Designing and fabricating a basic prototype was much harder than they had expected, and they spoke wearily of the process of obtaining permission from Apple to sell the case as a licensed accessory.
I am glad I keep reading this articles. I am reminded many times that people underestimate the manufacturing end of the product. It is great fun designing, marketing and branding, but hey you finally have to make the thing since you promised to deliver it. That is where the fun really is. At the last New York Hardware Meetup it was a abundantly clear from the panel that the manufacturing planing was a key thing that was underestimated.
Manufacturing plan is very important. The other item left out is DFM (Design For Manufacturability). People have forgotten about this too. Not forgot, but did not know they need to know that this is part of the product development and manufacturing process. The DFM process makes sure that your product is manufacturable. Without it you have no way of knowing if your product is manufacturable. It is best to keep DFM in mind when you are prototyping your product. That being said, there are many variables when it comes to DFM. In a nutshell you need to work with a person that has the skills and experience working with a factory to know what those variables are.
What I love about hardware startups is their willingness to take on and transform dauntingly complicated industries. Until recently, manufacturing had been almost exclusively the domain of big companies that can afford to build at scale. Now, these makers are turning the tables and showing the value of being both adaptable and close to your customers.
I agree. From talking with many hardware startups the momentum is definitely there. I often talk about this as we are now where we were in the 80’s 90’s when software development and computing was transforming from being obtainable only by big companies with deep pockets to everyone who has a PC can now code to create a program that is of value.
Hardware is very different than software. You can not develop a hardware product in a few days to a week. It takes time, patience, and more capital. It requires more relationships that last for a longer period of time.
There are still many hurdles to over come such as:
How do we make the product development process streamlined or lean?
How do we integrate in design for manufacturability into the process from the beginning?
Where is the book of the shelf that people can go to with out a degree in supply chain management to learn how to talk to the factory?
And funding…Will funding for hardware startups get easier over time?
There are a lot more questions to be asked and answered in this journey. I can’t cover them all here. In the future, I will write more about the process of hardware development. I am going to tell stories from the trenches. What happened, what didn’t, how we solved the issues and how to approach these things in the future so it does not happen to you.
We have been seeing some great things from our clients. For most of them this is their first business. It is great to see them fill out their first Purchase Order ever. It is a great moment for them and for us.
I had a meeting with a potential client last week (I meet with about 5-8 a week.). The product idea is interesting, but the methodology they are using to develop the product was all wrong. I suggested to him the way we do product development. As soon as possible we integrate in DFM (Design For Manufacturability). After the meeting, I received this article via email from another potential client. In brief, this article talks about why Kickstarter campaigns are delayed. Lack of DFM is one of the reasons.
Integrating in DFM (Design For Manufacturability) into the product development is key. Why? We receive product designs from customers that look awesome in SolidWorks, but can not be manufactured without alterations. This is a disappointment to them. On the bright side, the integration of DFM and design becomes a collaboration between the product designer, engineers and the customer. The collaboration does not stop there. When we start the tooling process we also collaborate. The factory is a key partner in this; they construct the tooling and assembly line for the client. It is too easy for customers to think that all they need is a design, and that is where their participation ends.
Manufacturing is a collaboration between clients, factory partners, product designers, engineers and project management.