From ideas to products: Design, Prototype, and Manufacturing in China

Your Product Sourcing Dept. in China | The7 Sourcing how-to-manufacture-in-china From ideas to products: Design, Prototype, and Manufacturing in China

Everyone has a million-dollar idea and aspires to make it the next money-making machine in the shortest time possible and hope it lasts for as long as possible. Now, as much as you want your idea to be the next Beanie Babies that made Ty Warner $700 million in one year in the 90s, you ought to have a credible plan to convert your idea into money. You have to follow a couple of steps before you even decide on investing a penny in your idea to avoid losing your time and money or become chest fallen. Ideas can be very infectious and can compel you to live under the impression that no one else out there has ever come up with something similar to you. This isn’t true, and if you’re wise enough to know that there’s nothing new under the sun, you’d know better. Odds are not to zero that there might be thousands of other people out there with the same idea as you probably sleeping on it. I know that this might sound counter-intuitive, but the big question is, are you willing to act or not? If the answer is ‘act,’ then you’re at the right place. Read on to see how easy it is to convert your idea into the best product in the market as you design, prototype, and manufacture it in China.

The Pros and cons of Manufacturing in China

Your Product Sourcing Dept. in China | The7 Sourcing michael-dziedzic-0n70cnyOFgc-unsplash From ideas to products: Design, Prototype, and Manufacturing in China

The biggest attraction for most companies looking to get their product manufactured in China is the cost. Paying for labor in China is way more affordable than in Europe and America. Since the country is also tech-focused, finding the ideal materials for all design, prototyping, or manufacturing stages is easy.

The only caveat is that some Chinese companies are known to follow your design template as-is, instead of being vocal in pointing out errors. As such, you ought to have a clear cut and flawless design of your products before approaching them. Better yet, look for a company that will go above and beyond to identify design flaws before prototyping.
The second reason to work with China is their IP laws. The country’s legal outlook on intellectual property will ensure that your product doesn’t get duplicated. However, you have to include clauses on your contract that prohibits duplication or even have the company sign NDAs. Some other reasons to have your product worked on in China include:

The production cost is low. This is because the raw materials are produced in China and are surplus, making them go for a low price. Also, China’s VAT taxation system allows taxing only value-added services.
China is great at mass production. This is due to the automation of the production process using robots and cheap labor, which enables you to hire many people to complete volume-demanding production.
• China is producing a generation of reliable and talented young designers who incorporate modern aesthetics with traditional ones to produce the best in class final products.
• China’s sheer size population provides a large number of potential customers who will give an honest review/opinion on the prototype’s design, quality, packaging, features, and potential sales price.
• Networking between designers and leading experts in materials. Designers will get the best input materials hence making an appealing prototype that is easy to customize according to customers’ opinions.

Why design and prototype from China? Pros and cons

Before you finally decide that your idea is a product worth developing, it’s important to vet it through the following steps:

Your Product Sourcing Dept. in China | The7 Sourcing kumpan-electric-fJebhGIP0P4-unsplash From ideas to products: Design, Prototype, and Manufacturing in China
  1. Understand what kind of an idea you have, and the best way is to gather some feedback from an expert or someone you value their opinion. This will give you a broader picture of whether your idea will burst out of the bubble and if it’s worth hiring a designer. Address issues like what motivated you to have the idea, what problems your product will solve, if they’re similar products in the market and what they lack, what makes your product unique, and finally what your target market is.

2. Ensure that your idea is not already patented. To ensure that no one else will lay claim to your idea or even money from sales after you convert it to a product, conduct a thorough preliminary patent search via Google Patents. Moreover, search for any preexisting artwork or designs related to your idea. If there’s, make sure you change vital details to make it as unique as possible. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

3. Do thorough market research. One is always bound to fall in love with your ideas, but it’s better to be certain that your target market will love the final product. To be sure of that, you’ll have to conduct regular surveys to understand what people are willing to spend their money on, what they lack in the existing products, and incorporate this in your idea to fill the gap in the market.

4. Set goals and objectives. What is your ‘why,’ and what do you want to achieve with your idea? What do you need to see your ideas out of the drawing board? Do you have a plan to see your idea through? After answering these questions, you will be ready for the next step.

5. What do you have and how much are you willing to invest in your idea? By ‘how much’ it doesn’t limit to money only. It goes further to time and skills? Evaluate yourself and see how far you’re willing to go as far as investing time, money, and skills are concerned. If you don’t have the skills to design your product, you will have to source them from someone else, and that means you will have to spend money. Are you prepared to go the extra mile just to see your invention realized? If you’re, then you can have a design and proceed to prototype your product.

Your Product Sourcing Dept. in China | The7 Sourcing rachit-tank-2cFZ_FB08UM-unsplash From ideas to products: Design, Prototype, and Manufacturing in China

Now that you’re ready to put your idea into a design, it’s best if you use designers that will have your best interest at heart. Ideally, finding a great design team will require some research. You can look for online reviews or reviews from other companies that have worked with the different designers (The7sourcing can also help you to find best design company in China). Once you single out a specific company to help you out, assess their track record. This includes looking at how they designed their products, the production timeline, and the success of the product.

Read also: 3 Steps to tell you to find best suppliers from China

They’re also a few challenges that you should be aware of when planning to design and prototype your product in china:

• There’re many young designers who have no much experience, and getting a designer with most history and experience in designing products can be hectic. This means that the quality of the final product might not be as high as you expected.
• Continued price wars. There are many competitors, both local and foreign, flooding china’s market. This always forces brands or product owners to sell their items at low prices to try and outdo their rivals. If you’re new in the market, this trick might not work out for you well. This is because if you have to sell at low prices, you will have to produce in bulk to try and cover production costs. This might not always be possible for new players in the market.
• Language barrier. Most Chinese still use their mother tongue to communicate, and this might be a problem if you’re a foreigner who wants to design, prototype, and manufacture your products in China. You will have challenges while communicating, and if you don’t get a translator or an English-speaking Chinese designer, both the design and the prototype might not come out as you expected since there were no clear communications.
• Intellectual Property Risks (IPs). This is a challenge you’ll face when you finally decide to manufacture your products in China. The enforcement of IP protection is still wanting, but the Chinese government has promised to increase the number of IP courts.

How to find a manufacturer or a sourcing agent to help you through your product development in China?

After you’re comfortable with your design, and you made a prototype that performed well in your market research, you will need to move to the next production stage—Manufacturing. Now, you’ll have to find a credible, reliable, and affordable manufacturer who will give you quality services. It’s important to note that getting a good manufacturer will take you extra effort as you try to develop a good relationship and make them want to manufacture your product. If you live abroad, you’ll have to make several trips to China to establish a personal connection and address your concerns physically.

Read also: Sourcing from trading company, sourcing company or manufactuerer, how to choose?

Though it’s a challenge, it’s not impossible to get a reliable and above-board manufacturer. When searching for manufacture, look at their records, evaluate their experience level, and compare prices between different manufacturers to choose the best. All in all, here are five places you will most certainly get a reliable and credible manufacturer from:

Sourcing agents: this is, by far, one of the best ways to find a reliable manufacturer. As a new entrant into the Chinese manufacturing market, it can take ages before you know your way around. Sourcing agents can connect you with industry-renowned manufacturers to push your product design and manufacturing forward.
• Local trade shows. Several trade fairs happen throughout the year in China, where manufacturers showcase their products and services to lure new clients. Make sure you approach as many manufacturers as possible, interview them, and decide the best. Here is a list of local trade shows as well as trade fairs you can plan to visit this year.
• Alibaba will help. They have a way to assist buyers and exporters in finding and source manufactured goods produced by Chinese manufacturers. If you liked a product you purchased in Alibaba and would like to get connected with the manufacturer, you would get assisted.
• Through online trading sites like eTradeAsia.com. With over 700,000 members, it’s easy to source a manufacturer from there.
• Global manufacturing Market place. Also known as the ‘eBay of manufacturing,’ MFG gives you access to a database of manufacturing companies both in China and outside. Create a free account and search for that rapid prototyping or molding manufacturer you’re looking for.
• Use the Hong Kong Trade Development Council. This is a pool of China-based manufacturers and suppliers. It’s easy to contact a manufacturer and get started.

Understanding Patent+ Non-Disclosure Agreement + Quality

Your Product Sourcing Dept. in China | The7 Sourcing daniel-korpai-iopITwyUcTA-unsplash From ideas to products: Design, Prototype, and Manufacturing in China

A lot can happen to your idea, limiting how profitable it can be. For instance, the manufacturing company could easily use it as their own or sell it to a competitor. Protecting this intellectual property is essential to ensure your product launches successfully. Ideally, understanding the few ways for doing this is essential. Here are some terms you should be familiar with:

  1. Patent. This is a form of intellectual property issues by a higher authority {for instance in china, it’s issued by the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA)}, to an owner of an invention prohibiting others from making, using or selling an invention. Once you have a patent for your product, competitors will have to look for ways to differentiate competing products from yours to avoid legal issues. It also prevents smaller factories from copying your product design. You can either patent your product in the country of sale or both in the country of sale and manufacturing, i.e., China.
  2. Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). This is a legally binding contract between two or more parties, establishing a confidential relationship. After signing the agreement, the parties agree not to disclose any information shared between them henceforth with any third party. In the case of manufacturing, signing an NDA ensures that the manufacturing party doesn’t take your ideas to use them as their own without risking legal action. It also protects you from having an employee of the company do the same.
  3. Quality of product. This is the measure of the degree to which the product or service rendered meets customer’s expectations or at what level it solves the customer’s need that led him to buy a certain product.

Shipping your product in and out of China?

After your product is manufactured and you’ve found the right suppliers, you need to know how your items will be shipped within China and out of China. The methods used will depend on your market network and don’t forget to consider the size of your shipment to use the most cost-effective shipping method. Below are some of the ways you can dispatch your locally manufactured products in and out of China.

Read also: The 4 Steps You Have to Do Before Importing Products from China

  1. Air Freight Shipping. You can use this method to ship locally or abroad.
  2. Sea Freight Shipping. This method is usually used for importing large and heavy shipments.
  3. Regular Post. This is better and cheaper if you’re shipping small shipments to local clients.
  4. Express Courier. You use a courier company to get fast deliveries and online tracking facilities. Famous couriers in China are FedEx and DHL.