You finally made it – congratulations! Many companies don't make it to the production phase, so pat yourself on the back! In the third part of this series, we focus on production and preventing manufacturing pitfalls. Just because your idea made it to this phase doesn't mean you’re out of the woods yet. But luckily, this is NAS Electronics' specialty! The easiest way to guide you through this process is to talk it through but read on for our advice.

In the previous two articles, we discussed the best way to get started and how to get through the prototype phase. In this next phase, there are many questions to ask, orders to place, production processes to consider, and documentation to create (we’ve covered some of the questions you should ask a manufacturing partner, and highly recommend reading through that article). In the last part of this series, we’re diving straight into the three things to keep in mind when moving from prototype to production.

  1. Don't Over Order
  2. We see this all too often. Why buy five prototypes when you can buy fifty assemblies for about the same price? The short answer: it can cost your company more than you think. Most products are not ready for production until revision three (or later). Design work is difficult and getting it right the first time is nothing short of miraculous. And while it sounds logical to buy fifty boards instead of five to get that "bang for your buck," here is how it typically plays out:

    • A company purchases 50 boards
    • The CM sends over a few for the company to vet for production
    • The board needs a redesign
    • The company decides to scrap the PCBs and re-order them (expensive) or rework them (more expensive)
    • The CM charges a hefty fee to break down their production line

    A CM is only profitable when their lines are running – if their lines stop running, and your production run is the culprit, you can expect a breakdown fee. Additionally, CMs can become frustrated if the build is represented as "ready to build" or “production” if it’s still in the prototyping phase. You may get lucky and not need to redesign anything, but of the thousands of new builds we’ve seen, only a handful have worked out this way.

  3. Things To Consider
  4. Many CMs (like NAS Electronics) offer discounts or credits for prototyping when your build moves from the prototype phase into production, which means you can get heavily discounted, or even free, prototypes. Let your CM know where you are in the production cycle and be realistic with your potential. Communicating openly saves time, and hopefully, money.

    Next, communicate which parts of the process you want to take ownership of and which parts you’d prefer your CM own. Answering the questions below will help better illustrate how much of the production process you would want to be responsible for.

    • Do you want to buy the components (consignment), or should your CM (turnkey)?
    • Do you want to test the units, or would you prefer your CM test them?
    • Do you want to do the final assembly, or would you prefer your CM do this?
    • Are you conformal coating or potting your board? Who should take ownership of this process?
    • Do you want to be heavily involved with the manufacturing process? Not at all? Somewhere in between?

    While CMs have established supply chains, experienced staff, and time-honored methods to manufacture quality products, you may want to control every aspect of the manufacturing process. Just communicate openly with your CM to ensure you aren’t duplicating efforts.

  5. Documentation, Documentation, Documentation
  6. A phrase you hear frequently in real estate is “Location, location, location” – in manufacturing it’s “Documentation, documentation, documentation.” Our advice? Document everything. Want to change a capacitor value on your BOM? Revise the assembly. Want to have your boards tested? Provide clear instructions. You know what they say: garbage in, garbage out. If you or your CM are not documenting something clearly, it can create confusion for the other party. Proper documentation helps prevent most communication errors and can stop the "blame game" between engineers, suppliers, and contractors from occurring in the first place.

    And don’t just document it, review it. Make sure there is as little room for misunderstanding as possible. Terms like “build” and “quality” can be used in many ways. For example, "for this build" can be understood as "for this production run only" or "for this assembly number." Never assume when communicating – if there is any room for misunderstanding, clear it up quickly, and document it.

    The Finish Line

    The manufacturing process is the most straightforward step out of the three, but we could easily write a novel full of advice! To make it simple, when you reach this part in the process, give us a call. We’ll help you through the process, even if you decide not to work with us. Nothing excites us more than helping another company make it to market and become a profitable household name!

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