Are you looking to find the right manufacturing partner? Ask these 15 questions to help you get started.
First, what do you need to have before engaging with a manufacturing partner?
1. A VIABLE PROTOTYPE
◻ Is my idea or 3D prototype is viable?
Building a prototype for your product is a key part of making your idea a reality. It also highlights any problems or concerns that may come into play with the overall design of the product.
A 3D prototype is a great tool not only to check design and manufacturability, but you can also present to prospective investors to convince them that this is a viable investment. Because it’s created early in the development process, it becomes a very useful tool for marketing purposes along the way.
Keep in mind prototypes are part of the development journey to make sure your product has the look, feel, and functionality it was intended and may require more than one iteration.
□ Does my product meet DFM standards?
DFM is the general design | engineering practice of designing products in such a way that they can be manufactured efficiently.
DFM will allow potential problems to be fixed in the design phase which is the least expensive place to address them
□ Do I have the proper technical files?
A technical file is a set of documents that describes a product and can prove that the product was designed and according to the requirements of a quality management system. Before any manufacturing or prototypes can start, you will need to technical drawings or CAD files of your design.
These files represent the final design in digital form and define every feature and detail including color, material, and finish of your product. This is something that we can assist with early in the design phase of the program.
□ Do I know the component specs?
Depending on the complexity of the product, you will need to have electronic or mechanical features identified and/or sourced to implement into the product for production.
Much of this will require Mechanical and Electrical Engineering to be involved to ensure the product works as intended.
□ Do I have the bill of materials needed for manufacturing?
A bill of materials (BOM) or product structure is a list of the raw materials, sub-assemblies, intermediate assemblies, sub-components, parts, and the quantities of each needed to manufacture an end product.
A BOM can define products as they are designed (engineering bill of materials), as they are ordered (sales bill of materials), as they are built (manufacturing bill of materials). The different types of BOMS depend on the overall business need.
2. PROVEN SALES
□ Is my product going to sell?
Manufacturing can be an expensive undertaking if your product doesn’t sell. Before engaging with a manufacturing partner make sure you understand:
Who is your target market?
Have you determined demand and interest for your product?
Who are your competitors?
Next, can this manufacturing partner handle my project?
3. MANUFACTURING SPECIFICATIONS
□ Do they require minimum orders?
At M4, we can respond to as few as 500 units through literally millions.
Each project is slightly different and we would be happy to discuss your particular needs.
□ What services do they offer?
At M4, we offer design, engineering, tooling, and manufacturing.
We can help you realize a dream or simply get through the manufacturing process after a product has been designed.
□ What other manufacturing specs do I need to be aware of?
M4 is a Plastic Injection molding manufacturer with 75-1050 ton capacity.
Our facility is all materials capable and we have in-house secondary operations available including assemble and surface treatments. We have FDM 3D printing capabilities. M4 is ISO 9001:2015 Lean Compliant.
Lastly, how do we work together?
4. STARTING A MANUFACTURING PARTNERSHIP
□ What does it look like to work with a manufacturing partner?
If you are coming to us with just an idea the process flows as follows:
Our design team gets immersed in what we are designing and what market we are designing for.
A range of concepts are presented and funneled into a single idea to be refined for manufacturability.
The engineering team engages and takes the product though the DFM process.
Tooling drawings are created and tool production begins.
Once the tool is complete, manufacturing takes over and dials in the processing of the parts.
Once everything is dialed in, manufacturing begins and products are delivered as required.
□ What does the manufacturing timeline look like from design to final product?
At M4, our work is broken out into four phases - design, engineering, tooling, and manufacturing. The timeline for each of those four phases timelines are typically as follows:
Design - from ideation through refinement generally takes 5-8 weeks
Engineering - DFM through tooling drawings 3-6 weeks
Tooling - average 10-12 weeks to T-0
Manufacturing - dependent on program quantities and complexity
5. UNDERSTAND WHAT LEVERS INCREASE/DECREASE COSTS
□ How do materials impact price in manufacturing?
At M4, we process almost all materials. Each program will have its own requirements and we can help you determine the best material for your application.
Material choice is driven by many factors including strength, cosmetics, elemental resistance, green initiatives, and cost. We are constantly evolving our material library to give our clients the ability to make informed decisions.
We also work with material experts should your program have particular material requirements.
□ How does DFM impact price in manufacturing?
We have engineers on staff and can facilitate the DFM process. Once the product goes through the DFM process we are able to recommend changes required for manufacturing purposes.
We work with you to maintain the design intent as much as possible through this process. Working with an industrial designer upfront can help reduce costly changes.
□ How can quality impact price in manufacturing?
Our quality team has the latest scanning technology to ensure all parts are within specifications required by our clients to reduce the risk and cost of faulty products.
We take great pride in delivering the best parts possible off the factory floor.
6. UNDERSTAND GROWTH
□ How can M4 help my product line or business grow?
Our design team thinks creatively around your product needs. We can help define a new product category or grow your offerings through line extensions or price point goals.
We have world-class industrial design experience across many product platforms and consumer demographic profiles. A big advantage at M4 is that we can offer turn-key solutions from an idea through production all under one roof. This ultimately saves time and money through the design and manufacturing process.
Interested in learning more? Contact us.
As a bonus, download this complete checklist as a PDF. 👇