Constant prototyping means a constant flow of deliveries from subcontractors, and a poor partnership with those subcontractors can hurt the product development.
Delivery guys are common guests at our office and they tend to get a pretty good relationship with our team. At least they always ask a question or two when they drop of a set of lasercut planks, a powder coated frame or some other freshly invented gadget.
The source of those odd-sized boxes entering our office is almost always our subcontractors. We constantly subcontract parts for our prototypes as we need a broad range of expertise to make sure our ideas are solid, before they go into final production.
For that reason we need the same good relationship with our subcontractors, as with our delivery guys: if we can get them interested enough to ask questions about the current product we're developing, we're doing it right. Here's how we try to achieve just that, and why it matters so much:
Early contact is key
We always try to involve our subcontractors in the process as soon as possible. Sometimes partnerships and NDA's stand in the way, but ideally we want to speak with them as soon as we have sketches of our concepts ready.
This way we can make sure that they have the tools to actually build our concepts, and as they are specialists in their field, they can chip in with ideas and suggestions when it comes to materials, welding and so on.
When we made the intelligent trash can "Tårnkurven", we followed our own best practice. This meant we knew which concepts would be most complicated (and therefore most expensive) even before we started making CAD-drawings - extremely valuable knowledge for the rest of the design process.
At the same time the early contact helps subcontractors plan their production. Without an early plan we've seen prototypes being delayed time and time again, because the subcontractors gets a bigger order they prioritize before our prototype.
That one person we know
Over the years we've established a great relationship with a series of skilled subcontractors. A relationship that means we know what they are capable of, and they know what we want to do - which isn't a small thing.
When things do wrong - part coming back in the wrong shape or being delayed - it's oftentimes because we didn't establish the relationship well enough.
For that reason we always always try to get one person to be or contact when we for some reason need a new subcontractor. And if we're on the same page as the contact person, the partnership tends to be a long-term one.
Foto: Pete Wright