Monday, April 18, 2011

Producing new plastic products

Skippy: Morning Buzz, another tax day comes and goes -

Buzz: Yes, and questions continue to come by - seems like the economy continues to cause the "tinkerers" to continue working on the next newest items - for instance this week commented into another development project question -

"How does one go about having a new product made from plastic?"

Skippy: - we've commented on this before, but here is an updated version with some additional thoughts regarding the needed items prior to sales and marketing -

Buzz: Of course, first things first,

I) protect any new intellectual property ideas with at least a low cost provisional patent which should be filed BEFORE selling anything. You aren’t out much if a subsequent patent search turns up issues with other IP rights at that point.

Skippy: right, and

II) Be sure to get confidentiality agreements in place with all (intended) vendors and any of their interested stakeholders. If you do have something new and exciting, you need to keep it for yourself.

That said, any serious manufacturing professional will tell you that there are a few general thoughts to consider (assuming you have the DESIGN issues take care of) in a new product launch:

a) Samples (in plastic) can be made from stereo lithography (photo or printer style)etc - generally, for around $1500 or so you can have sample parts (or parts of samples for assembly) made to dimension (which are either the actual parts or can be used for further mold generation etc) for critical assembly fits, including undercuts, blind holes etc..

Most parts don't have really need to have more than 3-4 CRITICAL dimensions for assembly. Try to keep these in mind in terms of what you NEED (see b) below) and work with a vendor interested in reducing your costs in terms of manufacturing. A major item to think about during the contract review process would be what OTHER mating parts and their critical dimensions does your system need to match up with? It may be that one of the parts is not yet fully developed in how it relates to them . . .

b) understand what you NEED in terms of product dimensions, packaging, pricing and production capability in terms of WHERE it is produced and WHAT you can give and take on to reduce costs

Buzz: ok, we've covered some of the pre-thoughts - what about the actual sampling process?

Skippy: well

c) insist that any near-final sample parts be produced from the actual production tooling at PRODUCTION rates from PRODUCTION material (particularly any that require testing) - nothing creates more availability to market headaches than to submit your sample assemblies for further certifications or other consideration only to find out that the sample parts were made from a general purpose or utility grade of material that does not include your special needs and

d) work with a house that has their own in-house tooling capability or is willing to involve you with any outside houses during the design and tooling phases – you may need to know who and what is going on in the thinking process on your products

Buzz: it also seems important to visit new vendors as well during the qualification process; sales brochures and websites are of value, but while there, notice how any intended manufacturing/assembly vendors keep unused tooling on the shelf - cleaned and measured, shiny and production ready or rusty, and unkempt against the day someone might reorder? Do they have scalable capability to handle upsurges in your business rather than building inventories of slow moving items against seasonality – expensive to tie up money in inventory. A number of houses will quote inexpensive tooling, but be wary of the how these tools work over time past the sample stage.

Skippy: right, and

e) be at least a little paranoid; Trust, but Verify. For every one of the good outfits out there, there are some who won't measure up beyond the sample parts. Look for a house that has some sort of quality policy (with or without the ISO moniker), with sample retains on less than perfect quality parts used year to year to maintain quality outputs, and written records of past production runs including retained information back to incoming raw materials and supplier raw materials certifications if possible etc.

Buzz: remember as well that "If it hasn't been written, it hasn't been said" and

f) get it in writing; material specs, quality and production records - ask to attend and help fill out a 'Contract Review' - answering the couple dozen critical questions that a good manufacturer/assembler needs answers to to 'help them help you' is a critical set of meetings. Some sales people can actually act in this 'Product Management' role; and unfortunately many can't.

g) ask for and be prepared to get enough samples to have engineering testing done on the resulting samples - and do it

A well run new product development process has additional nuances of course, but these should give you a good grounding.

Just our two cents
Skippy and Buzz

1 comment:

  1. There are so many different companies in the plastic molding business these days that it is often times hard to find a good one to buy from. Many people buy their machines used these days as well in order to save money, so making sure you are buying from a reputable dealer or broker is imperative, and asking the right questions can mean the difference between buying a machine that will net you profit and buying a machine that will cost you money in the long run. Your list is a great thing to keep in mind during this process. Thanks for the post.