Finding a Manufacturer for Your Invention
You brought your invention through the beginning steps of the process and now exploring various options of bringing your invention to market. You could license your idea to a manufacturer with distribution which requires minimal risk and pays you a royalty or you may decide to go into business for yourself by manufacturing your product and taking a larger risk with potentially a greater return.
Responsibilities of Manufacturing
Now that you decided to manufacture your invention, there are some questions you need to ask yourself. Do you have the finances to invest for set-up, tooling, production, packaging, liability insurance, websites and marketing initiatives? Do you understand your industry and what the buyers or sales reps will expect of you? Are you prepared to handle shipping, warehousing, accounting, product safety testing and other responsibilities that come along with starting a business? There are entrepreneurs that forge ahead and find out these answers as they go along, perhaps learning lessons along the way and some may look to find a partner or partners to help in sharing the responsibilities.
Manufacturing in the U.S. or Overseas
The entrepreneurial inventor may look to keep manufacturing in the United States or search for manufacturing overseas. You will need to evaluate production costs, volume minimum order quantities (referred to as MOQ) and maximum capacities of production, shipping costs and overall comfort level of a local factory vs. overseas. With technology today, cameras can be honed in live on your production activities whether in the US or overseas through the internet.
Finding a Local U.S. Factory
When searching for a local manufacturer, there are resources online with directories of manufacturers such as ThomasNet.com. Filter what you are searching for by using the words "contract manufacturing" and include the generic industry or specific terms that the search would recognize. Contract manufacturing means that the factories are for hire and work with outside companies. You can also search by state and even by city to find a factory near you. Trade shows have manufacturers that exhibit and you can speak to them directly. Ask other people, including friends and family you may know that are involved in manufacturing or work in industrial parks may give you a lead. Also, finding a fellow inventor that may have taken their invention into manufacturing may have a factory they could share that work with inventors and possibly accept smaller orders to start.
Searching For an Overseas Manufacturer
Exploring overseas factories can be just as easy as finding them locally. There are many online directories to explore such as a popular international portal called Alibaba.com. Search for a similar product compared to yours that can direct you towards a matching factory. Pay attention to the vendors on the website while doing your search by referring directly to manufacturers. There are many distributors that simply sell product inventory from factories and there are brokers that represent many factories. Indicate which are factories, connect with them with an online chat feature, web video call, call by phone (many of them speak English well) or email them for more information and a time to connect. Do research away from the website on a search engine to learn more about them or go to the direct website of the factory and get familiar with what they offer. Be sure to ask if they own the factory, if they're an employee or a broker. Ask questions about what type of products they manufacture, get references and call US companies that they work with. Also, as mentioned earlier, check with other resources and referrals to connect you with overseas factories.
Requesting a Quote
When approaching a manufacturer for a quote, they most likely will be asking you for computer engineered drawings (CAD) or 3D files that the factory will be able to review in development software tools to evaluate how much material and labor may be needed. They may also help in assisting to identifying what type of materials you could use and estimate a cost for the tooling or set-up costs to mass produce your product.
Finding a manufacturer may be one of the most important decisions you make. Think about the time and costs associated with starting with production. Once you start with a factory, it may be complicated to start moving around your production and equipment used including tooling or molds. You can look at your selected factory as your partner and work towards open communication, understanding and expectations to have peace of mind for you to focus on other steps of launching your product.