Custom Designed Products
Manufacturing from China can be broken into three different categories. We like to categorize them in the following fashion:
- Off the shelf production
- Product tweaking
- 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 is 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 advice.
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 designed 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 be 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 vividly 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.
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.