Choosing a firm that’s a good fit for your product can be a difficult task. Inventors are passionate about their ideas and need a development firm that can take that passion and maximize its potential. When choosing product development firms, consider carefully the following six factors.
Choosing Product Development Firms: 6 Factors To Consider
Product development firms offer a variety of skills to help inventors bring products to life. Prototyping, CAD design, molding, 3D printing, and electronic engineering are some of the skills that a competent firm should be fluent in. Choosing a firm that’s a good fit for your product can be a difficult task. Inventors are passionate about their ideas and need a development firm that can take that passion and maximize its potential. When choosing product development firms, consider carefully the following six factors.
Experience matters. Above all else, choose a firm that has experience bringing products to market in your ideas’ category. Experience means a firm will understand the past, present, and future trends of the market. They’ll use their knowledge to provide design guidance that is innovative but also within the bounds of what consumers expect.
Product development firms will also have knowledge of the regulatory environment and be able to design a product that is safe and compliant from the start. This can save thousands of dollars. A firm with broader experience is valuable, too, as some ideas can be modified with input from other industries to create a stronger product.
Where does a firm’s experience start and end? Knowing that answer is important. Is a firm good at early concept designs? Are they more comfortable taking a rendering and doing the engineering work? Do they help out with manufacturing? An inventor often has some portfolio of work, including sketches, prototypes, samples, or a business plan, and you should know if a product development firm can take those materials and go from there.
The right tools are key to getting quality prototypes. Whether produced on 3D printers, CNC machines, laser cutters, or other prototyping tools, a development firm should have a robust set of equipment and the knowledge to use it well. When evaluating a firm, ask what tools they think they’d use for your projects and samples of their prior work.
It’s worth noting that any development firm will likely outsource some parts of a project. No team has every tool available. When vetting companies, find out what parts of your product they are likely to make with a third party. You should also get a list of who a firm would contract with, where they are located, their typical lead times and that they are bound by a nondisclosure agreement.
You are going to spend a lot of time with your product development team, so you need to know and trust them. Ask your firm if you can talk directly with the designers and engineers that will be assigned to your project so you can enquire about their experience and interests. You will likely get more inspired work from a development team that has personal interests and experience in the category you are working in.
A good product development firm will employ people with a variety of skilled backgrounds and interests. Making sure that a firm has the right people to complete all (or most) aspects of your project is essential. For example, Enventys Partners recently designed and prototyped the components for a new head lice treatment device including 3D-printed parts and the electronics that power the device. Knowing this information, clients can take our team’s 3D printing capabilities into account when deciding if they want to work with us.
References are a great way to hear from past clients what it is like to work with a firm. Most firms will have testimonials on their websites, which are a good place to start, but be aware that these are often carefully curated examples. To get a fuller picture, do a quick Google search of the company and read their Google reviews. Google reviews will provide more candid feedback from a variety of customers.
See what people are saying about the company and reach out to people who had positive and negative experiences with the firm so you can learn more. You can also ask the firm for a list of references. Doing this will reveal the product development firm’s specific strengths and weaknesses.
As the end goal of a development process is to mass manufacture a product and bring it to market, it’s vital that you understand how the firm transitions from design to production. If the firm has manufacturing facilities, ask about their locations and capabilities and see if they are a good fit for your product.
If they do not have manufacturing available or their capabilities are not the right fit, ask how they transition to contract manufacturing. Do they have a sourcing team that can find a right-sized factory? Do they have experience preparing files and prototypes for factory review? Can they provide services to help during the manufacturing should design changes be required? You want to be sure that the firm can help with mass production once the product is fully designed.
There will obviously be a cost to the firm’s product development services and it is crucial to understand the cost and payment structure so the firm can work efficiently and stay on budget. There are two primary models, fixed price and hourly.
Product development is a service with an unknown endpoint because no one has ever built what you are asking for before. So, do not be shocked if a fixed price bid is higher than an hourly estimate as firms will have to account for iteration and potential scope changes. For hourly billing models, make sure you understand how many hours per week the team will typically provide and make sure they report their hours so you make sure their time is being used efficiently.
Knowing upfront how billing is done and what is billed will help avoid confusion and slowdowns later in the project. Ask about whether a deposit is required, how often the billing is done, your payment options and terms, how third-party costs are handled, if meeting times and calls are billed, and what happens if there are overages and change orders. The end goal is for you to have clarity on the financial aspects of your collaboration so you can make sure the firm’s services align with the project needs, fit your business plan, and overall budget.
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If you’re considering working with a product development firm, look no further. We’ve worked with thousands of inventors like you to bring countless ideas to life through our product development, engineering, and marketing services. Get in touch with us today!
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