I am excited to announce that I will be appearing on a panel called “Getting It Built” at the upcoming TechCrunch Disrupt event in New York City. The subject matter should be something along the lines of a live Q&A, not dissimilar to the comment dialogs that my recent posts have evoked here and on CrunchGear.com. If you’ve found these posts interesting and you’re in the NYC area next week, I would look forward to meeting you at the event.
Part III of the Going It Alone series will answer the question: What is a factory and how can I tell one from another? I will answer the question from a consumer electronics perspective and I will assume an audience that has little or no prior knowledge of manufacturing. The purpose of this article will be to try to introduce the burgeoning entrepreneur to the basic components of electronics manufacturing in China.
I will do this in the context of manufacturing the simple electronic product shown below – a digital kitchen timer that we call the Klip!. This is an item that we sell at The Container Store chain and at gourmet stores across the United States. I chose this product because, while relatively simple, it still encompasses all of the major facets (noted in the white boxes) of manufacturing a mass-produced electronic item of greater complexity. I’ll start with a little background, then I’ll give a very basic overview of each manufacturing sub-process and I’ll conclude with a summary that will serve to make your first visit to a third-party manufacturing facility more effective and productive. Armed with the knowledge from this post you should be able to walk into an Asian plant for the first time and have the basic working knowledge that you need to converse intelligently about the creation of your item.
The third installment of “Going It Alone” is tentatively scheduled for simulcast on CrunchGear.com and right here on DesignTheatre.net the weekend of May 1st. The working title for the next part is “Going It Alone Part III: Inside the Factory Walls”. I plan to do a parallel dissection of one of American Innovative’s products and the factory anatomy that was responsible for creating it. I welcome your suggestions in advance (please comment on this post) and I will try to address as many of those as possible in creating the piece. Looking forward to it!
Just a quick word of thanks for the overwhelming response that I got to the two-part “Go It Alone” series that was published on CrunchGear.com this past weekend. Commentary was active and generally very intelligent. I appreciate you letting me know that there seems to be interest in this subject matter and in subsequent posts. I also appreciate the comments from those who seemed to accurately ascertain that I am new to the blogging world and to ignore the “haters”. Watching the commentary unfold in real-time was truly a great introduction to this world for me and I look forward to delving into it further here at DesignTheatre.net. Many of you voiced in the CrunchGear commentary that you’d like to see a “Part III”. If you haven’t yet voiced that, but would like to, be sure to add a comment over there as well.
Thank you again,
Thanks, first and foremost, to John Biggs for giving me the opportunity to post my first couple of installments on his blog CrunchGear.com. In response to his readers John Allen, Tom Reynolds and others I am going to accumulate a list below of future subject matter. I welcome anyone to comment on this list with a “yeah” or a “neah” and/or their own idea for something they may like to read about at a future date:
- Ideation – Where do Good Ideas Come From?
- Marketability – Is a Good Idea Necessarily a Marketable Idea?
- SBA Funding – What is the SBA and How Does One Take Advantage of It?
- Protecting Your Idea In America – Basics of Intellectual Property
- Protecting Your Idea In China – Is This Really Necessary and, If So, What Can I Do About It?
- Vetting a New Manufacturing Partner
- Tips On Industrial Design – Is This Something That Can Be Outsourced As Well?
- Is it Even Possible to Make This Kind of Stuff in the USA?
- Effects of Outsourcing: Trade Deficit? American Job Loss?
- Analysis of Cost of Manufacturing the Same Product in the USA vs. in China.
- Reading Your Own Product Reviews – Thick Skin Required.
- The Logistics … Of Logistics. How Does Importing Work Anyway?
- Is The iPhone Killing Good Old-Fashioned, Mass-Produced Product?
- Mysteries of Retail Revealed – What Are Buyers Looking For in Terms of Margin via Various Channels (Boutique, Catalog, Big Box, Mass, etc.)
- The Best Working Prototype of All May Be … A Rendering?
- Vet It By Committee? Thoughts On “Crowd-sourced” Product Development (i.e. Quirky.com)
- The New World Order of the Direct Sale (Etsy, Zazzle, CafePress, SpreadShirt, etc.)
- The Armchair Inventor – Online Resources Useful To The New Product Developer
- OEM, ODM, FOB, FCL, LTL. GTLKA … Guide To Little Known Acronyms
- Continuous Improvement … Handling Quality Control From Afar
- More To Come …
Note to Readers: This post was originally written on Monday, February 29th, 2010. It is the second part of a two part series that appeared on CrunchGear.com on April 10th and 11th, 2010.
I am sitting in the lobby of the Royal Plaza Hotel in Mong Kok waiting for the owner of the factory that makes our Neverlate and Quad-Timer items to pick me up. The final legs of my journey were largely uneventful although it was nearly 2am local time before I finally closed my eyes to go to sleep last night. Dealing with the jet lag on the way out is easy. I basically stayed awake the entire time, dozing in out of a half-sleep the way that someone who is over six feet tall does on airplanes. Some five small airplane meals later, I had lost track of what meal I was supposed to be on. Acclimation to the time zone on the way back is much more difficult and if you’ve ever been to the International Pavilion at the CES you can attest to this first-hand through the observation of countless sleepy Asian booth attendants nodding off in uncomfortable plastic rented chairs.
Before I continue where I left off from last time, I’d like to pause to address the question that was the inspiration for writing this article. That question is why? Why “go it alone”? Why take the route that I’ve taken rather than license your idea (actually, let me be more specific – your product concept) to another party? I am of the opinion that there is a place for licensing, but it is not for low cost – say, sub $100 – consumer products. If you have a proprietary technology – something that you embed in another product then, by all means, license it. If you have an idea for a consumer product and the desire/willingness to put forth the effort to bring it to market, then you should go it alone. The reasons are many, but the main ones are (1) IP, (2) margin and (3) control. Let me speak to these one at a time.
Good afternoon! Today is Saturday, April 10th and the formal launch date of DesignTheatre.net. This blog is inspired by my work as a product designer but more so by my role of chief entrepreneur, President and founder of American Innovative in Boston, MA. I am frequently asked things like:
- How did you found the company?
- How did you get the ideas for your products?
- How do you patent something? And the all-time favorite …
- How do you make stuff in China?!
This blog will be a forum by which I can reveal some of my experience in a casual and fun way that I hope will bring both enjoyment and knowledge to my readers. I welcome your comments for ideas on what elements of product design, intellectual property, Asian sourcing, and especially small business ownership you would like to hear about. You may also like to follow me via Twitter at http://twitter.com/designtheatre. Twitter is admittedly new to me and I plan to make use of it in a very sparing manner … so learn and grow with me!