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  • Wayne Conrad

Turning an Idea into a Product

Updated: Sep 11, 2019

Many people have an inspiration for a great idea, a magical moment when a creative thought for a new product emerges from their imagination and begins to take form. Often, a quick sketch on a napkin, piece of paper or notebook becomes the beginning of a great business and new life journey. Whether your idea is something entirely unique or an innovative twist on an existing product, you will need to evaluate it carefully and, if you choose to go forward, prepare CAD, make and test prototypes and then arrange to get it made, marketed and sold.

The first step is to evaluate your idea’s potential by conducting some preliminary market research to determine its desirability, perceived value and how it stacks up against competition in terms of features, cost, reliability and maintainability. It is also helpful, early on, to consider various aspects of a business plan including manufacturing setup, how you will create awareness, how you will distribute the product, and the pro forma income statement and cash flow.

Once you have a finalized sketch design, it is advisable to do a patent search to ensure that your design is free to use and to assess if there are patentable features that could form the subject matter of new patent applications. You also need to establish a brand name for the product. This can be an original name for which you apply for trademark registration or a name owned by someone else for which you buy the rights.

You can use Computer Aided Design (CAD) software, which can be low cost or even free, to convert your finalized sketch design into an electronic form. This can take as little as a few weeks to complete. The CAD data will allow you to use rapid prototyping or machining to make the parts for your prototype. This typically takes a week or two. Once you have refined your design, updated the CAD and then built and tested a final prototype, you can allow potential customers to touch, feel and use the prototype to verify or, if need be, tweak your product design to ensure commercial success.

There are options to consider for sourcing your product. The key questions are where do you want your product made and by whom? Do you want a domestic or an overseas manufacturer?

Partnering with an overseas manufacturer can be challenging because of language and cultural differences, time-zone differences and variations in quality expectations. On the other hand, it can reduce costs as well as equipment and tooling expense. Other factors relevant to overseas manufacturing include volume requirements, container-load quantities and response time to orders.

Partnering with a domestic manufacturer avoids the issues of language and cultural barriers, improves supply logistics and can often get your production happening sooner. Some recently developed equipment and processes (including Omachron's innovations) can enable the manufacture of plastic and metal parts at similar or lower costs to overseas suppliers, specially for small and medium size productions or for parts larger than 16 ounces. While labour costs to assemble product domestically will be higher, if the labour component is not significant, the increased labour cost is often can offset by lower travel, shipping, and logistics costs. Improved lead times with domestic production can offer faster growth for a company.

When choosing a manufacturing partner, develop a checklist of desired capabilities and requirements and prepare a written review of each manufacturer you contact. The process of selecting a manufacturer is much more than a simple exercise of obtaining quotes. You are looking for a partner with an excellent track record and having the capabilities and quality standards that meet your needs. Importantly, you are looking for a partner with whom you can develop a cohesive, trusting, mutually beneficial relationship.

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