Manufacturing in China – Pulling Back the Veil, Part 4
This is Part 4 of a 10 part series called “Pulling Back the Veil” that aims to answer the basic question “how do I manufacture my product in China”? These articles are primarily step-by-step instructions and directly applicable information about manufacturing in China. To see the other “Pulling Back the Veil” Articles, click the “Pulling Back the Veil Link” under the categories section to the right.
In order to get a valid quote, you are going to need to let the factory know what you want to make. The more detailed your information (and your ability to convey it) is, the more likely it is that you will get a quote that is reflective of the actual price and receive a product that is made to the quality level you expect. This is no easy feat, and there is a bit of a catch 22 here, but at the end of the day it is best if you can provide drawings (preferably 3D), a Bill of Materials (BOM), specifications, and a prototype. Before sharing this information, be sure you have a strategy for protecting your intellectual property. There are a number of ways to arrive at your final design and depending on your abilities and focus you will probably take a different path than the next importer, but when it comes to transferring the information for quotes and manufacturing, these are the common, and efficient, methods of communication. I’ll focus on how to get the drawings made in this article and write a separate article for the BOM and specifications.
For some products, drawings are essential as they define the part. This is true of any plastic or metal component as the drawings are used to make the tooling. For other products, you may be able to get away with not having drawings initially like cut-and-sew products like clothing or dog harnesses. There are a few common programs used to make most product design drawings these days: Inventor, Solidworks, ProEngineer, and AutoCad. Most likely, you aren’t familiar with how to use these programs and learning them is a long project by itself (not to mention the engineering behind the creation of the design), so you need to find somebody who can, like a product design engineer.
Designers – Costs and Services
In the states, design costs range between $50-$400 per hour and depending on the complexity of the design and how much you are able to define the product without the engineer’s input, a typical product can run between $2000-$300,000 for a complete design (and much more for complicated products such as appliances with moving parts, high-tech electronics…).
There is always a balance between aesthetics, manufacturability, durability, cost of materials, shipping efficiency, environmental-friendliness and many other aspects and, in theory, the more you pay, the more the designer should be able to find a better balance between these aspects that results ultimately in a better bottom line. One thing to be aware of is that some designers give artificially low design prices in order to get bids so that they can “help” you find a manufacturer. They then add a premium to the quote that they get from the manufacturer and make their money that way. If your designer is “helping” you find manufacturers, then they should be willing to connect you directly. If they are not making money from the transaction, it will be in their interest to pass the project along to the next stage at that point to cut down their workload. For less expensive options, designers can take your idea and convert them into drawings without providing much design support. If there is something wrong with your design, they may mention it, but you will likely need to pay for their service to make it a better design.
The cheapest option is to have your designs made overseas, but note that I use the word “cheapest” and not “least expensive” for a reason. It is very difficult to find good design engineering overseas. Some of the problems are associated with the lack of innovation from sociological perspectives, but there are others as well. To date, the US still has the highest caliber of undergraduate and graduate programs in engineering. Many of the best and brightest from other countries still flock to the US to get educated and many of them stay when they are done. If you are selling to a US market, you need someone who understands the US customer. There are a lot of cultural aspects that go into what design will sell well or not, or what is important about a design and somebody who has never been to the US will not be able to think like a US customer to understand what those aspects are.
Now that I’ve totally debunked engineering in China, let me offer you our services! As a company, we are focused on manufacturing, but in some cases our customers simply can’t afford domestic design costs. There are certainly products that I will not have our engineers work on, but sometimes a customer has a good idea, a prototype and just needs to get some drawings made so that we can make get going on the tooling. In these cases, our services, or other overseas engineering services, can be very valuable. If the engineer is simply making drawings from a prototype or simple concept, measuring the dimensions and putting them to file, then they don’t need an understanding of the US customer. The pricing is a fraction of local costs, but, if you can afford it, and if you need anything more than basic services, my suggestion is to go with a domestic engineer.
We will continue this post of “What information do I need to have to get a quote from China” with two more entries regarding BOM and specifications and making a prototype, so stay tuned!