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A product designer on "going it alone"

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pcba manufacturing

At a Chinese contract manufacturer, an employee mounts a PCBA in a fixture before soldering a sensor.

In 2003, Adam Hocherman went big and founded a consumer electronics company called American Innovative. With the help of the U.S. government’s SBA loan program, he began turning his ideas into products that were built in China. Hocherman has written about this in a series of guest articles for CrunchGear. In Part 1 and Part 2 of “Going It Alone: How to Make Your Stuff in China,” he interleaves the experience of his manufacturing trips to China today with the process he went through to build his first product there in 2003.

Hocherman talks about why a company would pick the “go it alone–build it” route instead of licensing a product idea to another firm, and he offers suggestions on how to get the build process started. He recommends steps like having a detailed product specification so you can clearly communicate how the product should act, feel and perform, and he goes into detail on where to find manufacturing partners (for instance, through services like Alibaba and Global Sources), how to approach potential partners and how to narrow your choices.

Contracting out your design and manufacturing always has its challenges, but those challenges are greatly multiplied when you work with people many time zones away in a different language and different culture. Hocherman’s first two installments have brought back my own memories of the exhaustion of jetlag, sketchy taxi rides and having to communicate through pictures. They also remind me of the satisfaction of seeing rows and rows of pallets of my product, boxed and ready to ship to customers. I can’t wait for the rest of the series to learn how building products in China has changed since 2003 and how it has stayed the same. (Keep an eye on Hocherman’s new blog,, for future installments as well as other articles on product design, outsourced manufacturing and starting a company.)

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