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Published On: Thu, Aug 22nd, 2019

Does Prototyping Make Sense for Smaller Companies?

Prototyping has long been a tried and tested method in the manufacturing industry to identify and iron out the quirks and problems in design, practicality, and function. All successful companies working on innovative ideas must make use of prototype manufacturing, irrespective of the operation’s size.

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photo/ Michael Jarmoluk via pixabay.com

Importance of the Prototype to Small Manufacturers

As already mentioned, prototyping is essential for manufacturers in general, irrespective of the size, but for smaller companies, the stakes might actually be bigger.

When a small company has an excellent idea for a new product, chances are that they won’t get a second chance from their sponsors if what they produce fails in the market. The same is true when a small manufacturing facility lands a big contract but does not have sufficient experience to create the best product that they possibly can. Going into mass production with such risks is impractical, to say the least!

Utilization of prototyping services continues to offer multiple “second” chances to the developers of the particular product, until the time comes when they have successfully ironed out all the kinks in design, improved upon the original, and managed to develop a product which has the highest likelihood of being a hit.

Is Manufacturing Prototype Designs feasible for Small Operations?

Budget is one of the main differences between an SME and a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate, so the former will, of course, not have similar resources to experiment with prototypes as much as the latter. That being said, thanks to intelligent, low volume production and the affordable, but rapid prototyping China has to offer to the world, even small manufacturers can fit prototyping into their budgets.

RapidDirect is the biggest Chinese manufacturing network in the world, but they also offer low volume manufacturing and rapid prototyping services at affordable rates to smaller operations with limited resources. Even international deliveries are completed within 24-hours in most regions, but a visit to the official website should clarify that.

Do Small Businesses Have the Time to Create a Prototype?

When a team is on a strict budget and a tighter schedule, it is probably going to be hard to find time for a prototype, which is a practical consideration. Whether it’s their own project or an outsourced project for a client, the timeline could be tight just the same.

The thing is, if the manufacturer is not able to fit in at least one or two prototypes into the schedule, they need to rethink that schedule itself. It is important for them to make it clear to investors or clients that unless there is sufficient time for a few experimental prototypes, the project will likely cost them a lot more when the final product bombs in the intended market!

By investing a bit more time and money into the project and allowing for low volume manufacturing of prototypes, it is possible to avert a complete failure. The expenses of a failed project are always going to be much, much heavier than the expenses of investing time and money in prototyping.

The Prototype is Going to be there Anyway

It is also important to take in the fact that whether the investors, the manufacturers or clients sanction it or not, they will inevitably have a prototype on their hands, but it will be called the “final product” instead!

A Hi-Fi prototype is essentially the final product that hasn’t yet been debugged and corrected as necessary. When you do not get a chance to do, the so-called final product is essentially just a prototype. Many big businesses have previously made the mistake of launching prototypes in the market as finished products, and none of them have ever managed to see any degree of success.

Communication is Often the Big Problem

Inadequate communication is often an issue which prevents smaller manufacturers from getting more time to finish their products through prototyping. If the consequences and benefits of both options as explained above are presented to the concerned parties in time, there is a high chance that they will be heard in good faith.

However, the fear of losing investors and contracts often keeps such fluent communication from happening, unfortunately. As a result, they may let the fact out too late and too close to the deadline, or not at all. Neither of the scenarios is ideal but the latter is certainly grounds for bigger lawsuits!

The first mover advantage (FMA) can only be there if you have a product that works well. This logic holds particularly true in today’s market where technology is progressing at a breakneck pace. Therefore, irrespective of the size or nature of your manufacturing operation, take your time and invest a bit more in prototyping to create something that will be the best of what you can offer.

Author: Zoe Price

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