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Inventors need to negotiate more than price with their vendors, they need to clarify deliverables and timelines and set quality and performance standards. I recommend inventors prepare a simple list of what they expect (expectation list) from their vendors on a variety of points, have the vendors agree to the points in the list, and then use that list when discussing progress with the vendor. An added benefit of this approach is that it makes it clear when you need to approve a vendor action
Key Component of an Expectation List
Deliverables / Timeline. This typically is the most important list. I’ve made this list more extensive than many projects, but you need to be sure every item that is involved in your project is on the list. When you are starting with a vendor, break the list down into phases.
projected price for prototype 1 week
preliminary prototype design for approval 3 weeks
initial prototype for approval 6 weeks
preliminary packaging design for approval 6 weeks
material selection approval 7 weeks
projected manufacturing price 7 weeks
Inventors have a tendency to skip over the details in phase 1 as they have a definite view of what they want and they expect the people they are talking to understand their vision. That is seldom the case. Also, phase 1 is the time to see how easy the vendor is to work with. If it doesn’t go well, you might want to change vendors. This stage is where you set up how your relationship will be during your working relationship so be firm about what you want.
Deliverable Timeline after the end of phase 1
molds and fixtures delivery 2-26 weeks
inspection criteria molds and fixtures
final package approval 2 weeks
final prototype approval 3 weeks
inspection checklist approval 4 weeks
check list for inspection – first article
check list for inspection – production units
check list for inspection – product packaged
The quality control checklist covering when the product will be inspected and by what criteria, and at what steps are all critical. You need to iron this out in advance. I also think you should request to be present at the first production run. There will be issues and you should take pictures of flaws to include on the quality control check list for what defects are not acceptable.
I know this seems like a lot of hassle. But your customers will send your product back to you, and never order again, if it is not perfect. They will accept no compromises and any problems will doom your efforts. Our inspection criteria is essential, especially if you are ordering from overseas. Also be prepared to go the factory for the first production run and be prepared to spend 3 to 5 days there.
delivery after receipt of order 10 weeks
first article inspection after receipt of order 7 weeks
first packaged product inspection after receipt of 8 weeks
down payment due date after receipt of order 5 weeks
product inspection report review prior to shipment 8 weeks
invoice on balance due 10 weeks
The dates and deliverables schedule here will change for every product with some items being deleted and others added. Your manufacturer will also probably want to negotiate each of these items. And some vendors will not be willing to agree to a list, in which case you should probably drop them. The most important point is that you understand and communicate clearly with the vendor and get that vendor to agree to a checklist that will help you have a saleable product.