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November 2016

Finding the Best Manufacturing Solution for Your Small Business

These days, there’s evidently no shortage of creative ideas capable of fulfilling one of society’s many needs. For proof, one needs only to look around and take note of the rising number of small businesses and startups admiringly contending with large, multinational conglomerates, carving out niche market and delivering some truly remarkable products and services.

Drone Photo

Source: Rebecca Cook Reuters

That said, entrepreneurs know that success is not attained on creative ideas alone; sourcing the right manufacturer to bring their product to market at the best possible price and at the highest possible quality is just as important – and represents a feat that is truly an accomplishment in and of itself.

In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that many prolific projects never even had a chance to get off the ground simply because the seemingly innocuous question, “How do we find someone to make this?” could not be adequately answered.

Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Ask Their Potential Manufacturer

The relationship between an entrepreneur and a manufacturer is an important one. If properly cultivated, each party could stand to benefit greatly by the venture. And while finding a manufacturer can be relatively easy (after all, there are literally thousands of manufacturers located all over the world) finding the right manufacturer requires a serious vetting process.

Before even getting that far however, every entrepreneur should examine their product and determine a couple of things, namely:

  • How much of it can be produced using an automated process? Having an answer to this question can cut down on the manufacturer search time, essentially weeding out manufacturers that rely heavily on manual labour to produce goods. An automated facility can help to keep costs down, increase the speed of production, and reduce the occurrence of errors through the use of sophisticated PLC programmers. Consequently, many manufacturers are making strides to automate at least part of their production lines as the manufacturing sector begins shifting to one that needs far fewer (but more skilled) hands to operate.
     
  • How important are big batches versus little batches? Determining the batch size, especially early on, is a decision that is directly tied to the anticipated demand for the product in question. Entrepreneurs would be wise to remember that smaller batches don’t always mean lower cost as start up and tooling fees are often non-negotiable, and many manufacturers require a minimum batch size before they will agree to go into production.

Who Else Does the Manufacturer Produce For?

Knowing who has already hired a potential manufacturer can be very telling. If they produce goods for a large, well-known company, it’s evident that representatives visit the plant regularly to perform audits and ensure a certain level of quality is maintained. For a small business owner, it might not be feasible to make the journey to the manufacturer regularly to perform these audits themselves, particularly if they are located on distant shores.

Does the Manufacturer Own a Large Facility?

A large facility can be an indicator of a manufacturer’s success and longevity in the manufacturing business. In addition to limited flexibility in terms of their ability to meet a surge in demand, smaller facilities run the risk of not delivering and may sacrifice quality in order to achieve the desired volume.

Size however is not all that should be considered when it comes to the facility. For instance, if they have a large facility but employ mostly manual laborers, it would be wise to question why they haven’t invested in automation technology, especially considering that investing in this technology is widely accepted as an investment that can increase a plant’s production and profitability.

Note: The modern manufacturing plant is a sophisticated environment where quality and efficiency is vital to ensuring continued success. To that end, the workforce that makes up the manufacturing sector is undergoing a dramatic shift – one that sees fewer assembly line workers, and more electronics and robotics technicians to keep the machinery it working order.

What is the Turn Around Times on Production? Can Production Begin at Once?

Depending on the size of the manufacturer, the availability and ability to deliver raw materials, and the number of other clients they service (among other considerations), turnaround times can vary greatly from one plant to the next.

What is Their Capacity?

Even to a business owner that is just starting out and may not anticipate large orders early on, having access to significant production capacity is important for a business’ long-term growth. Facilities that are at least in part automated generally have a much larger capacity than those that aren’t.

Failing to deliver on time is one of the most common reasons new entrepreneurial ventures fall by the wayside before their time.