The manufacturing process is a lot less intimidating when it’s broken down into a series of steps, so let’s do that right now:
The Manufacturing Process In 8 Easy Steps
Matt Davis | RevPart
Plenty of entrepreneurs are familiar with the first step in the manufacturing process: the concept phase. That’s the easy part, where your talents as a visionary keep you coming up with new product ideas and ways to fill gaps in the market — but where do you go from there? The manufacturing process is a lot less intimidating when it’s broken down into a series of steps, so let’s do that right now:
- Concept: As mentioned above, this is that first step, where your new idea starts to take form. Now is the time to be as loose as possible with your concept, perhaps creating a series of rough napkin sketches and holding informal conversations with your network to gauge its potential.
- Market research: Before moving forward with your concept, it’s a good idea to conduct some market research. Does your product already exist? Is there a need for it in the market? Can you sufficiently differentiate it from other products out there? A nice bonus of the market research phase is that it often helps you refine your concept and design in order to truly be a new and useful addition to the marketplace.
- Design: Preliminarily, the design phase will involve asking lots of questions to solidify ideas from the concept phase: What function does your product need to serve? What industries or target buyer is it aimed at? What materials should you consider for it, based on strength and environmental needs? With the answers to these (and more) questions, you (or your designers) can create a first-phase design for your product using CAD.
- Prototype and refine: With your initial design, you should create low-cost prototypes via 3D printing, and iterate your concept for form and basic function from there. If your budget allows, you can also create higher quality, more functional prototypes through other manufacturing methods as your design evolves.
- Research your supply chain: Will you source raw materials on your own, or will your manufacturer assist? Are there threats to your supply chain due to political or geographic situations? Supply chain is an often-overlooked part of manufacturing that can have a big impact on your production and time to market — be sure to spend time answering those questions.
- Select a production manufacturer: Even manufacturers that say they do it all will have certain specialties. Be sure to research to find one that will be the best fit for you, whether that means the manufacturer specializes in the material or process you’ve chosen, or has experience working with businesses similar to yours.
- Decide on a distribution method: How will you manage inventory? Yourself, or with a warehousing partner? Will you fulfill orders, will you work with distributors, or will you sell your product directly? Your predicted volume of orders will play a big role in this step, so be sure to take a good, hard look at those numbers prior to making these decisions.
- Scale: With your product out to market, you can start to enjoy the benefits of your success — a major one of which is expanding your business! Whether that means growing your geographic footprint, increasing your manufacturing volume to fulfill orders, or expanding your sales or marketing budgets, your work is never truly done. In fact, these steps are just the beginning — best of luck to you on your entrepreneurial journey.
Matt Davis is an experienced product design engineer and a design guru in plastic injection molding at RevPart, a custom rapid prototyping and 3D printing services company.
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