Making a New Product is Like Making an Omelet...


I’m sure that many of you read the recent New York Times article “ZPM Espresso and the Rage of the Jilted Crowdfunder” published on April 30th. Beyond the well written narrative that described the maker movement and the travails of building a new product on a crowd funded shoestring, I gleaned a powerful and resonant takeaway “You sort of have to make 2,000 of something to find out if you can make 2,000 of something.”

This clear and direct language expresses what we’ve shared with many early stage and startup companies: the learning curve associated with building a new product is painful and costly. While you (the entrepreneur, garage genius, maker, hacker, etc.) can hand craft one to five units on a limited budget, a contract manufacturer cannot.

Even after the tooling is made and paid for (and yes, once we get past the modeling and prototype phase, tooling is a must) the CM must use conventional and real industrial manufacturing techniques to make retail-ready products. This is an essential stage in the new product development cycle.

There are very few products that are a “drop-in” fit in most factories. Until the fabricator develops the methods to make your product and then adjusts their processes to suit it, it’s a learning process.

The industrial pump needs to be primed by making many units… Sometimes hundreds and in some cases thousands are consumed in this process. And these aren’t shippable or saleable. They can end up in the Dumpster.
There’s obviously a financial cost to this. There’s also the emotional cost of seeing components that you specified and purchased replaced with a better fit. Or T1, T2 and T3 molded plastic housings tossed in the trash can.

A well-crafted turnover package will minimize the cost, effort and stress associated with making a new product. It won’t eliminate it. So – get your emotions and checkbook ready to be exercised.


Jack Daniels

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