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Taking a Journey to the Boombotix Birthplace

Shen Zhen

In case you didn’t know, Boombotix speakers are made in China.  Shen Zhen to be exact. Shen Zhen is considered to be a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) known for being one of the major manufacturing powerhouses of the world.  Some of the top consumer electronics companies source their products from Shen Zhen including Apple, Monster Cable, and Skullcandy.  On our trip, we are going to be visiting the factories in Shen Zhen and GuangZhou.  Some of the areas outside of the cities are industrial villages where you can get everything done from injection molding, PCBA fabrication, screen printing, packaging, and just about anything you can imagine.

On our trip, we really want to document the entire experience as best possible so that we can bring forth the realities of globalization and outsourcing.  Our trip to China will begin on March 27th.  We purchased one way tickets to ensure that we can capture as much as needed to get the truth out there.  

why are products made in china?  Why not the us?

Part of the reason that so many products are made in China is the cost of labor.  With one of the world’s biggest populations, they are able to put together a trained and educated workforce with factory workers fetching less than $2/hour.  In the US, $10/hour will fetch you some unskilled migrant labor with absolutely no soldering experience. Often times, people have the misconception that factories have a bunch of automated machinery doing all the work and that the workers are simply packaging and shipping boxes.  For most electronics made in China including your beloved iPhone, iPad, and Macbook Air, they are hand assembled on a line with one person doing one repetitive task over and over again.

One of the awesome things about China is that their workforce is actually very skilled at a number of essential disciplines from mechanical to electrical engineering.  With a good factory that knows what they are doing, you can prototype just about anything you dream up for less than $2000.  There are a number of rapid prototyping facilities in the US, but very few of them can offer the full service shop to make a finished product at a reasonable price.  Often times, we order a prototype and we will have a production quality finished product in our hands in under 45 days.  In an industry where speed and efficiency are key, having a good prototyping turnaround can be the difference between being a market leader and a commodity good.

How can i get stuff made in China?

Well the answer can be mixed.  On one end, most manufacturers don’t like to make things at low volume.  Plan on making at least three thousand pieces of any item that you want.  By simple economics, the function of cost versus volume is a purely linear relationship.  Most factories will require you to pay for a tooling cost with any new and unique design.  Once you pay for tooling, you will need to place a deposit ranging from 30-60% on your big production run.

In choosing a vendor, one of the best resources you can have is finding someone with a reputable list of clients.  Having a relationship with trust is key.  Don’t be afraid to get your product quoted at multiple vendors or even getting prototypes made at several.  You can make your judgement on which one you decide to go with after engaging with them and feeling out your experience.  Sometimes the cheapest one is not always the best.  If you want to make the journey out there to visit them in person, it might not be a bad idea.

Negotiation skills are essential to doing business in China.  No matter what, always maintain a strong corporate facade.  Act big and sell the future of your business.

What do i need to provide my factory with?

Every factory will or SHOULD have a team of electrical and mechanical engineers on hand.  If you are capable of 3D modeling or drawing, this will be a very valuable asset to communicating your vision.  Using Solidworks or Google Sketch Up will get you a precise 3D drawing.  Sometimes just taking a hack at Adobe Illustrator can work at a high level too.  Whatever you do, leave as little room for interpretation as possible.

In addition to your drawings, put together a thorough specification document.  The greater the detail the better.  If there is a size of a part you need to call out, this would be the place to do it.  Here’s a checklist of things you should put in your specification document:

  1. Mechanical Dimensions
  2. Operating Environment
  3. Materials and Tolerances
  4. Package Design (this is an entire field and we will discuss this in more detail later)
  5. Target Weight
  6. Firmware functions (Lights blinking, button functions, charging, modes etc.)

You really can’t be too detailed here, but don’t fall into the trap of bogging yourself down.  If you are taking your product to market, your goal should really be to achieve your vision of a good product and leave the nitty gritty stuff to the production fab houses.

If you have any questions about this, please feel free to comment and we will be as helpful as possible with taking your idea to reality.

One comment on “Taking a Journey to the Boombotix Birthplace

  1. Wow! Great article. Comes in very handy for me as I am currently looking at ordering a prototype for my product (DuozBox Speakers) from China. Your breakdown really did give a clear picture of what I should expect. I could use more advice from you especially as you are experienced in the speaker industry.

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