Introducing SupplyFX — The Market Network for Hardware Design and Manufacturing

Let’s talk about how to create hardware in its simplest form:

  • Dream up an idea
  • Prototype the design
  • Find people to make it for you (or build it yourself)

It sounds so simple! Steps one and two have more more tools coming online daily. But step three continues to challenge everyone, from large scale manufacturers down to the solo engineer creating products on a contract basis.

Our solution to this problem is SupplyFX. And you can join today.

Why is sourcing still a problem?

Let’s say you are making a product in batches of 1000. You have a Contract Manufacturer (CM) who is very capable of assembling your product. You have analyzed a majority of components in your Bill Of Materials (BOM). However, you need to source a new assembly for the product, in this case a never-before made sensor which you specified and mostly designed.

How do you find a company that is capable of creating this turnkey sensor AND one you can trust? There are a few ways this has historically been done:

  • Ask a friend for a recommendation.
  • Start Googling for a potential solution.
  • Comb through professional sites, hoping to avoid the spammers and finding someone that might be a loose connection (2nd, 3rd tier) and able to make an ‘introduction’.

Even if you find a potential supplier, trust is a huge component of any new business relationship. They don’t know you. You don’t know them. You know you need to go visit their facility to fully qualify any new vendor, but that seems like it could take forever.

Instead, you want to find a prequalified vendor. Not just one listed in a directory, but one showing that they are working on relevant issues to your business and are solving issues for customers on a regular basis.

“Just Who Do You Think You Are?”

So now you’ve found a new supplier, a new manufacturer, a new assembler; someone who will help you make your product. They are in a similar situation, with regard to your identity. They also want to be talking to prequalified customers. They want to see a request for quote (RFQ) come in from someone they know is actually building things, even if in small quantities at first.

One way to share your identity is to list your past work; this is common online. SupplyFX does that and beautifully showcases the things you have done in the past.

However, listing things you have previously done isn’t quite enough. The real piece that matters is the daily activities. Showing what you will be doing and are currently doing, not just what you have done in the past. How do you show this?

  • Discussing your current issues.
  • Asking questions of your connections.
  • Helping others with their issues.
  • Estimating upcoming annual usage based on costumer data.

We think of this as an exercise in Daily DFM; getting feedback on the particulars of your product as you’re building it. Using the SupplyFX feed as a conversation around your latest design, you will gather continuous feedback and end up creating better products. In the process, you will also show that you are creating real things and your interactions with potential vendors will be bolstered by your validated designs on the platform. In short, they get a small insight into what you’re doing and you show that you are a bona fide product creator. This eases future vendor interactions.

Continuing the conversation

Updating others about what you’re working on has another benefit: it builds community. In an increasingly “connected” world, this is still hard to find, both online and off. But the benefits are clear and are not necessarily directly tied to sourcing issues.

  • A consultant discussing issues and solving problems for others may find a new avenue for work.
  • An offer to discuss how to better lay out a circuit board for quick PCB assembly may result in a signed PO for an assembly house.
  • A connection made online may result in an offer for a city or factory tour at a later date, resulting in a new business relationship.

As in any community, there are benefits to connecting and staying connected. SupplyFX has a built in chat functionality to immediately allow conversation between approved connections. This “one to one” method of communication will allow more in-depth discussions to take place.

Why Should You Try SupplyFX?

To recap, here are some of the things you can do with SupplyFX, starting today:

  • Find new vendors across the world and engage them in conversations about making your products.
  • Define your identity online. Show your past work and continue to define your work by sharing your latest trials, experiments and creations.
  • Meet and interact with other electronics design and manufacturing professionals.

We’re super excited for the future. SupplyFX brings expert knowledge about the large number of small manufacturers in the world. We hope you will connect with us…and them.

 

Originally posted on The Supplyframe Hardware Blog on Medium

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