When you’re planning to launch a new business or product line that will require you to partner with manufacturers, it’s a good idea to choose American manufacturing. There are several advantages to keeping your production at home in the U.S., including:
- Keeping jobs in the U.S. and creating opportunities in local markets
- Saving on transportation and shipping costs
- Shortening lead times to help you fulfill orders and serve customers efficiently
- Providing stronger, more reliable customer service
- Maintaining a lower carbon footprint
- Establishing a marketing advantage with customers who prefer “Made in the USA” products
Starting out with U.S. manufacturing also helps you avoid the tough process of moving production back home if offshoring doesn’t work out in the long run. But understanding the advantages of U.S. manufacturing is much different than actually making it happen. Here’s how to start manufacturing your products in the U.S.
1. Create a Strong Business Foundation
It takes more than just a brilliant product idea to establish a viable business. Before you start calling manufacturers, you need to take steps to establish a strong business foundation:
- Conduct market research. Research the industry and market niche you will be working in to figure out how you fill a gap in the market. You might create a product that doesn’t exist yet, build a better version of an existing product, or target the market from another angle.
- Define your niche and business idea. Define what you’re going to be making and what market niche your product falls into. Define your target customer, how and where you will sell your product, and figure out how you will set yourself apart from competitors. Is your product cheaper? Is it higher quality? Does it improve upon existing market offerings in some way?
- Flesh out your product concept. Define what you’re going to sell, what makes it special and the key characteristics of the product.
- Create a business plan. You need a comprehensive business plan that lays out what you’re setting out to do and how you’re going to do it. Don’t just focus on the product you’re going to make – focus on the overall go-to-market strategy.
- Figure out funding. Without capital to get off the ground, your manufacturing process won’t go anywhere. You need to figure out how to secure funding, whether it’s through your own savings, friends and family, bank loans, investors, or some combination of sources.
The specifics for creating a strong business foundation depend on whether you have an existing business that is launching a new product, if you’re starting a new business from scratch, the market you’ll be working in, and other factors. But wherever you’re starting from, you need to do your homework before the manufacturing process can begin.
2. Create Your Design and Establish Legal Protections
Now that you’ve done your market research and you have a concept, you can start designing your product and developing prototypes. You will need a fully realized version of the eventual product so that the manufacturer can use it as a basis for production.
Some manufacturers work with their clients to produce and develop prototypes, but this can significantly add to the early costs of product design. As you develop your prototype, you may need:
- Drawings and reference photos
- Full digital models or renderings of the product
- Instructions and notes on design choices and functionality
- The actual physical prototype to show manufacturing partners
Prototypes must be tested to verify they work properly and meet specifications. This part of the process is also a good opportunity to start market testing by showing your product to potential customers to see what they think. Be prepared to have to go back to the drawing board a few times.
During this stage, start preparing any legal protections you need for your business and product. This may include trademarks and service marks for logos, business slogans, and brand names, patents to prevent others from copying your product, and non-disclosure agreements for when you share confidential information with third parties.
3. Select a Manufacturer
Finding a manufacturer in the U.S. has grown more appealing in the last few years as supply chain issues and rising overseas costs have shrunk the competitive advantage of overseas manufacturers. Here are the steps you can follow to identify the right U.S. manufacturer:
- Follow a formal evaluation process. Send proposals to potential manufacturers that outline your business needs, your product, potential order volume, design complexity, and more. Conduct interviews and tour manufacturing facilities. Get samples and subject them to rigorous stress tests.
- Evaluate capabilities. Take a look at the manufacturer’s strengths and ability to meet the volume and complexity of your order. Evaluate the skills of their staff and the capability of their equipment and technology.
- Get price quotes. Get price quotes from multiple manufacturers, but don’t automatically hire the cheapest one. Make sure to go with the manufacturer who can best meet your business needs.
- Look at their track record. How long has the manufacturer been around? Are they a stable, established business? Can they share references from other customers with similar products or business needs?
- Ask about compliance. Make sure the manufacturer meets safety and compliance standards.
- Pay attention to customer service. Choose a manufacturer that is responsive and takes your questions and concerns seriously.
4. Figure Out Logistics
Choosing a manufacturer doesn’t mean you’re done. You need to figure out the logistics of getting your product in the hands of your customers. Where will your inventory be stored? Are you selling online, via a storefront, or some combination of both? Make sure you have the answer to these questions before you start placing orders and marketing your product to the public.
Making your product in the U.S. doesn’t just involve having a good idea and calling up your local manufacturer. You need a solid business foundation, a viable product, a reputable manufacturer, and established supply chains. Once you do all the leg work, you’ll be better positioned to compete with the backing of U.S. manufacturing.