Considerations for Transitioning from Prototype to Production
Taking a product from prototype to production can be overwhelming. There’s intense pressure to go to market quickly and cost-effectively—with the right product—to ensure long-term success.
At Alchemy Industrial, we know how challenging it is for companies to navigate this complex process. We created this simple guide to help you intentionally and strategically transition from prototype to production.
Before and During Prototyping
While you’re still in the prototyping phase, you’ll want to focus your attention on three broad areas of consideration:
- The product. The first step is to establish proof of concept. Start by asking if the design and idea are feasible. You’ll also want to determine the lowest possible cost of production to help you set your budget.
- The market. What is the current market demand, and how much are people willing to pay for your product? The market value of your product will inform both your budget and your anticipated profit margins.
- The customer. It’s critical to understand who your customer is, what problems they’re trying to solve, and how to communicate effectively about your product. Field testing and market analysis can help you determine this information.
We recommend exploring these areas during prototyping because the answers you find could lead to additional product iterations that you’ll want to complete before production begins.
For example, if a product is marketed as easy to use, the customer base may respond better to a simpler design than the one you currently have. In this scenario, you might consider updating a product design or even going back to the drawing board based on your learnings.
The Transition to Production Manufacturing
As you prepare to scale your product, the considerations become more granular. Here’s the checklist we use at our Texas machine shop when transitioning a prototype to production:
- Engineering file. A high-quality, comprehensive engineering file provides your manufacturing services partner with the critical information they need to make your product. This file should include a bill of materials (BOM), a support narrative indicating the design intent, a 2D drawing, and a 3D CAD model.
- Manufacturing process. The manufacturing approach you used for your prototype could change when you scale up to production. For example, the cost of tooling for injection molding may have been prohibitively expensive during prototyping, but once you’re in production, that expense will amortize quickly. Keep in mind that if you transition from a process like plastic machining to injection molding, you may need to optimize your design for the new manufacturing method.
- Quality management. Maintaining high quality standards is an ongoing process. But at this point, you can begin brainstorming how to execute frequent testing and communicate quality assurance to your customers.
- Supply chain and risk mitigation. Now is the time to think about how you want to set up your supply chain. Who are your vendors? How will you allocate resources and responsibilities? Are there any areas of fragility, such as a component that can only be made by one company? Apply these questions to everything from materials to components to packaging and distribution.
- Inventory. Eventually, your product will need to be stored somewhere safely and securely. Can you anticipate how many products you’ll need to hold in inventory? Does your product have any shelf-life requirements to consider? Answering these questions will help you determine an appropriate space and maximum time frame for storage.
- Aftermarket plan. Your job doesn’t end once your product is in the hands of your customers. What’s the plan if something goes wrong with the product? Does it have a warranty? How are warranties and replacements fulfilled? Be sure to put adequate thought into these considerations.
- Efficiency of production. From the supply chain to the cost of labor, it’s critical to measure how efficiently your product can be made. Efficiency can significantly impact the product’s profit margin, especially at scale.
- Product roadmap. Identify any long-term plans for your product. If it will evolve more over time, you or your product development services provider could make decisions today to accommodate those future changes.
Ultimately, your goal is to go to market with the best product possible as quickly as you can. Working through these considerations is an involved process. But a partner like Alchemy Industrial can take the lead on scaling your product, allowing you to focus on other essential aspects of product development like research and development, marketing, and sales.