5 Questions to ask your contract manufacturer
Partnering with a new contract manufacturer can be a big deal. If you're an indie brand and this is your first product, you might be focused on pricing and aesthetics — and that’s all important. But be sure to ask the tough questions about both process and support up front, so you don’t run into surprises down the road. Jot down these five questions and get down to the nitty-gritty with your new CM:
1. What manufacturing guidelines do you follow?
Every contract manufacturer should have a clear set of manufacturing guidelines they follow — whether it be the FDA’s cGMP standards or another standard. Ask if products are produced in-house or outsourced to another laboratory, and what guidelines they follow. If you are manufacturing a sunscreen product, it is particularly important to ask if the facility is registered with the FDA and who will file the paperwork needed to get you to a successful launch.
2. Will you help me follow regulatory guidelines?
Ask your contract manufacturer how they ensure compliance in your region(s) of launch. If you are launching in more than one country, it is important to make that known up-front — you don’t want any “surprise” regulatory hurdles, and neither does your CM.
3. Do you provide any marketing guidance or support for brands as they gear up for launch?
Some contract manufacturers are strictly suppliers of personal care products direct from the manufacturer — others go a little further when it comes to support. It is worthwhile to ask if your contract manufacturer offers market data and trend information, and whether they use this data to guide the production of their private label or white label products. If your contract manufacturer has a unique technology or packaging system, ask them if they have educational materials or offer any marketing support to help your sales team gear up for a successful product launch.
4. How do you keep communication clear and streamlined?
Let’s face it, no one likes emailing a generic inbox with an urgent question. Ask your contract manufacturer if you will have a designated point-of-contact for questions and issues that arise throughout the product development process. Tech-savvy contract manufacturers may have digital project management tools to streamline the process even further. In addition to saving time, digital tools can help you stay organized and on the same page.
5. What is your anticipated timing for my product launch?
For your product launch, you want a timeline beyond the average time it takes for your CM to develop and launch a product. Make sure that you and your contract manufacturer are on the same page with regards to a product development and launch timeline. It should be a workable timeline for both you and the manufacturer, and you should be sure to leave the conversation knowing what you need to do to keep the project moving swiftly and without delay.