Developing an initial prototype for a new product is a big deal. But you can’t sell a prototype (at least not at scale). If you want to turn your product into a cash-generating machine, you have to scale up production. Doing so requires a very intentional approach.
When is it Time to Move Forward With Production?
The prototyping phase for a new product can be intensive. Depending on the type of product, the complexity, and the team’s experience, it can last anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years. The question is, how do you know when it’s time to move forward with production? Here are a few signs you’re ready:
- All obvious kinks are worked out. Prototypes are intended to help you identify any flaws or kinks that may be present in the product. Once you’re confident that all of these issues are resolved you’re ready to move forward.
- Full internal support. Do all key stakeholders agree that it’s time to take the product to market? (Make sure you’re listening to a variety of voices, including people in the back office and front office.)
- Healthy external support. Hopefully you’ve tested the prototype with a focus group of customers. What do they say? If they’re giving a thumbs up, this is another tally in the “go to market” column.
- Capacity and focus. Taking a product to market is obviously a big deal. Does your team have the capacity and focus to take this project on right now? Or would you be better off waiting several weeks or months?
The decision to move forward with production is a big one. It’s equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking. But at the end of the day, it’s what you have to do if you want to capitalize on your product. Acting with conviction will serve you well.
5 Tips for Taking Your Prototype to Production
You have a physical prototype in your hands – now what? How do you actually move forward with bringing the product to production (so that you can ultimately bring it to market)? Here are a few tips:
- Account for the Bill of Materials
As you may know, a bill of materials (or BOM) is a spreadsheet that includes every part of the product itemized out individually. This does a couple of things.
For starters, it helps you see what/how much materials are needed. Since material costs fluctuate based on volume, this gives you a good idea of the optimal amount to order for cost savings.
Secondly, a BOM tells you exactly how much it costs to manufacture a single production unit of the new product. You can then compare this against larger order quantities to find your sweet spot for the initial production run.
- Find the Right Partners
The next step is to find the right partners to help you transition from prototype to production. You may choose to do everything under one roof, or you might find it more affordable and practical to partner with a few different companies for various stages of production.
It’s highly recommended that you consult with a CNC machining company if you have complex/technical production needs for end-use production-grade parts. Depending on the type of product, you might be able to go from prototype to production with CNC machining. If not, you would have to include an additional partner in the process.
- Gather Quotes
As you meet with different manufacturers and potential partners, you’ll need to provide enough materials for them to provide you an accurate quote. This usually includes a drawing package, BOM, and some sort of prototype. Based on this information, they’ll provide a detailed quote and a proposal for the project. As with most things, a minimum of three quotes is recommended. This will help you get a feel for the “going rate.”
- Start Tooling and Sampling
Once you choose your manufacturer, the tooling process begins. This is where they set up the machines, molds, and templates for the product. Depending on the complexity of your product, this could take anywhere from several days to several months. Samples will be produced based on the tooling. Once approved on your end, the manufacturing is slated to begin.
- Ensure You’re Protected
Before going to market, double-check everything from an intellectual property vantage point. Patents, trademarks, and other forms of IP protection should be fully completed before you launch the product. A failure to do so could create serious problems for you later.
Adding it All Up
Every process is different. Your budget, product complexity, timeline, goals, resources, and experience will all have an impact on your ability to transition from prototype to fully-developed, market-ready product. But if you follow the advice outlined in this article, the process will prove to be quite manageable.