Questions to Ask a Contract Manufacturer
Knowing what type of questions to ask a contract manufacturer can mean the difference between a successful product run and a disastrous one. That’s because not every manufacturer is right for every project, and it’s important to rule out these manufacturers early. Asking targeted questions is the best way to determine whether a manufacturer is a good fit for you and your product idea so you won’t waste any time getting that idea to market.
To help facilitate these discussions, here are just a few of the most important questions to ask a contract manufacturer before you talk about any production details with them. This guide will also teach you how to spot any potential red flags in their answers. The more information you can get from the contract manufacturer from the beginning, the smoother your production run will go.
The Most Important Questions to Ask a Contract Manufacturer
Experienced contract manufacturers expect their prospective clients to ask plenty of questions before they sign anything or agree to a full production run. It’s an industry standard to get certain information up-front, including some ballpark estimates and details related specifically to your project. So, don’t feel pressured into signing any contracts too early. Take your time to get to know the manufacturer and their project proposal.
To get started, here are 10 important questions to ask a contract manufacturer after contacting them. You don’t have to ask these questions in this order or all in one sitting, but it’s generally a good idea to get to each of these questions at some point before you sign the Service Level Agreement (SLA) or any other contract.
#1: Do You Understand My Industry, Customers, and Product Concept?
#2: How Much Will the Process Cost?
#3: Who Owns and Protects My Intellectual Property?
#4: Can You Produce the Exact Number of Products I Need?
#5: How Much Are You Involved in the Creative Process?
#6: How Will You Test My Product?
#7: What Are Your Capabilities?
#8: What Steps Do You Take to Ensure Workplace Safety?
#9: Are You Full-Service?
#10: How Does Your Plant Operate?
There are many other questions to ask a contract manufacturer, but these are a good start to any conversation. They’re designed to give you a feel for how reliable and organized the manufacturer is as well as gain insight into some of the services they can provide and the value they will bring to your project. However, before you ask all 10 of these questions at your next meeting, it’s important to consider when each question should come up so you can get the most detailed answers.
When Should You Ask These 10 Questions?
The first question you should ask a contract manufacturer is the very first question in the list above: Do you understand my industry, customers, and product concept? The answer to this question will tell you whether a partnership with a contract manufacturer is worth pursuing any further. You should feel confident that the manufacturer is listening to you and has a genuine understanding of what you hope to accomplish.
It’s best to group the other nine questions together by theme (as shown below) and ask just one set of questions at a time. This helps the contract manufacturer organize their thoughts and provide the most comprehensive answers possible to your questions.
How Your Product Will Be Made
- How much will the process cost?
- Can you produce the exact number of products I need?
- Are you full-service?
The Value the Manufacturer Brings to the Process
- How much are you involved in the creative process?
- What are your capabilities?
Who is Responsible for Compliance and Protections
- Who owns and protects my IP?
- How will you test my product?
Whether the Manufacturer is Trustworthy and Easy to Work With
- What steps do you take to ensure workplace safety?
- How does your plant operate?
You can ask these questions at any point before signing the contract or SLA. Generally, though, it’s best to ask logistical and service-based questions as early in the process as possible so you don’t waste any time communicating with a manufacturer that can’t provide the services you need. Legal questions are essential before you sign anything. Questions related to company culture are less important by comparison but you should still ask them to better understand the manufacturer’s communication style and organization.
Deciding Which Manufacturer to Trust
The more specific a manufacturer’s answers are, the better this bodes for a future business partnership. Even if a manufacturer doesn’t have the answers to all of these questions on the spot, they should be willing to consider your questions carefully and get back to you with a satisfactory answer after doing some research or discussing it with their internal team. Asking questions like these is an excellent way to establish a rapport with a manufacturer early on and facilitate a more robust discussion about your product concept. Think of these questions as conversation starters rather than a checklist to tick off before signing a contract. They will help you establish a positive working relationship with your manufacturer from the word go, which should lead to a successful small scale production run in the future.
Let Us Answer Your Questions
Pacific Research Laboratories is a trusted contract manufacturer that collaborates with inventors and business owners on innovative product designs. We’re happy to answer any questions our clients have about the process, whether they’re still deciding which manufacturer to partner with or they want advice from the experts on how to manufacture their product efficiently. If you’re ready to produce your idea, visit our contact page or call (206) 408-7603.