Before You Begin

Before You Begin

A - Z Service

Before getting started with our A - Z Service, our goal is to make sure you are in the best position possible for us to learn about your intended product and seamlessly move through the process of bringing your project to market. 

We have created this 'Before You Begin' guide to help you understand what we need, what we believe is necessary, and how we can make sure you provide us with all the necessary information about your product. 

Our A - Z Service includes a total of 9 stages. If you have not yet familiarized yourself with these stages, head over to the A - Z Individual Stages Guide to learn about each stage. 

If you are just coming from the A - Z Individual Stages Guide, or you have already familiarized yourself with our service, this guide will help ensure you are completely prepared to begin using our A - Z Service. 

Included in this guide is the following topics:

Product Details

Simply put, we need all details before getting started. Before we begin, you will need to identify a product and their specifications. Specifications are an integral part of the sourcing process and we are not mind readers. This is why you need to be incredibly clear with us, as to what the exact product is you would like to have manufactured.

Be prepared to have to research product specifications such as size, weight, thread count, packaging type, material, color, component specification, and more. Product links and sales pages don’t always give us the information we are looking for. While we are more than happy to ask the supplier for their suggestion, it is not always best to trust their judgement. The reason being, their customers don’t always have the same requirements and needs as you.

If our support team is asking you for product specifics and you’re unable to provide us with the answer, you may want to consider doing some of the following things:

  1. Order samples from an existing company to inspect the product
  2. Contact an existing company's customer support and ask them for more detailed product information.
  3. Search online of other similar brands and see if they offer more detailed product information.
  4. For custom designed products, consult with your product design team. 

After you order our A - Z Service, you will be directed to fill out a product specification form. This form gives you the chance to share all the information you know about the product. If you have a product specification sheet, you will be given the opportunity to upload it for us to review. 

Custom Products

Customizations are common components of many manufacturing projects. If your product needs customizing, it is helpful to be able to identify the type of customizing that is needed. 

Manufacturing from China can be broken into three different categories. We like to categorize them in the following fashion: 

  1. Off the shelf production
  2. Product tweaking
  3. Custom design 

Ranging from the most simple to the most complex form of manufacturing, most products being sold on e-commerce and in retail will fall into one of these three categories. 

Off the shelf productions and product tweaking are viewed as basic forms of manufacturing and fall within the capabilities offered in our A-Z service. Custom design productions have their limitations and require further explanation and understanding, prior to determining if using our service is ideal for your project. 

A custom designed product is a product that originates from an idea and requires a full package of product design documents created by a product development team. 

All products are different and this article only touches on the basics of product development. Because of this, it is important to understand the necessary steps that need to be taken when working towards getting a product custom manufactured. 

The purpose of this article is to briefly explain the necessary steps that should be taken and the information we need prior to being able to assist in the sourcing and manufacturing of a custom designed product. It is important not to use this article as a guide towards product development. A company specializing in product development will be able to provide more actionable advise. 

Design for Manufacturing Ready

Before looking towards China for manufacturing options, the first and most important step in product development is to get the product designed by a professional product designer. A design company needs to be contracted in order to produce a packet of design materials that are design for manufacturing (DFM) ready. This content includes 3D drawings, material specifications and component specification lists that easily explain to the factory engineer all aspects that are needed in order to produce the product. 

It essentially acts as a detailed recipe that can viewed by the factory engineer in order for them to determine the feasibility of said production.  

China should be looked at as a location that is great for manufacturing, but less than ideal for design and creativity.  It is important to have all of this DFM content ready well before reaching out to factories in China. 

DFM content needs to be created using professional 3D design software, and created at the standards of a professional development team. Cocktail napkin drawings, Google Sketch documents, and vivid written explanations mean nothing to engineers in China. These things may be great when explaining your concept to product designers, but won't do you any good when speaking with factories. 

Tooling & Moulding

Once designs are DFM ready, early stage prototypes will need to be created. These prototypes along with the design drawings will be what helps create the tools and moulds used to mass produce the product. 

Tools and moulds are big, heavy, expensive and can require multiple creations in order to produce the ideal product. Tools can cost thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars. Depending on how the negotiations go with the factory, these moulds are either owned by the importer or the factory. While much more expensive, we always recommend that the importer own all tools and moulds exclusively, and maintain full control of them. This can help in intellectual property protection and will make it easy if changing factories is necessary during future orders.  

Understanding Order Quantities 

Custom designed products almost always require a much higher order quantity than some of the more basic forms of manufacturing. New products take time to perfect on the production floor, materials often need to be purchased in their raw form, and factories only have one buyer to consider for future orders. Because of the added time in training production staff, sourcing new materials, wastage during production configuration and man power needed to get said production up and running, factories will often quote order quantities that are much higher than what might be expected. 

We understand this makes it difficult for e-commerce manufacturers who operate via the model of early low orders for validation, with an understanding of ramping up once the product sales velocity has been validated. Unfortunately, most of the costs explained in this article can't be avoided. 

Product Compliance 

Depending on the type of product and the intended market, compliance requirements are often necessary. These are various testing certifications and registrations required in order to successfully import and sell a product in a certain market. 

A customs broker is most equipped to determine the necessary compliance requirements. Once requirements are determined, these tests and certifications need to be obtained prior to exporting the goods. It is ideal to determine the necessary requirements early on and determine the proper steps and costs to obtain them while still in the planning phase. 

In our experience, while tests do vary and requirement and cost, you can expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars per test. 

The Rule of 3

Explaining estimated costs for custom designed products is virtually impossible. We've seen products get designed and ready to be manufactured for as little as $20,000 USD. We often see costs in the range of $50,000 - $80,000 USD, but there is no saying how how design costs can rise. All of these numbers don't have production or shipping costs factored in. So those above numbers are just taking a product from idea to reality, in order to start the production process. This means, once said costs are determined, production and logistics fees need to then be factored in. 

We like to advise interested inventors to operate via the rule of three. Once you've estimated all potential costs, multiply said number by three in order to obtain a more accurate estimate of all outlaid costs for design.

Using Guided Imports

As we mentioned above, our service was created for products that fall within the 'off shelf productions' and 'product tweaking' categories of manufacturing. There are times when we have worked with custom designed products, but we only do so on a case by case basis. Once DFM documents have been created, our team will be happy to look at your idea and determine if said production is something that would fall within our capabilities. 

Average Timeline for Completion

We are a service based product. Our clients hire us to safely identify qualified suppliers capable of manufacturing their product. They use us to streamline the process by allowing us to act as the boots on the ground and in a consulting capacity. 

We try our best to identify clients who have the assumptions we can get products sourced, produced and shipped in lightning fast speeds, because this is never our focus. We are not ashamed to say that the most common reason the Guided Imports team would butt heads with our clients is when they are so focused on meeting an unrealistic timeline that they refuse to acknowledge the massive risk one is put in when suppliers are rushed. 

We've written an extensive article on our blog about  Why Getting Your Factory to Move Faster is Only Going to Hurt You. The shortened version of this article is, putting suppliers under pressure and trying to expedite the entire production process almost always leads to delays, mistakes and serious problems. 

If you inform us of an unrealistic timeline, we will be the first to inform you of the infeasibility.

Estimating timelines is incredibly difficult because the variables that need to be considered are too great. That being said, we anticipate the average time it takes to have an off the shelf product manufactured and fulfilled is about four months. Tweaked and customized products take even longer and it is not unheard of for projects involving customizations to take more than eight months. 

You Get What You Pay For 

Quality vs. Speed vs. Price

Sites like Alibaba are fantastic tools for identifying potential products and getting an idea of what is available on the market. However, false advertisement exists in China! There is no regulating entity that requires suppliers listed on Alibaba to quote correct prices. Because of this, along with the common presumption that anything can be made in China for tiny fractions of what they are sold for, when in reality the margins are not as big as assumed. 

An article can be found on our blog titled,  Why Choosing the Cheapest Supplier Could Cost You. This article explains how low quality materials are easily swapped for superior quality, allowing suppliers to present the idea of potentially high quality goods at incredibly low prices. When in reality, you get what you pay for. 

The way the Guided Imports team prevents our clients from assuming the costs of their ideal products are much less than reality is via our Product Validation stage. As you may have already read, our Product Validation stage identifies the estimated costs to manufacture a product from the very beginning. We present high and low estimates of the intended product and use these figures as ballpark numbers to determine the total landed cost of having the product produced. After we submit this report, we ask our clients to accept or reject their product based on our findings. 

Our validation estimates are so accurate, we indicate that the suppliers we identify in the future sourcing stage will provide quotations that fall somewhere between our high and low unit cost estimates. 

If our clients are unhappy with these estimates, they are free to alter their specification requirements, in an attempt to bring down the cost, or identify a new product for us to validate. 

There Are Additional Charges

We do our best to provide a seamless solution when it comes to our A - Z service. That being said, the cost of our service is not the only cost you can expect to pay when having a product manufactured. 

Our service covers a lot, but we understand the necessity for our clients to fully understand what additional costs will and may arise during the process. This document will be broken down into what is included within our service, all additional costs, as well as potential costs.

Included in our A - Z Service 

  • All product validation, sourcing and product oversight costs
  • One on-site quality control inspection lasting one day
  • Product photography 

Additional Costs

  • Product sample fees
  • Sample shipping fees
  • Production costs
  • Production shipping and logistics fees
  • Product labeling and preparation

Potential Additional Costs

  • Molding and tooling costs
  • Product certification and registration fees
  • Product testing fees
  • Packaging costs
  • Additional quality inspections, if requested

Not included in our A-Z Seamless Service

  • Product and packaging design
  • Logo design

Our services allow us to manage and oversee all aspects of the sourcing, production and logistics. That being said, the general rule of thumb is, if additional costs present themselves, we will forward the costs to the client.

Please Don't Begin Unless You Are Ready to Manufacture

The service we provide is as streamlined as possible, in an effort to not only make things incredibly easy for our clients, but also allow the process to move along as efficiently as possible. Because of this, the Guided Imports team includes specific terms into our agreement with clients to define the services we perform and how long we will spend on them. 

Because of this goal, we ask our clients to only begin using our service once they are ready to have their products sourced and a production begun, otherwise, additional expenses may be incurred by the client.

To learn more about the details of our Sourcing Timeline, you may read about it here:  Sourcing Timeline Service Agreement

Our Refund Policy

For the most up to date Refund Policy, you can always visit, The A - Z Refund Policy.

Guided Imports stands behind all of the services we offer to our clients and are confident that you will be pleased. However, there may be reasons that you do not wish to move forward after purchasing the A to Z Service. Should that be the case, here is our Refund Policy for the A to Z Service:

  1. Full refunds may be requested in writing and must be received by Guided Imports within 14 days of purchasing our A to Z Service, provided that Guided Imports has not started the Product Sourcing stage of the service.
  2. Once the Product Sourcing stage has begun, Guided Imports has invested time and effort on Client’s behalf, and therefore, refunds will be given on a percentage of the price paid, according to the following schedule*:    
    Upon Completion of this stage: % of Amount paid for service to be refunded
    Validation 100% for 1 validation 80% after 2 validations
    Sourcing 50%
    Sampling 40%
    Negotiation 30%
    Product Manual 20%
  3. No refunds will be given beyond 120 days from the date of purchase of the A to Z Service. Any refunds listed above will only be considered if requested prior to 120 days from the date of purchase of the service.

Prior to purchasing Guided Import's A - Z Sourcing Service, client must agree to these terms. 

Thank You

Thank you for taking the time to review this guide. If you were planning on getting started, and were instructed to review this prior to beginning, we would like to invite you to  head over to the Let's Begin page of the A - Z Service to sign up.

If you do have any additional questions please don't hesitate to contact us using the link found below. 

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