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  • #971402
    websitedesigner
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    Hi all, one of the business ideas I am working on at the moment is designing and manufacturing a simple steel object to do with gardening. The idea isn’t original but it will be designing the product in a slightly different way.

    I don’t know anything about manufacturing but I will need to find somewhere that can manufacture it for me cheaply – I am guessing in China or similar. I will design the product and I will probably try to make the first one myself (it will be made out of steel).

    Does anyone have any suggestions on where to start for working out how to get them manufactured cheaply? I really have no idea where to start. I guess one of my concerns is if I just choose somewhere randomly I run the risk of them running off with the same product and selling it themselves. I don’t think I really want to go down the patent path – the idea probably isn’t original enough and I’m not sure if there is much demand for it yet so I just want to have a crack at manufacturing a few hundred or so and see if i can sell them. Obviously I could get it done locally but if it does happen to sell well I want to be able to up-scale cheaply.

    Thanks in advance.

    Dan

    #1049614
    hoganfarter
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    Gday Dan,
    Sorry I don’t have any helpful advice.
    I’ll let you know though you aren’t the only one in this boat.
    I have a simple design idea for a novelty gift plastic product,
    that I think will be very cheap to manufacture, probably can’t really be patented, not sure about demand yet and would prefer not to pay premium for local manufacturing so to upscale quickly.
    But learning about how to get small order manufacturing deals in China
    and then other business related transport logistics is quite a challenge.
    I’m even thinking, once the design is finalised, that I will post a job on elance.com, to pay someone to find me plastics contract manufacturer sources willing to do very small orders, and contact them to get quotes.

    #1049615
    JGH
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    • Total posts: 27
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    Hi websitedesigner,
    I’ve had a bit of experience working with manufacturing both here in Aus and dealing with importing from China. I guess the simple answer is that it really depends on your product. There is a few options not only for material, but also manufacturing method also. Steel is a good option for garden tools as its fairly easy to work with and readily available (which means its cheap); as well as having a number of option for coatings and protection. Its generally stamped, folded and welded for garden tools (im picturing a spade); but can be also be forged (like a spanner). Tooling setup for dies is expensive; just something to keep in mind when you design the product.

    You could also consider different materials, such as aluminium, plastics etc which can be cast of injection moulded. We can discuss these options further if you want to look at material selection.

    As par as patenting is concerned, that again depends on quite a few variables (design, capital budget, manufacturing lead time etc). Just keep in mind that a patent will only protect your IP in the country where the patent is held, so if you patent in Australia there is nothing to stop the chinease copying your desing; which they do quite freely. I guess thats part of the risk you take for a cheaper unit price.

    Some factories in china won’t touch you unless you order their minimum quantity; however it never hurts to ask and I have imported a few things just by asking what their minimum order qty is.

    As far as what to do from here Id say make sure steel is the material you want to use and look into the manufacturing process. From there you can get quotes from china, india, indonesia etc (alibaba.com or diytrade.com); and also give some local manufacturers a chance to quote. You might even want to consider a rapid prototyped initial sample so you can make sure it works.

    Hope that helps; let me know if you have more questions!

    #1049616
    websitedesigner
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    Hi mate (sorry I don’t know your name or where you are from) thanks for your help. I haven’t seen DIY Trade I’ll check it out for another business I am working on – a deals website.

    For this one what I am kind of thinking now is designing something, potentially getting seperate parts of it manufactured by different people hence lowering the risk of the product being copied, possibly reducing the shipping costs and overall costs as one particular part will be very different to another part (I suppose using the spade analogy think along the lines of getting the spade made by one provider and the wooden handle made elsewhere) and perhaps assembling them here.

    Re prototyping I have a welder (I tried to restore a Kombi once) and I was thinking of having a go myself.

    But the actual manufacturing I still have my original question – part 1 (the handle) is common and there are plenty of suppliers on Alibaba etc I can find to supply it. Part 2 (the main part) will be custom designed so I will have to find someon to ‘make’ it not just ‘supply’ what they already have. So sites like Alibaba really don’t help with this. I’m pretty confident Steel is the right material so where to start? I’d be reasonably confident starting locally but cost will be very important without patents so I want to keep it as cheap as possible. Thanks hoganfarter for your suggestion of using Elance, that is interesting and not something I have thought of. I have used Elance a bit in my website design business, have had mixed results but some very good results so I will definitely look into that option. But if there are other ideas i’m open to them.

    These things won’t become an issue until I prove the concept but I want to think about them all now, thanks again.

    #1049617
    JGH
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    • Total posts: 27
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    Hi Dan,
    Sorry i didnt introduce myself; my name is Jason and I’m in Brisbane…(Before you ask I live on a hill :P).

    There may be a few small potential problems that I see with using different manufacturers. The first being timing. If you are wating on a shipment of one part you can’t prodcue the finished product until you have all the parts. This may cause some dealy; but that said a lot of manufacturing relies on outsourcing components. Just something to consider along with your production stretegy and QC.

    The second thing that came to mind when reading your post was that if the ‘handle’ is readily available, what is to stop the factor that you get the ‘spade’ manufactured by bringing in their own ‘handles’ anyway and selling them off…if that makes sense? Might be better off to get them to take control of the whole process from the word go. I think that way you reduce your risk in some ways (eg if there is problems with the parts fitting together its their problem…asuming your design is correct).

    By all means prototype yourself! Its generally a lot cheaper, and always a bit of fun.

    Ok so where to from here? Assuming steel is your material of choice, I’d be looking at what manufacturing methods you want to use and how this relates to your design. You have a few main choices – either plate steel that is stamped, cut, welded, drilled etc. Or you can go with a net shape process such as having it forged, rolled, extruded, cast etc. Within these processes is a number of sub-categories, but I’m sure a manufacturer will carry number of different process. For example a factory that works with forging equipment will have processes of open forging, closed forging etc. The process you choose will be dependant upon your design geometry and budget. If we stay with the forging example for now – this would be expensive to set up but cheapish to produce parts in large volume.

    I know I’m getting off track a bit so to answer your questions… What I would do is to find manufacturers of similar products or processes on alibaba (or where ever you can find) and send them an inquiry. You’ll find that a lot of them will be willing to produce custom parts if you send them a sample (your prototype) or a design that they can work from. A lot of them will even have in-house design teams if you need CAD or engineer work done. (I am an engineer myself so will probably be killed by my friends for telling you this ahaha). Make sure you get them to quote a price FOB and understand what this includes (eg does it mean that part is painted and boxed ready for distrubition or do you need to re-package it).

    I totally understand where you’re coming from with proof of concept; its always good to have a product that can be scaled up from the initial design.

    #1049618
    King
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    once you know you have a market (IMPORTANT) then you can use an agent in china to help locate a manufacturer/s and to do the coordination, factory inspections during manufacture (again important) export etc.

    You would need to travel to China at some stage as well.

    I can give you the name of the agent we use if you would like it. Just PM me.

    #1049619
    Accounts Studio
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    You could also have a chat to http://www.chinadirectsourcing.com.au/feasibility.php?gclid=CICS2PmAuKYCFQT0bwodKiuFIQ
    they should be able to give you some good advice and help find a manufacturer.

    #1049620
    websitedesigner
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    Hi guys thankyou very much for all of this advice, it’s exactly what I needed. Jason I’m in Brisbane as well and also on a hill thankfully.

    #1049621
    nev
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    Have you thought about sourcing a backyarder
    Like someone with a hobby workshop
    Possibly on a legal contract not to use the idea them self

    #1049622
    mnj’s buyers group
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    Hi,
    I was just having a bit of a read of what you are doing and was thinking about sending you a message when I read the last post. My hubbie is a backyarder and has a hobby workshop. He mainly works with aluminium and stainless steel but depending on your product I’m sure he could help you some how. But that would involve you revealing your secrets!!!!!

    Seriously, we started in business manufacturing our own jewellery and ended up in China because we couldn’t keep up with demand. We did what you were talking about and had the items 90% done in China and finished them here. We used to import them as decorative door trim so no one would work out our secret. We also still called them Australian made.

    If you are interested or even want to chat to my hubbie send me a personal message and i will give you his details. Some of his work can be found on youtube not sure how to add a link so if it doesn’t work let me know.link I will be so impressed with myself if that link works!!!

    Anyway thanks for reading

    Megan

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