We’ll consider 3 scenarios,
Reaching out to an ODM for products with just minor changes
Finding an OEM service if you’re trying to manufacture a new to the market product and already have a functioning prototype.
Working with a design and manufacturing house for turnkey manufacturing.
1. Understand Your Needs
You have three options.
If you’re looking for a product that already exists on the market and all you want to do are some minor changes such as branding, then go to Alibaba and search in the appropriate product category.
If the product you’re looking for is there, then we advise you to get in touch with an ODM on Alibaba to discuss the details of your order.
If your product is a new to the market device, and you already worked on and have a minimum viable product, then you need to find an OEM to help you with the manufacturing.
If your product is still in the early ideation and prototyping stage, then the best thing to do for you is find a design house to help you out with both the design and the manufacturing.
2. Do Thorough Research
Research is important, you want to make sure you waste nobody’s time when you make the first contact.
If you’re just looking to make small changes to products that already exist n the market, then head to Alibaba or Made in China .com and use your product’s category as a search term.
You’ll find hundreds of manufacturers that offer ODM services, get their contact information, email address mainly, and save them and organize them all in a Google sheet.
For those of you that already have a working prototype, you need to find an OEM service.
Head to a website like Made-in-China.com, once you click on a company in your product category, search for the ODM/OEM Service check; get their information and save it in a Google sheet.
If you’re at the beginning of your project, then look for a design house or design and manufacturing consultant.
Factories in China are not focused on new product development, that’s why we recommend you do not waste your time trying to convince a manufacturing plant in China to take on your project.
Go to Google and search for new product development companies, product designers, or design and manufacturing companies.
If you use your product’s category in the search is even better, eg., Electronics design and manufacturing company.
3. Create Your BOM
BOM stands for Bill of Materials; it’s pretty much a well-organized list of all the components necessary to build your product.
If you’re looking to work with an ODM to make minor changes to a product that’s already in the market, then you don’t have to worry about this; do make sure you have an MOQ (minimum order quantity) in mind.
If you’re looking for an OEM to help you mass manufacture your product, then you’ll have to share your complete BOM; this is vital for them to know whether they can take on your project or not.
Click the following link to read more about how to properly put together a BOM, it’s focused on electronics, but you can apply it to any other kind of product.
A BOM is more useful to the manufacturer when in an excel file or Google sheet as they’re easier to go through and check for components and parts availability or substitutes.
If your product is still early in the development stage, then your design and manufacturing partner will work along with you to create a BOM.
4. Get in Touch
After you’ve done thorough research, you know your MOQ, and/or have a very well organized Bill of Materials, it’s time to get in touch with your possible manufacturing partners.
If you’re contacting an ODM, make sure you introduce yourself properly, mention any company you’re representing, tell them how many units you plan to get from them on the first and second batch, and so on.
Manufacturers in China will always prioritize clients they know they can get constant orders from.
So, if you have any market study or sales forecast done, use some of those numbers to show the factory you’re interested in becoming a long term client.
If you’re looking for an OEM, proving there’s a market for your product becomes even more important.
For a new to the market product, the factory will have to invest in moldings and probably create a new production line.
They want to know they won’t go through all of this hassle for just one order.
Proving you have the money to take on a mass manufacturing project is also key, so, if you are representing a company, make sure you mention it.
If you’re not going to get an ODM product, and you’re not looking to mass manufacturing yet, then you’re most likely looking for a product design service.
An industrial design house will want to hear the basics of your idea and know that you have the money to start the project.
Showing a 3D cad model of your product idea will help a lot. You can easily get a freelancer to help you with that.
We’ve given you some tips of information to include in your emails so you can get a manufacturing plant or industrial design company’s attention.
And just like you would do in any other email, be concise.
5. Jump on a Video Call
After exchanging a couple of emails with a company or different companies ( and being ignored by some), it’s time to choose who you want to share your product with in more detail.
This might not be necessary when dealing with ODM companies that will alter their products to fit your brand, with them, sometimes placing an order with all your requirements, pay, and wait for delivery is all that goes on.
If you’re looking for an OEM or industrial design service, then a lot more details are required to move forward, and you want to make sure you share all these details with people you can trust.
It’s normal for both parties to sign an NDA before too many details are revealed
In the video call, you should talk about all the details of the project.
Two things that can happen after a video call.
You or the other party might decide that the project is a no go, or you might decide to move forward with it.
If the videocall is not fruitful, then you have to keep on looking for a manufacturing partner that’s right for you.
If the video call is a hit, then the time to sign a contract has arrived.
6. Sign a Contract
Before signing a contract, especially for new to the market products, we would usually recommend visiting the factory or industrial design company, but since we’re in the age of Covid and travel is not very convenient, you’ll most likely have to skip that.
Signing a contract might feel a little scary.
There’s indeed a risk, but that’s why you’ve already done thorough research to find out as much as you can about your possible manufacturing partner; you’ve been exchanging emails and even had a video call.
The purpose of all the above is to make sure you take the best decision.
Ensure you involve all the necessary people in your organization and have legal advice before you sign anything.