As a designer, it’s easy to get immersed in the details of a piece or collection, but can be more of a challenge to embrace the production side of operations. So how to prepare when your right brain generally dominates your left? Logical planning and progression is key to building firm working relationships with manufacturers, as is the ability to demonstrate growth potential, brand integrity and that your brand is a suitable fit for their services. Here’s five key steps to get ready to launch the manufacturing process:
Know your product
Ensure that you have a crystal-clear understanding of your product, and its trajectory. Manufacturers often prefer to work with clients who have potential for high, long-term growth, and will typically ask several questions about the product. Be prepared to field questions around projected sales, your target market, and retail vs wholesale pricing as you get started.
Establish a timeline
Having an established and specific timeline prior to meeting with your future manufacturer is integral to negotiating turnaround times, and, therefore, mapping out the production process. However, don’t jump the gun – you’ll generally have to allow more time than you think you’ll need, to accommodate for every step of production as well as a buffer for error. Plus, bear in mind that the factory should always run a pre-production sample before making the marker.
Identify the services you ACTUALLY need
This is key! It’s vital to understand exactly what you need from a manufacturer, and to confirm that they offer this service. As they deal with several designers at varying stages of production, isolating the stage that you’re at and the support you need is hugely beneficial to both parties.
Illustrate the construction methods
By this point, you should have a tech pack to show manufacturers. If you don’t, your best option is to know each and every component that makes up your product. Here, you’ll consider the finishes, hardware, materials, labels, trim, buttons, webbing and so on that comprise your final design and product. Designers that aren’t formally trained can still do this by examining similar products to identify the different types of construction and decorate features. In doing so, you’ll be able to articulate how you want the product constructed when you’re finally in talks with the manufacturer.
Know your numbers
Don’t overstretch yourself by choosing a factory that falls outside of your price range. Don’t be afraid to comparison shop in order to truly do your research. A smart way of determining how much you’re able to spend – and how much you’ll need to spend – is by creating a line item pricing guide to determine all associated costs. And remember – while making in America can sometimes run at a higher cost than manufacturing overseas, you can often turn around production faster, navigate logistics such as shipping more seamlessly, don’t have to deal with time differences and language barriers at crucial moments, and aren’t bound by colossal minimum orders. Check out our Map of Made in America to find factories near you that can assist with your project.
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