Design for Manufacturing with Dragon Innovation
October 6, 2016
On Wednesday, Anna Thornton, the Director of Quality and Engineering for Dragon Innovation, presented to a full house on the ins and outs of the manufacturing process. Students got a first hand look at all the details that go into bringing a product from prototype to full-scale manufacturing. They learned the steps they will need to take to get their looks like, works like, prototype to production.
One area of particular area of interest for the students was the impact a Kickstarter campaign can have on their cash flow. Thornton was quick to clarify that Kickstarter is a great tool and she works with them closely, but it really should be used to gauge market interest, to get feedback from potential customers on your product. She warned students that a Kickstarter campaign will not generate enough money to produce units. With all the nonrecurring engineering costs such as certifications and testing, that money will disappear before their eyes.
Thornton thoroughly explained to students every single step they will need to take in order to get a substantial number of units produced. She went over what to watch for and what tools startups should utilize to get the most bang for their buck and keep their cash flow consistent.
She gave students a realistic timeline for how long the manufacturing process takes and stressed the importance of paying close attention to the details the first time around. She urged students to think about cost, quality and schedule. But she warned, you can’t have all three. “You’ll have to give on one of them, there’s always a tension between these three.”
One of the biggest takeaways from her presentation was for students to start building their internal design library. Thornton encouraged the audience to stay curious and pick up every product they see. “Really look at it and determine what makes it feel high quality.”
Thornton herself shared how she is constantly reviewing packaging and borrowing ideas from products she finds interesting. She is able to do this because of that internal library and she told students they can start building it now, they do not have to wait until they have a job. There are lots of ways to make a product look high quality without a high cost. Borrowing ideas is encouraged and can help students design a product that has greater market appeal.
At the end of the presentation students walked away with a much greater sense of the little pieces that make up the manufacturing process. They learned about the importance of their bill of materials and how to create a realistic schedule. And they learned that they need to have their quality processes clearly defined to help guard against the natural tendency to be in awe of their first product.
The whole manufacturing process takes a lot longer than most startups originally anticipate and it is a lot of work but Thornton made it clear that it is possible. You just have to be prepared and stay focused and utilize the tools available to you.
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