Five things to look for in a manufacturing partner

Rebecca Crowder
Product Design Consultant | Blue Dots Design Ltd
12th May 2020

What do I look for in a manufacturing partner for my clients? 

 Well some of the time it depends on the clients’ top priorities. For example if they need a specific material using, then that becomes the top priority, or if the delivery date is super tight, then deadlines are top of the list. But if you are a start up, or even an experienced designer launching a new product to market, there are some basic things to look out for. 

  1. Credibility. Take a good look over their website. Look at their case studies, their portfolio, the client list. Are those clients similar to you? And have they received a good service? Don't be afraid to call them up and have a chat about the projects they have worked on that may be similar to yours. Do they have a testimonials page? Most people are happy to help and offer their advice and opinions. No harm can come from contacting some of the past clients and asking them about their  experiences.

  2. Helpfulness and proactivity. After you have made that first phone call and had a chat with them, have a think about how it went. A good manufacturer to partner with will be happy to help you, no matter how silly you feel your questions are. They should answer with ease and explain their reasoning to you. Similarly, if you are communicating with them via email and they take a long time to respond, or don't answer your questions fully or leave you unsure, then they probably aren't the one for you.

  3. Experience. How long has the supplier been operating for? Knowledge is key when it comes to manufacture. Do they have a team of experienced staff for each stage of the process?

  4. Price. Cost price is a driving force for a lot of projects, and finding someone who is on your price level is important as it can make or break a project. There may be options however; first quotes might contain elements you do not need for your project, or might be over quoted. Don't be afraid to go back to the supplier and ask for parts to be stripped out of the quote, or paired back a bit. If you don't ask, you don't get. Check that quotes include costs for packaging and shipping as well, as these can be overlooked.

  5. Capacity and delivery times. If you are in a hurry to launch a product to market to hit a deadline, for example a trade show, you need to make sure your chosen factory has the capacity to help you and the lead times are adequate to ensure you aren't left without. 

 My final piece of advice (and in my experience the most important) is to pay the company you are considering a visit. If you have been for a look around it gives you a better understanding of the manufacturing process, their facilities, the staff etc. Understanding the manufacturing process can only help improve the designs of your products, both present and future.  If you are a start up business, or have an idea for a product you would like to launch to market, and need to find suitable manufacturers to work with, it can feel like a bit of a minefield. Hopefully the tips I’ve shared with you here today will help, and for more advice you can follow me on Linked in @rebeccacrowderdesign or directly to my website

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