Scaling a Product from Prototype to Production

by | Sep 17, 2019

Entrepreneurs often overlook the step of taking a product from prototype to production. Prototype validation often requires tens or hundreds of units. Production, however, can be in the hundred-thousands or millions of units. This magnitude can cause problems. With the future of your company on the line, finding the right production partner is key.

Gaviota Global Industries (GGI) specializes in finding manufacturers to fulfil specific production needs at scale. A client with a prototype approaches us with their requirements. We help them manufacture the product with confidence—in the right location, with the right partners. With a management team experienced in coordinating over one billion parts per year, we’ve developed a unique process and identified common dangers to avoid to increase our clients’ likelihood for long-term success.

GGI’s process

Photo of the Gaviota Global Industries' locations throughout the world

Gaviota Global Industries has established partnerships and alliances with industry-leading development firms and factories in the United States, Central America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and China.

Most manufacturing-liaison companies have relationships with factories that compensate them monetarily. GGI is unique because we work exclusively for our clients. We aren’t compensated by the factories, so we can always choose the best factory for the product.

We also have complete transparency and don’t get in the middle of our clients’ relationships with their factories. Our clients receive copies of every email to and from the factory, and no money goes through GGI for further products within that relationship. We’re one of only a handful of manufacturing-liaison companies with this revenue structure, and it’s for the client’s benefit.

Tailoring ourselves to the client

If the client isn’t successful scaling their product to production, nobody wins.

Depending on the client’s needs, GGI employs several different models. In one circumstance, we find a factory for the client, then completely disengage. (The client can re-engage later if needed.) In another, we provide ongoing support. In situations where the client lacks the resources to manage an overseas factory and supplier, GGI can take care of all those elements.

At the end of the day, we help our clients execute. If they want to visit a factory, we’ll coordinate the entire trip. We hold their hand through the entire process.

Finding the right factory

In our initial client consultations, we determine what capabilities the client needs. Perhaps the product needs ISO, environmental, or food-grade certifications. With the client, we compose a long checklist of requirements.

Then, we send in an employee to inspect potential factories in the part of the world that best suits our client’s objectives. This person is typically a degreed engineer who understands both the technical and commercial sides of the business. They first determine that the factory is technically capable and then gather information on pricing and costs.

We often filter from more than one hundred potential factories. Then, based on our predetermined list of criteria, we present the top three to our client.

Production tips for entrepreneurs

Photo of a production line of boxes down an assembly line

Having taken so many products from prototype to production, we’ve observed many dangers. A few of our largest recommendations for entrepreneurs are:

  1. Recognize the tradeoffs that come with different locations
  2. Have access to boots-on-the-ground to support your manufacturing factory
  3. Find a manufacturing partner you can trust

Recognize the tradeoffs of different locations

Each manufacturing geography brings its own set of tradeoffs. While most entrepreneurs consider the cost of labor, they often overlook key factors like freight and tariffs. GGI has a long list of criteria so we can match each product with the location in the world that makes the most sense.

Don’t forget freight

Many entrepreneurs have been lulled by Amazon Prime’s free two-day shipping. In international manufacturing, however, the cost of freight can be sizable. People typically manufacture overseas to lower their labor cost. If that lower labor comes along with high freight costs, your advantage can rapidly disappear.

If you’re manufacturing a small, light device with a high labor content (such as electronics), Southeast Asia is almost certainly your best bet. If you want something big and heavy, however, you probably want to source that from North America or Central America. Manufacturing is not as easy as choosing the right Chinese factory.

Account for tariffs

Given the U.S. government’s recent tariffs, China might not be the best choice for some types of manufacturing that it dominated a year ago. In many cases, Vietnam is a better choice due to lower labor rates. Vietnam does, however, pose other concerns, like infrastructure and supply capability--it doesn’t have as many cargo ships going in and out every day.

For some products, a Chinese manufacturer might still be the best option, even with a 10% or 20% tariff. Perhaps the entrepreneur wants to establish a foothold with those partners and infrastructure. They may be able to profit despite the tariff and plan to be even more comfortable if the tariffs are lifted.

Employ boots-on-the-ground at your manufacturing factory.

The value of having somebody local that can work on your behalf is immeasurable. The small cost of hiring an employee, or by contacting local support from a company like GGI, or even access to trusted professionals part-time is far outweighed by the value gained through confidence in the product and trust in the factory.

Confidence in the product

In manufacturing, quality control is of the utmost importance. Post-production, a product may spend a month in transit on a boat. Before shipment, our country manager goes to the factory. He opens the boxes, performs an inspection, and takes pictures. That’s an invaluable resource, far better than learning of problems a month later when the product arrives and the company already has commitments.

Verification and trust in the factory

Entrepreneurs who work with factories often wonder whether the factory is telling the truth.
If the factory says they need to delay the shipment by two weeks because their supply of raw material didn’t arrive on time, the client wonders if that’s true. Someone on the ground can speak to the supplier. They can confirm the veracity and ensure a healthy working relationship, often dramatically expediting the work.

We’ve had clients bring us in to help with their factory relationships, only to discover they weren’t working with a factory at all. On Alibaba, the vast majority of companies list themselves as a factory. While some really are factories, many have simply found a creative way to make money, often by marking up something they’re buying.

In all areas of business, it’s important to trust your partners. In manufacturing, the easiest way to gain that trust is to:
  • Visit the location
  • Meet the ownership and executive management team
  • Talk to the employees
  • Look at the manufacturing line
No one wants to contract with a dishonest factory that steals their intellectual property or sells their product out the back door. No one wants to contract with a factory that doesn’t even exist.

From prototype to production

Photo of a 3D printed prototype inside of a printer

Mass-producing a product is not an entrepreneur’s specialty. That’s where GGI comes in. We help companies go from prototype to production, working exclusively for our clients to mass-produce their products. When they win, we win. That’s all there is to it.

Do you have a product in need of mass-production? Visit GGI's profile on Ioterra

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