Our 9 Laws

TITOMA’S 9 LAWS ON DESIGN FOR CHINA MANUFACTURING

1. Use off-the-shelf Components wherever possible

Standards components are readily available, with stable quality and dimensions. Any engineer should use them wherever he can. Yet somehow quite a few Western companies still wait 8 weeks and pay a $250 K set-up fee for a custom LCD, when in China almost any display imaginable is readily available, mature and at very low cost. It may seem quick to base your design on Digikey’s on-line catalogue, but electronic product architecture done without knowledge of China’s supply chain leads to an uncompetitive BOM, and will likely necessitate a drastic redesign later on.

Titoma-Product-Development-Law-1 - Use off-the-shelf components

2. No Country beats China on Custom Parts

Every electronic product needs custom made parts, for example the housing, and China is unmatched in terms of speed, set-up and unit cost for all parts which need to be customized or designed from scratch. Chinese injection molds are a lot cheaper and faster than in the US. The same goes for PCB’s, batteries, cable trees, hinges and packaging. However, it is tricky to select vendors for custom parts. There are no ready products you can compare on quality, price and lead-time so it can take quite a bit of trial and error to finally settle on a roster of dependable vendors. When you choose to manufacture in China it’s best to rely on recommendations from a relation you trust, for example from your Chinese assembly factory.

Titoma Product Development China Law 2

3. DFM is not a Sauce

A tenet of Design For Manufacturing (DFM) is that 60% of the unit cost of a product is decided during architecture, and 20% in design. As they say at Toyota: ‘‘Skillful improvements at the planning and design stage are ten times more effective that at the manufacturing stage.’’ Designing your electronic product without close interaction with the China vendors who will actually manufacture it means you’re missing a lot of crucial information, which necessarily means sub-optimal decisions. If 95% of a product’s design is already done and validated you can hire a really smart China manufacturing consultant, but there is only so much they can do because 95% of the cost is frozen as well. If you have the buying power of Apple you can simply demand that the factory invests in the exotic equipment upon which your Californian design is hinging. But if you start off with a 3K order you need to accommodate the factory’s existing equipment, not the other way around.

Titoma-Product-Development-Law-3 DFM is not a sauce

4. Do final assembly close to your vendors

Each custom part is a new product, with prototypes and deviations to be worked out. When a number of first-run parts from different vendors need to play nice together in your assembly, the possibilities for problems multiply. If you’re in ShenZhen you can send a faulty batch right back, and receive new or reworked samples the next day. Design adjustments will have to be made, and somehow most factories feel it’s more convenient if the other vendor takes on the hassle and expense of changing his molds, so quite a bit of negotiation is needed. Having everybody around the same table, speaking Chinese, helps to speed things up.

Titoma Product Development Law 4 - Do final assembly close to your vendors

5. Involve key suppliers early in the design

There is no universal Design For Manufacturing, there is only optimization for the particular factory which makes the part. Ensure that each custom part of your design fits well with the machines, capabilities and other preferences of the factory you’re working with, and you will save yourself a lot of hassle later on. Factories will only invest their time in giving you input if they trust you to get the job. Trust and mutual understanding need to be grown with time and physical proximity. Rather than jumping to a different supplier to save a few cents we recommend very early involvement of a stable roster of suppliers close to the assembly factory, this will get you to a reliable product a lot faster.

Titoma Product Development Law 5 - Involve key suppliers early in the design

6. Find a Right-Sized Factory

Final assembly is where everything comes together, including any potential problems. You need to find a manufacturer for whom you are important enough for the boss to show up when you visit. Your annual buy should ideally not be less than 5% of their total sales. And be realistic about your forecast: a disappointed factory will quickly become decidedly less responsive. Any project will have problems starting out, the speed with which these will be resolved depends almost entirely on how important you are to the factory.

Titoma Product Development Law 6 - Right Sized Factory

7. Don’t bank on a factory prioritizing design work

Every factory boss has 1 clear priority: keep production lines humming. Most factories do not have too many engineers to begin with, and if a sizable production order has the slightest problem the engineers will be assigned to fix that. Working endlessly on the bugs of a new product of a new client is certainly not their top concern. This is not short-sightedness specific to Chinese bosses, the manager of US owned factory also needs to meet his quarterly targets. No matter what top management says about supporting new ventures, if your “shared resource” PM also works on a Cisco project it may take time to get your emails answered.

Titoma Product Development Law 7 - Don’t bank on a high design factory

8. Protect your IP, but don’t over-worry

Protecting our Client’s IP is a big thing at Titoma and we employ quite a few strategies to ensure this. Since our start in 2002 we have yet to experience a problem. At the same time you also should not exaggerate the risk. Not all inventions become mega sellers, and so nobody will invest time and money in copying a new, unproven product. Once the product is a market success everybody can have it copied. Manufacturing electronics in the US can actually work against you, because the resulting higher retail price signals more margin potential for low cost imitators.

Titoma Product Development Law 8- Protect your IP, but don’t over-worry

9. Ramp up carefully

There is always a lot of pressure to get a new product on the market ASAP, but ramping up step by step is the way to go if you want to avoid a Samsung style recall. That case is actually a good example that no matter how much you test a product in your labs, there is nothing like placing pilot run samples in the hands of your end-users. Murphy’s law lurks in all sorts of dark corners. It is best to start with 20 pcs, then 200 then 2,000.

Titoma Product Development Law 9 - Ramp up carefully

INSIGHTS

GET IN TOUCH

United States of America

Phil Baker - US Representative for Titoma Product Development in China

Phil Baker
rfqusa@titoma.com
+1 323 886 9446
546 Canyon Drive, Solana Beach, CA 92075 USA
author of “From Concept to Consumer: How to Turn Ideas Into Money”

Taiwan (Headquarters)

Case Engelen - Taiwanese Representative for Titoma Product Development

Case Engelen, CEO
rfq@titoma.com
+886 2 8698 1249
18F, No.75, Xintai 5th Rd.,Section1, XiZhi 22101 Taiwan
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The Netherlands

Stef Traa - Your Dutch Representative for Titoma Product Development in China

Stef Traa
stef.traa@titoma.com
+31 6 2939 8629
Kapelstraat 9, 5298 CT Liempde, Netherlands

Switzerland

Ronald Hartmann - Swiss Representative for Titoma Product Development in China

Ronald Hartmann
ronald.hartmann@titoma.com
+41 21 801 63 70
Route de la Gare 9, 1131 Tolochenaz, Switzerland

France

Allain Traverso - Case Engelen - French Representative for Titoma Product Development

Alain Traverso
alain.traverso@titoma.com
+33 954252001
Ter Rue du President Wilson 57, 78230 Le Pecq, France

United Kingdom

Tim Pepper - UK Representative for Titoma Product Development in China

Tim Pepper
tim.pepper@titoma.com
+44 7776 142228
Ash House Business Centre, TW2 5RF Twickenham, UK

Italy

Daniele Fulingo - Italian Representative for Titoma Product Development in China

Daniele Fuligno
daniele.fuligno@titoma.com
+39 335 307 196
via Carnevali 6, PU 61100 Pesaro, Italy

Sweden

Markus Olson - Swedish Representative for Titoma Product Development in China

Markus Olsson
markus.olsson@titoma.com
+46 763187952
Sofierogatan 1, SE-21217 Malmö, Sweden

Colombia

Soleyda Manrique - Colombian Representative for Titoma Product Development in China

Soleyda Manrique Naranjo
soleyda.manrique@titoma.com
+57 312 774 9772
75A-33 Carrera 21, Manizales, Colombia

China

Howell Wang - Chinese Representative for Titoma Product Development

Howell Wang
howell.wang@titoma.com
+86 755 2876 5963
1571, 1002 Keyuan Road, 518054 Shenzhen,China