There are huge cost advantages to manufacturing in China
If you’re designing a new product that requires electronics (what doesn’t nowadays), finding a Chinese factory that already makes similar products is well worth your time. It can be a fast way to execute lean and bootstrapped manufacturing. All this sounds good, right?
Yes, but for it really work you will need an experienced manufacturing setup partner like Design 1st. Otherwise, you may be at risk to these common pitfalls:
1) Not Having a Firm Quotable SpecificationBe sure your specifications are organized and in sufficient detail for quoting before the start of quotation cycle with contract manufacturers. This will ensure you get a competitive and comparative quote from each factory.
If the design specification evolves during the process, the additional costs are more difficult to control, but a technical partner can challenge any cost increases due to changes added on the fly.
2) Ideas and Design Files LeakageRemember that this factory may be building a similar product or your biggest competitor’s product. Selection of the best Contract Manufacturer for your product must be done not only with price in mind but also by setting up reasonable legal contracts for expectations and quality control. Also look carefully at the Contract Manufacturers past history, their other clients and whether they have the integrity to keep your best interests in mind.
And don’t be surprised if your relationship breaks down or at the next tradeshow your competitor has implemented your pièce de résistance or killer features in their product variant. Setting up, monitoring and maintaining a good relationship are no different than any other trusted partner you choose to engage to build your business.
3) Will Your Intellectual Property Stay Protected?Manufacturers have good process knowledge, and many times they introduce feature and component changes to the initial product design prior to manufacturing. These changes are usually done in your best interest, but they can make an unforeseen risk.
Some of these changes may alter the intellectual property of your product, which could mean the factory could have claim to contributing to the patentable elements.
4) Keep Revisions to a minimumDuring the quotation period and first pilot build of your product keep revisions to a bare minimum. If you extend the schedule or continue to tweak features and aesthetics, costs go up and the attention span at the factory goes down – not a good trade-off.
Making revisions also puts strain on the relationship with manufacturers which can cause them to ignore you, delay the build or increased costs.
5) Firmware = ulcersWhile the majority of manufacturing is easy for a manufacturer to proceed, build samples and get ready for volume manufacture (plastics and PCBs) – firmware is tricky.
Factories who write the firmware that makes the electronics and your product work the way you want it to do not tend to let this firmware go (custom software code written and inserted into the microprocessors on your circuit boards). This area of services usually causes big delays and drives up costs, especially if you don’t take control and write this firmware yourself. We recommend you have your design manufacturing support partner complete and update your firmware, avoid an ulcer!
6) Order size does matterThe larger the volume of your manufacturing build, the better your process management, control and costs reductions will be. Small order sizes may work when the factory is not busy but as soon as a big order arrives from another customer of the CM you could be put aside.
Training of staff to run a batch of your product takes time to get everything organized. With small batches, less process control is done and if your order interval is 6 months a whole new group may be building the second order - so knowledge is gained and lost and the risk of errors, defects and variation in your product goes up. Order size does matter to keep the attention of the factory and quality of your product predictable.