In recent years, we’ve been accustomed to searching everything on Google. It is easy to find the answer to your question in the first result. However, if you want to build a product, to find the right manufacturer or supplier online, you find yourself with very little help from Google and other websites. I wonder what resources are available if you plan to source and manufacture products domestically or internationally.
Shopify blog – How to find a manufacturer or supplier for your product idea? give you some options and links, recommending how to find domestic options as well as where to go overseas to China and beyond. It also gives you a somewhat standard recommendation to have a dual manufacturer or supplier for any part and some general recommendations like “China is cheaper than US domestic production.
Among US domestic websites, you can see recommendations like Thomas Net, Maker’s Row, MFG, Kompass and the National Association of Manufacturers. There are overseas recommendations like Oberlo, Aliexpress, Indiamart, Sourcify.
Another example of an article that helps manufacturers to provide guidance for the development and find a place to design manufacture, and sourcing – How to Find a Factory to Manufacture Your Product gives you more links and guidance but ending with the same resources I mentioned above.
A separate group of online resources helps you find components and industry products. Among them, popular resources and depending on the country will be McMaster-Carr, Fastenal, MSC Direct, DigiKey, Mousers, and many others. Each of them represents a group of products and components, however, there are limited ways to perform aggregation of the information from these websites. The situation is slightly better in electronics with search engines like Octopart, but it represents a fraction of the market.
Finding the right manufacturer for your product is crucial to your success. Manufacturers control your product’s cost, quality, and packaging, and shipping. However, most of the websites of manufacturing companies haven’t kept pace with the internet or Google search algorithms. The websites are old and not search engine optimized. Most of the websites are not automated and cannot provide any information that can help you to make an automatic discovery of services and products.
One-Click Manufacturing. A quite promising space of so-called one-click manufacturing space was significantly impacted by the additive manufacturing technologies and the expansion in other production fields. Services like Xomerty, Hubs, and some others are focusing on 3D printing, CNC, Milling, Sheet metal production, and other services. Electronics and, especially, PCB manufacturing online is represented by online services allowing you to design and make orders online. There are many examples and among a few of them – CurcuitHub, PCBWay, and others. However, comparisons between services and functions are still pretty hard as well as interfaces and communication processes.
What is my conclusion?
The Internet and online world have made a big leap for the last two decades helping the consumer world to find and discover products online. However, when it comes to business and manufacturing, we are still very much in the “Yahoo type of world” circle of the 1990s. Static lists, browsing categories, very limited ordering, and configuration capabilities, limited discovery, and price compatibility.
The One-click manufacturing services category is very promising. The biggest differentiator of online services of this group is instant quotation as well as the established process of design, order, manufacturing, and delivery. But these services are mostly serving single component manufacturing and except for PCB assemblies rarely go into complex assemblies and product manufacturing.
There is a need for hundreds of thousands of manufacturing companies, including specialized manufacturers and services, contract manufacturers, and many others to become discoverable, to provide automated online manufacturing services, configurations, and tools capable to work in the new online digital world. It is an interesting opportunity for digital transformation and PLM vendors looking to democratize product development processes and to build an “Amazon for Manufacturing” type of service. In my view, we are going to see a growing number of these services in the next 5-10 years. Just my thoughts…
Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital network-based platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networks. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.