Design Phase: The initial steps to manufacturing your home decor products in Asia.
A potential customer recently contacted us, inquiring about how to have their home decor product produced in Asia. Of course, after the initial chit-chat, next comes the standard question of “how do we move forward / what are the next steps.” A lot of people ask this question and so I wanted to share a bit of my reply with the rest of you. Of course this is not a complete “Guide to” – there are gaps in the information. Nor does any of this apply to technical items like machinery, electronics etc which are a whole different ball game.
In simplified form, the process breaks down into two main phases, and most companies including agents, factories and designers will in some way calculate their charges based on where you are at in the overall process. Generally you are also required to pay for any hard costs involved such as product samples, shipping costs, banking transaction fees etc. We (and the manufacturers as well) will require deposits before any work begins.
1) Design Phase
- A) designs, materials selection etc.
- B) Initial Samples, revisions etc.
2) Production (Requires ongoing QC)
Discussing the Design Phase
The design phase of the process will require a lot of legwork to both, source a suitable supplier, then make (and adjust) the initial samples. Its important to note that once you start determining the actual materials to be used, finalizing details in the designs, and having samples made, you are already well into the process. People often make the mistake of thinking that just because they are still in design phase (rather then in actual production) that they have not gotten started. Actually the most difficult and involved stage is actually getting those initial samples made. Conversely don’t confuse the sample (or mock up) with the actual first samples off the production line. These are not in any way the same things. In the same way that factories will not produce free samples (based on promises of future order), we do not help customers develop products (based on promises of future order).
If you are still in the design phase, send us whatever information you have – though be aware that eventually designs/drawings (including dimensions) will be needed. Designs are critical for a number of reason, including that factories will usually just manufacture the item as per the specifications provided to them. Usually they do this based on a sample which the customer provides them with. The sample itself is usually either of an actual physical similar product or built on the customers end using materials specified by the customer during their own design phase. So basically there is very little independent decision making on the factories part. If left to make decisions on their own they will almost always make the wrong one. You should also pay attention to the materials and provide a “preferred list” of materials for each design. For example, say you wanted to produce a translucent base for a lamp, and the preferred material is hand blown glass, then we will work on getting quotes based on using this material first. Then, depending on how the pricing and other factors turn out, we can look into having the item quoted in other materials such as resin or crystal.
If you are still in the design phase, the main costs will be time, samples, communication and travel related expenses. Also, without ready made samples and exact materials specifications, if you have a budget per item, we can only tell you approximately if the item can be done with your budget. This because when producing the first samples, there is a lot of guesswork involved particularly with the choice of materials (as there are multiple potential choices). Its important to note that samples also tend to be more expensive then the final product which can be produced in quantity – where the sample is just one.
Geographically, we pick suppliers based on a number of different criteria including both capability but also depending on which region is best for that particular material / hand-working. Generally manufacturers tend to excel with products from only one or two specific materials. In other words, a workshop specializing mainly in glass, will do poorly with wood items (and we would not assign a wood based design to them for this reason). This is commonplace. Also, at lower quantities, we would be working with workshops rather then actual factories who require large minimum orders.
Discussing the Production Phase
Once you pass the design phase, the primary issues are much different and are things like production time, shipping and quality control (which must occur on every order). Basically the rule of thumb is if you do not have someone on-site each time checking each order, then you will not be getting what you want. You will also need to be aware of the potential for Quality Fade.
We will leave the rest for a future post…