Manufacturing isn’t as dead as the naysayers would have you believe. In fact, the UK is becoming known for the quality of its technological manufacturing, with an English equivalent of the Silicon Valley supplying printed circuit boards (PCBs) and bespoke microprocessors to some of the biggest technology concerns in the world. It’s not just technology, either. There’s a real market for locally made products in every business sector. If you have the idea and the wherewithal to get it done. Manufacturing could be the perfect business for you. So how do you get started?
Ideas, ideas, ideas
As always, the key to a successful business is the quality of the central idea. You’re not necessarily looking for something no-one’s ever done before, or even something no-one else in the sector is selling already: you’re simply looking for a clear gap in the market, which you can profitably occupy. Local manufacture of items that local people want to use is a key example. In Devon and Cornwall, for instance, there are dozens of local surfboard manufacturers, who provide a product in which consumers take fierce local pride.
Location, location, location
Are you going to make your product and sell it from the same place – like a small local brewery? Or will you split the administrative and legislative sides of your operation into two physical locations? Consider the practicalities from all angles. As a small manufacturing business, you probably need to have an active role in the creation of your product. In which case, splitting the two operations could cause problems. You will also incur fuel and transit maintenance costs by moving your product from a manufacturing location to a sales location – whereas if you dispatch from point of manufacture, you cut out those overheads and boost the green factor of your business too.
Sell, sell, sell
Are you going to sell your product directly to the end consumer, or will there be a middle company? Will your sales be mainly online or in bricks and mortar stores? Some products sell better in the flesh because consumers need to come and see the, test them out, and ask your advice in person. Others are better suited to moving through established online channels, like Amazon and eBay.
Waste not, want not
Waste is your enemy, particularly when you are in the start-up phase of your business. Every inch of material unused is money you’re throwing away. The only way to learn how the manufacturing process will work best is through trial and error. Design your system, put it into place and then redesign it once its flaws have become apparent. After a few goes, you’ll have built a manufacturing process that follows two key paths: one, it creates very little waste material, and two, it can be replicated endlessly.
Welcome to the machine
Almost all manufacturing businesses require automation unless the selling point is that your product is handmade. Automation allows you to make a