While the benefits of a short-run prototype process may not seem evident initially, they are quite extensive. Typically, the production process occurs after prototype completion. Such a timeline may not appear to allow much input into the design. However, by concentrating on the short run, creators can build in flexibility and cost-effectiveness that will enable them to improve their overall strategy.
Short-run production is a complex iterative design process that targets creating a line of products in the same family to meet particular needs. It’s a strategy that allows creators to pivot as needed and follow market changes. Creators can prove demand for their products and likely gain the interest of investors.
7 Benefits of a Short Run Prototype Process
A short-run production and prototype process typically involves creating small batches of products or parts of products. This approach is excellent for creators rolling out initial products because it offers several benefits.
#1 Improved Design
Using short production runs can help guide design improvements in a prototype. For example, during manufacturing, the creator may discover an opportunity to replace an expensive screw with a cost-effective staple. In this case, a prototype redesign would incorporate this update. If it’s found useful, the next production includes that change.
It could also help to inform on future prototypes for products in the same line. A company making a short run of earplugs for dogs, for example, may use that design as a jumping-off point for earplugs for other animals. They could see what the actual production costs would be—roughly—and determine if the demand for a similar product for a different audience would be worthwhile.
#2 Limited Storage Requirements
Storage can represent a significant expense for companies, so something called “Just In Time” manufacturing was invented. With this, the company allows customer demand to drive the production of the product. This strategy was born in the auto industry, where large, expensive parts were difficult to store and maintain. Companies cut down on storage fees by only creating products when customers demanded them.
Short-run production works the same way. By completing one small run for customers or investors, the creator eliminates the need to store their products, which offers significant cost savings.
#3 Enhanced Customer Feedback
One tricky part about mass-production is that customer feedback only comes after the creator launches their design. At this point, they have thousands of units on their hands. Customer feedback comes too late to make changes to the prototype.
Small-run production allows a creator to gain immediate customer feedback based on their actual products. Then, they can use that feedback to improve their prototype and their next production run. It’s an enhancement to iterative design that allows companies to meet changing market demands.
#4 Overall Cost-Efficiency
The most apparent savings in short-run production come from a limited number of units. That cuts down on supply costs and labor. Tooling is also a spot to save. As the run is short, durable steel molds and cutters are replaced with cost-effective tooling that’s simpler to make.
Funds saved in this step can improve the next level of prototyping or the production process. The creator may discover methods that are more efficient and useful in future mass production.
Short-run production means that the creator isn’t stuck in a specific design or process. As customer moods and needs can change, a prototype which was good at the start may be no longer feasible. Short-run production allows the creator to update their design in response to changing consumer behavior.
#6 Greater Process Control
In a mass-market environment, a creator will outsource their production to a large company. The creator may not receive a lot of feedback or personal connections during the process because their design is one of many.
Short-run production allows greater process control and a one-on-one relationship with the manufacturer. The creator can see what steps their products go through and better understand the overall development. This valuable learning experience can inform and elevate the creator’s future designs.
#7 Proof of Concept and Demand
Investors may be resistant to an unproven concept. While creators can show them projections and prototypes that prove the idea and demand for the product, it’s still all speculation. A short-run production process can encourage them to get on board.
The short-run proves the creator has demand for their product and that it’s mass-producible. It provides actual data that can reassure wary investors. Often, it’s all the creator needs to get the funding for a larger volume process.
Tips for Choosing a Short Run Production Partner
When choosing a short-run production and prototyping partner, it’s wise to select a local manufacturing company. This personal connection makes it easier to update designs or express concerns. Creators would also do well to review their portfolio of products and seek out someone with specific experience in their industry.
Ideally, that partner can provide a short-run and prototype. With an end-to-end manufacturing solution, there is less time spent teaching manufacturers how to create the product because they already know. The partner will also be able to design with manufacturing in mind to ensure the best possible process. With the right partner, a creator can enjoy all the benefits of short-run production and iterative prototyping.
PRL is a full-service product development company that specializes in all aspects of production, from design to product fabrication and prototyping. Our experts are here to guide you through the full product development process, including the ideation, design, creation, and management of your product idea.