What to Look for in a Manufacturer

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So, you’re in the final throws of deciding which manufacturer to produce your game. No doubt you have lots of choices. And no doubt everyone is telling you how they’re the best at what they do. Quality, price, and service- they have it all! Well, perhaps all is not quite what it appears. Here’s some food for thought in what to look for in a manufacturer…

Manufacturing Expertise: A huge topic that covers some very tangible and intangible areas. Manufacturing expertise relates to not only recommending the most appropriate materials to use, but also how best to produce with those materials.

 

Take plastic molding for example- some components can be produced via compression molding or injection molding. And there are a wide variety of plastic resins to mold with. Also printing- playing card stock has a grain to it and producing with or against the grain can have some very different outcomes in the final product. And chipboard used in game boards can warp like a potato chip if it’s not properly dried and cured.

While we’re at it, there are a vast number of specialty materials, packaging styles, and techniques that are available that will help your product really stand out amongst its competition. A few areas of specialization that come to mind are foil printing, custom linen finish, retail package design, effects with dice, and the list goes on.

Material Supply:  Your product may include a very wide variety of materials that are sourced from numerous suppliers. Inconsistent supply becomes a huge problem when products require multiple production runs. Make sure that the factory you’re working with has well established relationships with their suppliers, and that they’re buying materials on a frequent basis.

Material quality is also critically important. Far more materials than you’d think can contain chemicals and other properties that would cause a finished product to fail product safety testing. Quality material supply means that the chemical composition of such materials as plastic resin, paper, chipboard inks, etc. can be documented as having passed testing. 

Logistics Expertise:   Logistics expertise means many things- the various types of permits that factories have with the Chinese government and their ability to source and ship certain products, the details around exporting goods out of China, inter-factory transfers of components within the country, tariffs, costs associated with shipping to multiple destinations, issues around loading of cartons and pallets in shipping containers (to minimize damage), and last but not least the challenges associated with all things international freight forwarding related. It’s a very good idea to work with an organization who really knows the ins and outs of logistics with China. And it can be extremely challenging if the factory you’re working with takes a hands off approach to some of these details!

Legal and Compliance Issues:  Do you know what requirements exist for labeling your product with the country of origin, your appropriate company contact information, what product safety testing standards may apply to your product or the territories in which your products are sold? And do you know how to arrange for a Certificate of Origin if a retail chain requires it? We do. Also, is the factory you plan to work with ICTI certified? Ours are. All these things really matter, and issues around products produced without proper labelling, testing, or produced in non-compliant factories can be very difficult and expensive to resolve. It’s best to consider these issues in advance!

Product Development & Graphic Design:  Product development expertise can obviously make or break a game’s commercial success. But this expertise can also play a role in material selection and manufacturing, product assembly, packaging design, etc. Our inhouse graphic design and product development services can greatly ease the handoff of digital files, make changes on the fly, and produce better quality products and game play experiences.

Some Final Thoughts:   Starting to understand just how many details are involved in designing, producing, and shipping your products? Keep in mind that many of these details and the expertise needed to navigate them aren’t reflected in the cheapest pricing some factory quotes on your projects. And you can spend a whole lot more time and money if some of these details are dropped in your lap by the factory that offers such ridiculously cheap pricing.

While there are numerous challenges associated with manufacturing, logistics, scheduling, etc., choosing the right manufacturing partner is critical. And while some manufacturers do only that- product products (requiring you to figure out how to handle other required steps), there are other organizations that have expertise in a multitude of areas. This can effectively reduce your timelines, costs, frustrations, and risk, given the fact that you instead have one source for the wide variety of services that must be put into place to address all your needs.