Who Makes This Stuff ?

Manufacturing Basics for Startups and Product Based Ventures

Potential Sand Trap #4 – Manufacturing

Have you received an email from a factory (or some place) in China saying they want to manufacture your widget?  Make your Prototypes, or Sell your Widget?

Have you answered one of those emails?  Did you figure it was good luck smiling on you when the email came while you are wondering:  "Where should I get this thing made?"

Here's an example of one that came to me.

Manufacturing Email From China

I have no idea if this company is good or not, or if the people are honest or not, or if they even exist or not.  I have had no interaction with them beyond receiving this note.

However, we did have an incident with a different manufacturing company.  After quoting and setting up the project, we sent them a deposit, but they claimed they did not receive it.  After some investigation, it appears their email was hacked, and someone had inserted a different bank account number.

We have no idea what really happened.  The money disappeared - though in the end some of the money was recovered.

The point here is understanding the where, what and how of a manufacturing choice is not as simple as answering an email.  For more, please read Pros & Cons of Foreign Manufacturing or Domestic.

How Are Things Made?

Are you in the manufacturing field?  Can you name 5 different ways to manufacture in plastic?

Think about it for a minute.  Will your widget be made (all or in part) in metal?  or from plastic?

How about 5 ways to process metal?  Do you know why to choose one manufacturing method over another?  Do you know which materials or processes are most expensive and which are the least?

Now the key:  Which is best for your widget?

If you think you know, justify your choices - both material and processes - by compare and contrast.

Hold It There For A Moment

Wait, Wait.  Stop for a minute.  The questions above are are asked to illustrate a point, not to insult.  Think about the questions.  Remember, you don't have to know, but you need someone that does know.

Also, remember that "best" is not the same for everyone.  It might not even be the same for you and your product as your sales volume goes up.

Who Makes This Stuff?

If you don't know  . . .  it is perfectly normal  . . .  If you don't know what materials and manufacturing processes are best for your Widget, how are you going to get it made in the most efficient and effective way?

These same questions and decisions are also appropriate for making prototypes.  Even the Why Should You Make A Prototype?  falls in this category.

The Take-Away

Startup SuccessThe biggest and most important take away I hope you get from all of these pages is that a startup is a learning process.  At a big corporation, they have lots of people doing different jobs - all specializing in one aspect of the processes to make the company go.  By contrast, in a startup, one or few people get to do everything.  You can't be an expert in everything, so build your resources!

Especially in manufacturing, no one knows everything, but there are people around that know the parts you need.  There are so many resources to draw upon.  If you don't know who to ask, ask your associates who to ask.

I started this company, Synthesis Engineering Services, with the concept that one is limited, but many are unstoppable.  I don't know (and can't know) everything that my customers may need, but I can certainly find out who does know about each piece.

The "Synthesis" concept is "bringing the pieces together for a coherent whole", and I have developed a network of people that know stuff.   That network is amazingly helpful as we 'scratch each other's backs'.  In a startup, you need something similar - a network of smart people that can help guide you.

Where Should I Get The Widget Made?

So, going back to the beginning . . . here's the process of figuring it out:

  • First, What (Who) are your resources?  Find some friends (and make new friends) that can help.
  • Second, Talk to several people.  Don't take the first opinion you get.  The first opinion may be correct, but you need knowledge and other views so you can make the right choice, and you won't know if the first opinion is right until you find some supporting or differing opinions.
  • Third, Learn what you can.  Learn everything you can about applicable options, because a knowledgeable consumer has power.
  • Fourth, Consider your options with the help of someone in the field. Then,
  • Go forward Informed, & Go Deliberately.  If you've done the steps above, you'll have confidence in your decisions and you can move purposefully forward.

It's been said time and time again - "I never knew how much I didn't know about running a company."  Manufacturing and prototyping are two areas that really highlight this for many inventors.

Just don't let it scare you, because you don't have to know it all.  You just have to know enough, along with knowing who are the people that do know more.

We also suggest reading two parts of the "Product Development Process" — Step 5 about Prototypes, and the other, Step 6 about Production. Both of these go into a lot more detail on the topic of Who Makes This Stuff?

startupNext Up:  Pulling It All Together

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