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I find that inventors often just find a manufacturer that is willing to go ahead and make their product and then gives them a quote. Inventors are better off asking more questions of manufacturers to better understand their capabilities. Asking more questions also lets the manufacturer know that you have some business savvy, which might encourage the manufacturer to give you a better deal.
- What kind of equipment do you have for low volume production? Your costs for low volume production should be higher as the equipment is not as efficient. But some manufactures will be set up for low volume production, some even have prototype equipment, or might use 3D printers. But some manufactures will only have equipment for large scale production, which means that their low volume production will be very expensive.
- What type of equipment do you have for large scale production? If the manufacturer only has large scale equipment, your cost for low volume initial production will be very high.
- Are you exclusively a contract manufacturer or do you have products of your own? If a manufacturer has its own line, those products will be the manufacturer’s priority.
- How what capacity do you have for handling my product? The manufacturer may hedge on answering this, but you don’t want to go with a manufacturer who has a very high capacity, because they will drop you if they need to produce products for themselves or higher priority customers.
- Do you have customers shipping by containers? If so, is it possible to ship with them in their container? Often other customers have less than full capacity in their containers and it will save you money if you can combine with them.
- Do you offer support for dealing with customs, government regulations and freight shipments. If the manufacturer doesn’t offer these services you will probably need to hire an outside company to assist you.
- If you don’t offer assistance, is there a company that you or your customers use to handle customs and freight needs? You are better off using a firm that the manufacturer has already been working with.
- What type of company certifications do you for quality or good manufacturing practices. Depending on where you are sourcing your products, companies, or their employees will have some certifications. A certified manufacturer often has better quality control processes, and often will make a product with a better “fit and finish”, which means it will look and feel like a quality product.
- What type of inspection reports will you provide prior to shipping? Will you work together with us to establish that checklist? You won’t get a quality product unless establish what is acceptable to you upfront.
- How many people are in your quality control department? Who signs off on a product clarifying that it is ready to ship?
- Do you routinely package individual products? If the manufacturer doesn’t, you might be better off bringing products and having them packaged here.
- Do you have a vendor you use for printing packaging materials? Do you receive multiple quotes before choosing a printer? Will you allow us to approve a packaging suppler?
You want to ask these questions for several reasons. First it establishes that you are professional, and that you expect a professional performance by the manufacturer. Second, if the manufacturer wavers on too many of the questions, you will know re flags are being raised and you will want to proceed cautiously. Finally, these are questions that help you know what to expect from the manufacturer, and the answers will help you choose which manufacturer will be your best choice.