How to Go From Product Idea to Mass Production When Starting a Business
These seven steps will help you bring your product idea to life when starting a business.
6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Have you ever had an idea that burned brightly in your mind, but you had no idea how to get it started? Most entrepreneurs have. This frustration can be especially prevelant for startup OEMs — Original Equipment Manufacturers who have developed some invention, gadget or machine idea and are seeking the best route to go from idea stage to mass production.
Another burden that many startups have to bear is seeing someone else develop, mass-produce and market an idea that they have had for a while, because they were dragging their feet for too long. I know from experience that the later pain is heavier, so it is best to execute fast. These steps will help you.
1. Identify the selling point of your product idea before starting your business.
You must ask yourself the big “why question” about your product and formulate a theory or concept from your answer. Why do you want to implement this idea? What does it add to your target customers?
In other words, what is your selling point? You cannot answer either one of these questions without a reasonable study of your target market and what problems they have that you can solve. Identifying your differentiation value to the market is a great start to implementation, because it will play into the way you manufacture and mass produce your product.
2. Craft a 3D CAD (computer-aided design) model.
For most OEMs, finalizing the creation of a useful 3D CAD model of your product is half the battle. There are a plethora of amazing software tools you can use to design the model, so the choice you make will depend on the product you are creating.
If you do not have a professional on staff to handle this, you can contract one to make sure your idea is well represented. Whatever errors or misrepresentations exist in your model will show up in your prototype, so you have to be thorough.
3. Create a prototype.
There have been a few businesses that went straight to production without prototyping, because they were dead sure their design was a hit. Most of them crashed. Prototyping is a necessary burden you will have to carry if you are intent on making sure that your product is leak-proof by the time it enters the market.
According to Ford, the company saves up to $439k and months of lead-time through rapid prototyping. Whether you are prototyping for functionality, form and fit, to check design aesthetics or all of the above, the actual physical prototype is far more valuable to your journey to production than a design on paper.
4. Radically test your product.
To follow this step, you need to make sure that you have followed step 3 to the letter and built a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). In the words of Eric Ries, a Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur and the author of The Lean Startup, “A minimum viable product is the simplest form of your idea that you can actually sell as a product.”
Next you need to run your product by critics. Survey potential customers about the problem you’re trying to solve, and see if your solution resonates with them. It’s a good idea to tailor this survey to the portion of the market that’s likely to be skeptical, including friends who are naturally pessimistic or previously unsatisfied customers.
5. Tweak your product.
This is the point where some people give up on their products altogether, but if your idea survived the testing phase, there are probably a few things you need to tweak based on the feedback. This is the time to apply such changes to your model and prototype.
6. Create a test website.
The idea is to get further feedback and to prep the market for your product. Once the word is out about your product, you can create a simple website where people can get information about your product. Link your website to relevant social media platforms to monitor progress. You can usually tell if a product will get traction by the number of click-throughs on ads.
7. Time to mass produce.
You have a lot of decisions to make at this point. First, you need to decide if you can handle manufacturing by yourself. If your startup has been reasonably funded to the point where you can develop your own production line, then that is amazing. However, if you do not have the financial wherewithal, there are a few other routes you can take.
You can decide to sell your invention or product idea to a manufacturer who is interested enough to take over the responsibilities of production and marketing. You can also strike mutually beneficial deals with manufacturers to produce, market and sell the product while you still own your idea and receive a percentage of profits.
You also need to decide what kind of manufacturing best suits your product. Many businesses now go with the relatively cheaper option of 3D printing as opposed to machining. However, while machining projects is relatively more expensive, it may be best for your business if your product requires metal components and if you intend to order a very large number at once.
According to Ronan Ye, CEO of 3ERP, “It’s easy to be tempted by the low startup costs of desktop 3D printers: cheap machines, cheap plastic filament, cheap operating costs. But it’s worth remembering that 3D printing at its cheapest is only capable of processing polymers.”
To make the best decision in regards to manufacturing, you need to consider cost and your ability to bear it, as well as efficiency. That being said, you are well on your way to hitting the market with that amazing idea.