Whether your company is a venture capital-funded start-up, or on the Fortune 200 list, a time may come when you don’t have the required resources or expertise available to bring a promising concept for an industrial product to life. The design, engineering, prototyping, and manufacturing competencies required may be deployed elsewhere on other projects for a mature company—or non-existent in the case of a start-up organization. All is not lost! Here’s where a contract manufacturer (CM) that also has experience in product development and new product introduction can really prove its worth.
Defining the Scope of Contract Manufacturing Services
The first step is to create a functional specification, or develop a clear definition of the requirements of the equipment. In many cases it is a scientist, engineer or inventor that creates the initial vision or concept. These individuals, while experts in their respective fields, may not necessarily be the best suited to evolve the idea into a functional, manufacturable and robust product.
For contract manufacturing services to be effective, a firm will collaborate closely with the core technical personnel to pull relevant information from them, articulate the vision, and define the parameters of the equipment. This may include translating physics, process or chemistry requirements into functional engineering specifications.
CM Equipment Development Process
Once the functional requirements of the product are specified, the equipment development team of the CM can commence work on conceptual development and design. When necessary, the contract design and manufacturing firm identifies any areas that will require feasibility studies and/or prototyping to confirm the validity of the concept.
The results of this stage are fully analyzed with the customer prior to launching the main design/engineering effort. As the design progresses, it is formally reviewed with the customer, typically at two-week intervals. Throughout this period, the design team employs design for manufacturability (DFM) and value analysis/value engineering (VA/VE) tools and methods to help minimize cost of goods sold (COGS), and to achieve the price targets set forth by the customer, the marketplace or both.
CM Design & Testing Phase
With the design solidified, and depending on complexity, it is pragmatic to manufacture an Alpha and/or pilot build of Beta units to:
- Refine the design for any manufacturability issues
- Develop the supply chain
- Create work instructions and test procedures
- Provide units to end-user customers for feedback purposes
Following this process, the contract manufacturer conducts a thorough review of the project, including existing design, suggestions from customers, and initial manufacturing assessment. This information is used to optimize the design and prepare for efficient manufacturing of the product in higher volumes.
Whether your company has five employees, or 5,000, supplementing your capabilities with the expertise found at a respected contract manufacturing company will allow you to focus on the core competencies (R&D, Marketing, etc.) of your company, while the CM works diligently in the background to bring your concept to fruition in the form of a saleable product.
Contact us today to discover how Keller can help with your company’s manufacturing needs.