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When making design changes, you must provide patterns or drawings, based on the supplier’s originals.
Even the slightest design change to a PCB requires prototyping, and compliance assessments. Hence, there is no easy and cheap way to modify electronic products.
Whenever you make changes to a PCB design, you must provide a complete PCB schematic and bill of materials.
f. Other Considerations
Many importers have the idea that changing an ‘existing product’ is faster, cheaper and easier than creating an OEM product design from scratch.
It’s a bit more complicated than that.
It’s rarely worth the time and effort to make ‘small design changes’
I get the idea behind changing an existing ODM product. It gives you and the supplier a ‘template’ or reference point. Perhaps it would work, if it was not for the following:
a. Most suppliers don’t actually ‘have private label products’. They upload photos of products they ‘can make’. As such, they don’t have the design drawings or bill of materials for many products.
b. Some suppliers upload photos of products they’ve manufactured for other customers. You should not use such designs. But don’t expect the supplier to ‘warn you’.
c. Even if they have made the listed product before, they probably don’t have the design drawings and spec sheets that you need, to make the design modifications.
Let me give you an example
In 2016 I was working for a small European watch brand. They were just starting out and didn’t feel the need to create a custom designed watch.
Instead, they wanted to go for an ODM watch design, and make the following design changes:
Change to an automatic movement
They still had a clear idea of what they wanted the watch case to look like. We sent their ‘concept images’ to the supplier, that then provided 3 matching ODM products.
Mission accomplished. Or at least that’s what thought at the time.
After spending almost a month going back and forth, the supplier revealed the following:
a. The ODM watch didn’t have the right thickness to fit the required movement.
b. The ODM watch mold could only be used for zinc alloy. Not 316 stainless steel, as the customer wanted.
c. The custom designed hands didn’t fit with the watch case
The whole point with selecting an ODM watch was to save time and money.
Now, the client had paid us to deal with the supplier for one month, which cost them far more than the 500 dollars it would have cost them to buy an OEM mold from the beginning.
Making changes to an ‘existing product’ only makes sense if you are willing to compromise. If you mix in custom designed components and component changes, you will end up spending more time and money than it takes to create a specification and design for an OEM product.
Most supplier also understand this. They will not ruin their existing customer relationships to accommodate new buyers.
As such, many product listings you see on websites and B2B supplier directories are off limits.
You can only use molds that are owned by the supplier.
Some suppliers do invest in ODM molds that can be used by any customer. But don’t take that for granted.
‘Fake’ product listings
I’m not referring to counterfeits here. Instead, I’m referring to products that the supplier never actually made.
Suppliers treat their listings as a showcase for what they ‘can make’, not necessarily what they can start producing tomorrow.
Some suppliers upload renderings, or take product photos from other websites, to demonstrate that ‘hey, we can make this product for you!’.
If they’ve never made the product before, they don’t have the injection mold.
If they don’t have the injection mold, they must make the injection mold. And you’ll pay for that injection mold.
So what’s the point of going for an ‘existing design’ if you have to pay for an OEM design anyway?
Making design changes to an existing design only works under these conditions:
a. You are willing to compromise heavily and base your design entirely on the ODM product
b. The Supplier has all the tooling in stock
c. The Supplier owns the tooling
d. The design is not patented or protected by another customer
Some suppliers invest heavily in their own product line, but they are not your average supplier.
And, you need to be willing to accept what they have on offer.
Trying to make major design changes to an ODM is far more complicated and time consuming than going back to the drawing board and creating an OEM from scratch.
Trust me, I’ve wasted hundreds of hours on dead end ODM projects, only to go back to square one.
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a. Private Label & OEM Product Manufacturer Lists
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c. Product Label Samples
d. Compliance Document Samples
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Co-founder of Asiaimportal (HK) Limited and based in Hong Kong. He has been quoted in and contributed to Bloomberg, SCMP, Alibaba Insights, Globalsources.com, China Chief Executive, Quartz Magazine and more.
Hey there, I’m Fredrik!
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