This week, we’d like you to put together a plan for the production and distribution of your product: materials, processes, costs, etc. This will shape your design, your market, and your business model, so it’s important to have an approach in mind as you continue to develop and refine your product throughout the rest of the semester.
Start by deciding how many units you’d like to figure out how to produce and a general plan for how they’ll be made and distributed. Do you imagine your product being assembled in China and shipped in a box to the end-user? Put together by hand in your workshop and sold face-to-face? Distributed as a kit to be assembled by the customer? This choice is up to you but make sure that it’s practical given the constraints of your product. (For example, something with lots of tiny surface-mount components may not be feasible for customers to assemble. Something that requires lots of unskilled labor may not make sense for you to do yourself. Etc.) Hybrid approaches are also a possibility (e.g. automated assembly of surface mount components and customer assembly of the through-hole ones; customers assembling parts that were laser-cut by Ponoko).
Based on your chosen number of units and overall approach, create a detailed production plan. For the parts you plan to buy, decide which specific components you’ll need, where you’ll get them, what quantities you’d be ordering them in, the cost at that quantity (including shipping), and the lead time. For custom parts or assemblies, decide who’s going to make them (e.g. you, a supplier, the customer), how, and from what materials. How long will it take to set up the process and to make each one? What tools, molds, and other infrastructure will you need? What kind of packaging and instructions will you need to get the product to the end user? How will those be made and how much will they cost?
Finally, put together an estimate for the total money and time required to produce your product: upfront investment, per-unit cost, suggested retail price, and total capital required; time to market, per-unit assembly times, and total labor required. Don’t forget to consider labor, shipping, taxes, margins, overhead, etc when calculating costs and prices. These factors are essential to the success of a product. With of all this completed, you should have a good sense of what’s needed to make your product, whether it’s viable or not, and what you need to focus on or change as we proceed with the remainder of the semester.