Manufacturing considerations for crowdfunding projects

There are a lot of things to think about while planning your crowdfunding project, and manufacturing is an important one.

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Tom Dadourian

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Coming up with a great idea for a product is the first, most obvious step on the path to launching a crowdfunding campaign and creating a thriving business. Once you have that idea, though, you need to think about a lot of other things, and chief among them is how you’re going to manufacture your product. It might seem like something you can put off until later, but planning ahead for the manufacturing phase can save you a lot of future headaches. We’ve compiled a list of things you need to consider when you think about manufacturing considerations for crowdfunding.

Understand your market

In order to think about manufacturing, you first need to understand your market. Why are you developing this product? Is it something that will appeal to a wide range of people, or is it more niche? What need are you addressing, and what makes your solution better than the others already out there? Who are your target customers and who are your competitors?

There’s a lot going on behind every decision you make, but it all comes back to understanding the market you’re aiming for. When you’re developing a product, you’re working towards developing a company around it, and that company will be responsible for putting that product into your backers’ hands. Being able to clarify your vision from the outset will help you make every decision that follows.

Know that there are variables behind your product

Everything starts with your design, but going from design to finished product isn’t as easy as one-two-three. You’ll have to identify a factory to work with and go through the prototyping process. It’s rare that the very first prototype you create will be exactly what you want; you’ll almost always have to address issues or change small things to perfect your product. You may have to go through the prototyping process multiple times. You don’t know what you don’t know until you get started, so it’s very difficult to predict how long this process will take—or how much it will cost.

It’s easy to change or add things in the design process, but that gets a lot more costly and drains a lot more time once you start production. Remember that you’re not just designing a product and moving on; you need to think about how each component is going to be made. If you’re doing die cast metal pieces, you’ll have to create that die. If your product requires injection-molded parts, those molds will need to be made. Every time you alter one of those pieces, the mold or die will need to be recreated, and each of those things can add weeks and thousands of dollars to your manufacturing budget and timeline.

Maintaining a strict budget and schedule through the prototyping process is difficult, if not impossible. The whole thing is very fluid, and even if you’ve been through it before with a different product, you never know what challenges will arise with this product. Keep in mind that you need to be patient, but that there’s also a time to stop redesigning and go with a model that works, or you’ll never complete your project.

Regulatory requirements will factor into manufacturing

There will be different regulatory oversight rules to comply with depending on where you plan to sell your product. In the USA, the FDA regulates not only food and medicine, but also what kinds of containers are food-safe. If your product has electronic components, you’ll have to abide by the conditions of the UL and the FCC in the US, the CE in Europe, and the cUL or CSE in Canada. In California, you’ll have to label whether or not your product is Prop 65 compliant. No matter where you’re planning to sell, you need to make sure you’re following all the rules.

You’ll need to use certain materials to make sure you’re complying with these regulations, and what works for one agency might not work with another. You’ll also have to factor in the cost of the testing and certification processes, which will impact your schedule. Knowing about all of these things ahead of time is key to understanding the true cost and timeline of the manufacturing process.

Your manufacturing location is important

Choosing where to produce your newly crowdfunded product can have a lot of impact. The manufacturing environments in each country are different, and the costs associated with those factories will vary as well. Some countries also have certain things that they’re good at; for example, the USA has excellent injection molding factories and assembly centers, so if that’s central to your product, you may want to consider manufacturing in the USA.

The decision to manufacture a product in China is often based on cost. China has become a manufacturing powerhouse because they’ve built vertical integration into every step of their manufacturing process. This means that a lot of things that would normally happen in different places all happen in the same location with many Chinese factories. They’ve put the infrastructure in place to keep everything in-house, which often makes it easier and cheaper to produce goods.

There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing where to manufacture your product, but one of the most basic is this: what’s more important to you, the location of your manufacturer or the cost of the process?

Expect the unexpected

There are a lot of details that will pop up during the manufacturing process that you would never have thought to consider before they arise. You’ll learn a lot as you go, but it’s important to remember that you will not and cannot anticipate every issue that you’ll encounter in the manufacturing process. Maybe you’ll find out that while your prototype works correctly and looks right, it doesn’t feel like it should in your hands; maybe you’ll decide that a different finish is needed, or a different type of screw, or a different material altogether. That’s not something you would be able to predict, but it’s something that can change the outcome of your product.

Not everything is under your control, either. Your factory might have a power outage that puts them out of commission for a week. Maybe your timeline didn’t account for a holiday in China that will shut the factory down for a month. Something could happen in the supply chain that holds up production on the last piece of your product. It’s important to try to be flexible when it comes to your manufacturing schedule, because keeping a rigid mindset will only lead to disappointment. Everyone involved is doing the best they can to get you where you need to be, but you never know what unexpected issues might pop up.

You have to stay on top of minor details

Stay focused throughout the entire manufacturing process; don’t just assume that everything will work out as you hope it will. You need to pay attention to the function and aesthetics of your product in order to make it the best it can possibly be. If you’re designing a cloth bag, for example, you need to think about each individual component—every zipper, pocket, Velcro closure, and strap needs to be planned out. The details matter, and it’s your job to make sure that they’re right as you go through the manufacturing process.

Don’t overlook your product’s packaging

In the end, your goal is to deliver a good experience to your backers. This means manufacturing a top-quality product, but it requires considering other details as well. Think about how you’re going to package your product and what the unboxing experience is going to be like. This is especially important if your goal is to sell your product in brick-and-mortar stores; you know your product’s ins and outs, but most people’s first experience with it will be its packaging, so you have to design and manufacture that as well. You want people to be drawn to the packaging so they develop an interest in your product. Unless you’re selling fully online, you’ll always have customers whose first experience with your product is the box, and you have to use that to convince them that the product inside is worth their time and money.

Manage your expectations

It can be difficult to remember and accept that you will almost never be the factory’s #1 priority. Your product means the world to you, but until you hit the point where you’re ready to mass produce, it might be difficult to get the factory’s attention. Keep in mind that factories are built to mass produce; the prototyping, sample making, and development process is not how they stay in business. Therefore, it’s important to keep your own expectations in check, but it’s just as important to manage the factory’s expectations. Letting them know that you’re working through the development cycle with a new product can help ease the way.

Remember to enjoy yourself

This might sound trite, but remember to enjoy the experience. Manufacturing has a lot of intricacies, and it’s not easy no matter what type of product you’re launching. It’s important to try to have fun with the products you take to market, and setting yourself up for success from the beginning will help with that goal. It also helps to work with the right people, so get in touch with us today to see if we can help you launch your product!

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