5 Tips For Moving From Prototype to Production

In our fifteen years of helping our clients transition from prototyping to first production run, we have picked up a few tips we would like to pass along. Not only will these tid-bits help you get to market with your new product faster, easier and cheaper, but it will make the process easier on your manufacturing team as well.

1) Ready! Fire! Aim! (Not Ready! Aim! Fire!)

A phrase borrowed and used here often from Ross Perot Jr.; like all big decisions in your lifetime: getting married, buying a home, having children, or starting a business: Jumping into Production on your project is a big, scary leap – but no one was ever 110% ready. Too many inventors and entrepreneurs get lost in the petty details and never pull the trigger. So when you think you are ready, fire away! After you have said go, be ready to make small course adjustments and be flexible with your engineering and manufacturing teams.

2) Shoot the Design Engineer!

We say this lovingly because we were founded by an Engineer! There comes a time in every product development that will require the engineering team to step back or begin working on a version 2.0 – but they must release 1.0 before they can move on. Often Engineers (ourselves included) want to get every last feature and every minute detail crammed into that first production run. Unfortunately, too often that results in severely delayed time tables and loss of potential revenue that would have kept the product alive well into second, third and fourth revisions. Those improvements could built your brand, given customers a reason to upgrade and kept revenue flowing – but if the first version gets stuck in the revision loop, your company probably won't stay afloat long enough to reach version 2.0.

3) Make good investments in Tooling

Non-reoccurring Engineering (NRE) and tooling costs can pile up quickly, but those investments are what enable you to scale and become profitable quickly when your demand increases. Work with your engineering and manufacturing team to make decisions with regard to NRE and tooling that you can live with today and tomorrow.

4) Work with a great Manufacturing Engineer

Just as it's time for the design engineer to go on vacation, equally as important is to have your manufacturing engineer (or team) ready for action. As you start receiving first articles, chances are you are going to have a few surprises. There is no better way to handle the curve balls headed your direction, than to have your manufacturing engineer ready to evaluate, make changes and communicate with your manufacturer.

5) Choose the right manufacturer

Whether you decide to manufacture in the US or abroad finding the manufacturing team that fits your project is key. Most contract manufacturers has a niche, find out what that niche is when you're talking to potential manufacturing partners and see if your project makes sense with that partner. We're brushing over the normal advice like checking references, capabilities, reputation and being cautious at the start.

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