I’ve Got a Prototype, What Next?
LUMA-iD, consultants from Prototype to Production.
So you’ve bodged and bolted together working prototype and have proven the concept to friends and family. What’s next? How do you get this from your shed to the shops? You’re probably eager to get it out as soon as possible, but be aware the next step can take from 6 months to get through, so don’t rush anything and plan ahead accordingly.
Just so you know to trust us, we’re a product design consultancy based in South London who has seen a wide range of products at varying stages of design. We’ve taken products all the way from initial concept prototype to worldwide sales and marketing, partnering with Bjork and splashed over leading publications. We’ve been there and done that, but don’t worry about where your project is, we’ve seen it all.
Here’s our roadmap for your design progression:
I know you’ve probably been working on this for months or even years, but don’t be afraid to refine and reduce your design once you’ve decided to take it to production. It’s easy to overwhelm a product with too many features and ideas – reducing an idea to its core components is always best. Remember your market, and always design with your customer in mind. How would they feel when using your product? Can you make it better? Why would they choose your product over a competitor’s?
We use multiple rounds of 3D printing to rapidly turnaround physical models for testing and development. It’s an important part of the design process but also gives you a realistic presentation tool to use as market research. We use SLS nylon prints from 3dprint-uk.com for the large majority of our work - it’s the best value to cost ratio. For more accurate or heavy-duty prototypes, we use proto-labs.co.uk.
Recognise when your product is ready and lock in your final design. A useful term used in product design is MVP, or minimum viable product, meaning get your product to 99% perfect, but don’t obsess over that last 1%. You need to get your product out onto the market and the time and effort spent on perfection will put you behind the pack and probably into a money pit.
Having said that, proper industrial design for manufacture is a must. The cheapest (long-term) and most common production method is injection moulding, which requires a professional to design for due to various manufacture specifications. Get it designed correctly first time round, it’ll cost more in the long run if you need to remake or edit your injection tool.
Find a reliable production partner in your country of choice. Obviously, production is China is popular due to low costs, but remember you’ll need to be able to communicate with your factory and even visit multiple times to get things running smoothly. Other location options closer to home are available, and might even be more suitable to your needs – small batch production probably wouldn’t justify the large setup cost of manufacture abroad, so maybe look local.
There will be teething problems in your production line. Accept it and fix it. Think of it as preventing a future problem rather than fixing a past mistake.
Once you’ve got all pistons firing and your manufacture flowing, you need to be able to sell your product. You’ll need packaging, sales material and legal coverage for your company, but most of all you’ll need someone working full time on sales. You can choose to sell wholesale to distributors at a lower cost but higher numbers, or direct to retailers at a higher cost but lower numbers. The latter will also take much more admin, so be aware of this when laying out your business model.
Another great option is selling directly to the public, on your own site or on Amazon. This requires more marketing and advertising time but has the largest profit margin and customer involvement. Don’t underestimate the value of an influential newspaper article or an active social media account.
Now you are at this stage, you will also need to think about:
- Patents & registered Designs
- Trademarks in all relevant regions (UK, EU, US)
- Focus testing
- Packaging and manual
- Safety and certification (CE, IP, BSI, FCC, Bluetooth)
- Shipping & storage logistics
- Sales channels
- Point of Sale units and retail material
If this all seems a bit daunting, don’t worry, we’re here to help. At LUMA-iD, we’re experts in these steps and then some, so we can help you all the way or just for an aspect where you need us. Drop us a line or pop by our office in South Bermondsey and we can discuss where to take your project and in what timescale. Before long, your product will be alive and in the hands of your happy customers.