illustration, illustrating what makes up Cost of Goods. When one considers the costs of overseas sourcing, often enough he/she does not place enough value in what goes into overseas sourcing. The expenses of travel, shipping back and forth of samples, and of course employees’ time out of the office are huge components to take into account. But what is the cost of failure? Out of spec product? What is the true cost of not having your product available for months at a time?
This is where having an organization such as Baysource, acting on your behalf and with only your interests in mind pays off in spades. Few companies will work on a no-obligation basis such as Baysource, side by side with your key decision makers, to help you accomplish your goals.
- Product Development Costs
- Distribution Channels
- Inventory and Startup Financing Capital
Educating the Masses
How will you announce the arrival of your new product to the world? Magazines? PR campaign? Put an ad in the paper? Direct Response Television (DRTV) is a great but often expensive form of advertising and one of the best ways to demonstrate a new application or use as well as building brand equity. It’s great to have a video on your web site but again, how will you drive viewers and a following?
For Part Three we turn to renown and widely respected author and expert, Jim DeBetta, who has led firms such as TV Goods, Rymax Marketing and Carson Optical. As one of the foremost authorities in helping inventors and consumer product entrepreneurs develop and launch their products through infomercials and retail store placement, Jim is widely sought as a guest speaker at many nationally recognized events.
BaySource Global: What are emerging methods, tactics and strategies for introducing new products in the public domain?
Jim DeBetta: “DRTV can be effective to quickly brand a product but the costs are very high. Internet marketing techniques offer the least costly and potentially most effective way to introduce new products – whether your own or on other’s sites. Its also critical to have a comprehensive social media campaign that can include Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and others. This can be a fast and effective way to reach many people while allowing them to provide instant feedback.”
BSG: What are overlooked tactics for getting a product into retail distribution?
JD: “Using a broker or rep is always a good idea as they have the contacts and experience to get products introduced to retail buyers. Again, it’s also a good idea to start by marketing your products online. Having a powerful internet marketing plan is a great way to start and often not seriously pursued. Also, using distributors to sell your products to mom and pops and even larger chains can be effective as they already sell other products to their customers and can offer yours as well. You may make less working with a “middle man” but the sales you achieve more than compensates for it.”
Price vs. Value
In the initial phase of a product’s life-cycle there will likely not be the scale (volume) to drive down production cost. Unless you can convince consumers they should pay a premium price point at retail break even may be longer off than you expect. Plus, buyers will tell you whether your SRP (Suggested Retail Price) is in line with their category.
BSG: Where do inventors miss the mark on price vs. value, either in over pricing or under estimating suggested retail price? (Retail sometimes dictates a cost not attainable in the startup phase due to lower initial volumes at manufacturing)
JD: “Many inventors often feel their products are worth more than they are and so they price them at too high of a retail. Also, they often do not offer enough margin for the retailer…So instead of them offering a cost of lets say 10.00 to a retailer when the MSRP is 20.00, they offer them a price of 12-13 dollars which does not give the retailer enough margin. It’s critical for inventors and startups to make money but they cannot get too greedy and have to understand the margin requirements of big retailers
Jim DeBetta is President of DeBetta Enterprises and is a mentor, coach and consultant. He is the author of The Business of Inventing and offers Group Coaching courses for inventors. Jim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook-Get Retail Ready or 770-826-2606.
David Alexander is founder of Baysource Global specializing in contract manufacturing, new product development and distribution. David can be reached at email@example.com or 813-251-4184.
In our 4 part series dedicated to new product developers, innovators and inventors, we explore the 8 top considerations when developing a new product. Whether a seasoned marketing professional or first timer, these eight critical components include aspects related to product design, positioning, manufacturing, distribution and financing.
What You’ll Need to Start: Ample Capital
Beyond personal savings, innovators look to family and friends, explore small business loans and even tap into retirement accounts to raise money for their startup products. The initial outlay of inventory capital—that which could be tied up for months is often the greatest obstacle to overcome. Minimum order requirements (MOQs) by factories usually cause a lump in the throat for the first time product developer. Even if you have the greatest gadget in the world, how do you plan on financing that first big P.O.? You’ve likely invested significantly to develop your innovation—a figure that has hopefully been taken into consideration for ROI and overall budget. While established corporations have ample cash flow for typical starting inventories, this may be the greatest initial hurdle for those new to the process.
Inventory Financing / Purchase Order Funding / Factoring
There are a half dozen inventory financing groups (IFGs) in the U.S. who provide bridge capital, purchasing and taking title to inventory which goes to a third party distribution warehouse. You then pay the IFG as for the cost of goods plus any in and out fees required by the warehouse as you sell merchandise. Purchase order financing is a new twist on Factoring, an older practice in which small businesses sell invoices at a discount for faster recovery of cash, providing the factoring company with a substantial fee. The caveat is that the invoices must be to reputable clients, i.e. Walmart to be considered.
These can be good options that allow you to purchase greater quantities thus commanding volume discounts. Another benefit is that you don’t have to give up equity to outside investors. Many times the factories’ terms require money down at the time of placing the purchase order. IFGs make it possible to abide by these terms. These companies will want to know:
- Your sales and marketing strategy (refer to Part I of the series) and about your team
- The quality of the products produced
- Your margins
- Inventory turns
- Your credit worthiness and track record
Personal guarantees and background checks are almost always standard protocol which usually means demonstrating some form of net worth whether savings, retirement funds, property, creditworthiness and no criminal records. They may also not take a chance on a new client—one who has no real balance sheet to speak of. Another downside is that these lenders charge interest rates that can be as high as 40% annually. Lastly, there is always a time requirement (term) for making good on these loans which are usually around 60 days. If you are unsuccessful in meeting your sales plan, stiff penalties may be imposed.
In just the past few years companies like Kickstarter have created tech based forums which bring creative projects to life and are open to investment by the general public. To date, over five million people have pledged over $800 million and funded more than 50,000 projects to date on Kickstarter in categories such as films, music and the arts, video games and inventions.
Crowdfunding is catching on and becoming more accepted as a means of raising capital. Investors do so at their own risk and there is little to no governance or regulation meaning no reporting or other administrative overhead. Crowdfunding is really an eco-system for philanthropy and those playing in this space have an entrepreneurial spirit. Mostly, investors do not generally require any form of equity or preferred stock so your ownership is not diluted. On April 12, 2013 the JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business) Act, was signed into law and is designed to increase job creation and economic growth. The good news is that it eases fundraising regulations imposed by the SEC enabling more entrepreneurs to raise capital.
Because blocks of investments can be minimal—as low as $1,000 or less, investors may be less motivated to provide insight or contribute to the long term success of a project.
Seed Capital / Angel Investors
The difference between Seed Capital and Venture Capital is that Seed money comes from individuals vs. institutional investors. Most angel (seed) investors have a wider appetite for risk and a savvy track record for assisting startups with building their businesses. These professionals are also versed in providing feedback on pro-formas (financial targets for top line revenues and margins; cash flow models and debt. Generally seed investors are less hands on in the day to day running of the business once they have a sound idea of your business plan. Seed investments are less administratively complex with less formal corporate contracts and governance.
Seed capital usually comes at a cost—Equity. There is risk on both sides. The investor may never recover their investment or you may give away too much ownership. Usually the latter results because it is just so tempting for the inventor to commence their dream.
- Resource Center
- Beginner’s Guide to Outsource Manufacturing
- The Beginner’s Guide to Doing Business in China
- China Product Sourcing
- China Contract Manufacturing
- China Manufacturing Consultant
- Plastic Manufacturers China
- Pros and Cons of Outsourcing to China
- Shipping from Chinese Manufacturers to Your Market
- Case Studies