Hands-Off Production

So I have an idea for an invention. It’s simple, I’ll describe it here. I’m also not an engineer. So I’ll define and analyze the feasibility of what I am calling hands-off production.

The product is a premium hair clipper device. It allows a user to input the height of their head and a preferred hair length at the top, then it automatically adjusts the comb attachment length in order to provide a fade haircut. A fade haircut typically requires a skilled barber, but this tool allows an amateur to accomplish the feat at home using a built-in, self-adjusting comb attachment and a sensor which allows the clipper device to detect as you move up and down the sides of your head, adjusting according to input preference information.

So that’s my simple invention. How will I make it? I may never do so, but this got me thinking about the production process. Not just the production of a known good by a known process, but the process of starting up the marketing of a newly invented physical good, including prototyping and revising the product design and planned production manufacturing process.

I’m not an engineer. I can’t design a physical hair clipper machine. Here’s what I can do, though: Pay other people to prototype, manufacture, and deliver the item. Then charge the consumer and collect the net revenue as a profit. Let’s call this production process hands-off production. Is this a feasible real-world business plan?

A hands-off entrepreneur, one involved in a hands-off production process, must do the following:

  1. Minimal product design contribution (mainly just the abstract idea, not the technical design)
  2. Invest startup finance (or procure financing) and assume risk for the possible failure of product marketing
  3. Coordinate vendors
  4. Handle vendor coordination
  5. Handle legal compliance

Here is a stack of required steps:

  1. Conceive of an abstract idea
  2. Prototype
    1. Prototyping-as-a-service is possible.
  3. Prototype usability testing and refinement
    1. Full service market research firms can conduct physical usability testing, but it’s expensive.
    2. Here’s an article, and here’s a link straight to one directory of such firms.
  4. Manufacturing
    1. Manufacturing-as-a-service is a thing, albeit a new thing. Providers use plenty of different language for it as well.
    2. Some distinction is made between manufacturing, or the building of parts, and the assembly of parts. The latter is sometimes called assembly or kitting.
  5. Sales
    1. The entrepreneur can handle sales, returns, etc through Amazon. It’s a bit of work but Amazon is a really great tool. Returns handling and so on as well.
  6. Delivery
    1. Amazon
  7. Advertising
    1. Optional, but plenty of ways to do this online. Social media ads, Google ads, and more. Plenty of third party services exist as well.

In conclusion, it seems like this business process can be executed, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea once specific costs are considered. Of course, that depends on the nature of the product. It also seems to require large start-up capital, but crowdfunding platforms are facilitating that these days. If you actually plan on trying this, don’t forget about upselling and split testing. Ebooks and SaaS may be options as well.

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