How To Find the Best
Contract Manufacturer for Your Product

Make Some Noise
Product Manufacturing Assembly Line - Close Up
Make Some Noise

With almost 20 years of on-the-ground experience managing contract manufacturers (CM’s) locally and overseas for our clients, we’d like to share our system for how we source, evaluate, and manage our contract manufacturing partners.

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a contract manufacturing service, especially if this is your first time working with one. We recently highlighted nine pitfalls startups should avoid when selecting contract manufacturers – but we have a lot more to share.

Here’s a quick list of things you should consider when approaching contract manufacturers:

  1. Making a First Good Impression (especially if you’re starting out with a relatively small order)
  2. Evaluating and Comparing Contract Manufacturers
  3. Preparing Your Request for Quotation 
  4. Evaluating Quotations 
  5. Drafting Supply Agreements 
  6. Quality Planning

This post will focus on the first item on our list – making a good first impression. In the coming weeks, we’ll share insights on each of the aspects listed above. 

Making a Good First Impression with a Contract Manufacturer

Giving a product manufacturer insight into your company, product, market, and long-term vision will help them determine best how to service and support you.

The best relationships are partnerships which are based on openness and transparency, so it’s best to provide a complete picture of your company and product.

  • You only get one chance to make a good first impression so make it count
  • You should be just as prepared to approach a contract manufacturer as you are when approaching an investor 
  • Start-ups will often need to convince a contract manufacturer to share their time and attention because they are constantly being contacted by start-ups who approach them without being prepared – thus, wasting valuable time.
  • Confidentiality agreements should be requested and executed if intellectual property is being released into their possession.

The Initial Introduction to a Potential Contract Manufacturer

In many cases, you may be entering information in an online form, which may ask some essential questions. In other cases, the form may have a blank section for comments, or will offer the opportunity to send an introductory email. The following points can help you ensure you cover the essentials.

Important Items to Share with a New Potential Contract Manufacturer:

  • A brief introduction to your company and general product description, including a website URL
  • How did you find them?  A personal recommendation is best if applicable, and assuming they have a good relationship 
  • A high-level list of services you think you might need from them – component procurement, custom component fabrication, final assembly, labeling, packaging, etc. 
  • You’re serious and having produced prototypes would indicate this 
  • You have design files and a Bill of Materials (BOM) to send, indicating you are actually (maybe) ready for production
  • Approximate timelines and desired start date of production
  • Realistic estimates for sales volumes for the first three years

It’s always a good idea to prepare before meeting with a contract manufacturer.  Let them know that you’ll be sharing this information ahead of time.

  • Your investor pitch deck to introduce the manufacturer to your product and business
  • Bill of materials (BOM) – component names, quantities, and major commodity types: plastic injection molding, die-casting, cut and sew, key purchased components ( micro-processors, etc.) and the vendors specified
  • High-level, exploded view of your design or detailed photographs of prototypes in various levels of assembly 
  • Video or flip-book animation of the rough assembly sequence (your design team will already have thought of this) 
  • A list of any special assembly processes or equipment that may be required (such as the use of special fasteners, adhesives, sonic welding, vacuum, or pressure testing) 
  • Specific performance requirements (current draw, ingress protection, cycle testing, etc.) 
  • A list of regulatory and certification test requirements (such as UL, CE, FDA, FCC, etc.), and if you are going to need their help in this regard 
  • Physical prototype samples to demonstrate what the product is and how the product works in real-life 

This really is the tip of the iceberg when considering outsourcing to a manufacturer. The challenge many start-ups face is that they don’t have a track record or a sizable first order out of the gates. This is why it’s important to demonstrate your professionalism in other ways – starting with what we outlined above. 

What’s The True Cost Of Manufacturing Delays and Defects?  

Choosing the right contract manufacturer can be a make-or-break moment in your product development journey. It’s a time consuming and extremely detail-oriented process that at times require herculean efforts and the patience of a saint. 

The start-ups and SME’s we work with often prefer to hand over aspects of the sourcing, selection and management of the contract manufacturing process to our team of manufacturing specialists – so they can focus on growing their business through sales and marketing.

Regardless of how much or how little you want to tackle on your own, it’s important to consider the opportunity cost of the time and effort required to manage your own manufacturing program – including  delays you could experience in getting your product  to market and getting your business to revenue. 

If you are looking for help with sourcing the right contract manufacturer, or you need to improve your current manufacturing program, don’t hesitate to reach out to our manufacturing specialists here.  

You May Also Be Interested In…

  • Building high-performance teams with sprint retrospectives: A guide for R&D managers and CTOs

    5 min read

    Building High-Performance Teams With Sprint Retrospectives: A Guide for R&D Managers and CTOs

    One of the most impactful practices in building high performance teams is the...

    Read More
  • Steering through complexity: Lessons in calm confidence from a racetrack engineer turned founder – Ray Minato

    5 min read

    Steering Through Complexity: Lessons in Calm Confidence From a Racetrack Engineer Turned Founder – Ray Minato

    One of the most challenging yet fulfilling parts of our job is helping our...

    Read More
  • The innovation equation: Balancing creativity and productivity

    5 min read

    The Innovation Equation: Balancing Creativity and Productivity

    Imagine if we had a way to measure the fuel efficiency of our innovation...

    Read More