Not all our clients know that there are several different ways to develop and produce products. In a lot of cases there are already similar products on the market. If the manufacturer is Asian, they are often happy to produce a similar version for you. We created this article to give insight into the different ways you can develop (electronic) products and the advantages and disadvantages each of these methods. At SLIMDESIGN, we support our clients in all the different options. It depends on their requirements, volume and budget which suits them the best.
1. Very low volume (up to 20): use a maker platform
If you are building an internet of things device in a very low quantity (less than 20 pieces), we recommend using a maker platform, like Arduino or Raspberry PI. This makes it easy to combine and swap components, iterate and come up with new ideas on the go. The outcome can be used to showcase an idea but is not comparable to a scaled-up product. For example, an Arduino is often bigger than a custom PCB. If you decide to go with this method, you should also realise that the code, configuration of components, and volume will all have to be redesigned if you want to scale up the production volumes afterwards. For that reason, we often skip this phase and start with mass-production suitable chipsets and components.
- You can do it yourself and iterate quickly.
- It will help you get future requirements right
- The result will help explaining the idea to stakeholders and investors
- Cheap if you only need a few in a static controlled environment.
- Impossible to scale feasibly
- When decided on manufacturing, a lot of work needs to be redone.
Same as an existing product: OEM
There are a lot of companies (Original Equipment Manufacturers, or OEMs) already producing products that can be branded with your logo. Finding the right product that suits your needs and made by a manufacturer that can be trusted, can be time consuming. We have supported clients in this process when they need small quantities and have a limited budget. Having the right contacts with good and reliable partners in Asia is an advantage when choosing the OEM route.
- Ideal if the product is available or when you only need small changes.
- Minimal development costs
- Small MOQ (Minimal Order Quantities) are possible
- Limited modifications possible
- The same product will be sold to others
- The firmware, API, APP etc. are often not very well executed
- The product might have changed when you place a new order
Similar, but different to an existing product: ODM
If you want an original design but your development budget is limited, working with an ODM (Original Design Manufacturer) can be a solution. In this case, their standardised electronics are used to save costs. You can create the design and define the requirements. They will do the final engineering under your supervision. The downside of an ODM is, that their focus is production: they do not like modifications. If you do not order big enough quantities, they lose interest and you can expect long delays. Optimisation of the software is hard because they will not give you excess to it.
- The development budget is relatively small
- Lower product cost price because they can order the components in large quantities
- No access to the lower level software
- Optimisations is not their priority and will take a very long time or it will not happen
- Hard to avoid a lock-in, you cannot move to another production partner
- Expect changes over time in the components, quality and price
- They often require a minimum order quantity per year
New custom product, Full Control
With a custom electronic design, you control all aspects of the product: user interface, hardware and software. In this way, you can make a premium product that is finetuned to the needs of your customer.
- Full ownership of the Intellectual Properties (IP)
- Less risk you are educating the competition
- Full control over component selection and configuration
- Low level control of the software to optimise the functions
- Security and software updates are easily managed
- Production partner change is easier (second sourcing is possible)
- Longer development time and bigger budget required.