Prospecting and then onboarding a new client is a very exciting process, but there’s a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into qualifying a prospect and then preparing for the initial production run. The first few interactions with a prospect are extremely important, whether it be in person, by email, or on the phone. It’s a time to feel them out a bit and learn more about their product and the specific services they’re looking for. Through those early interactions, we’re able to gauge the prospect’s legitimacy and figure out if Case Mason is the right fit for their product. In order to determine if Case Mason is the right fit, there are a few starter questions that we typically like to ask. We go into detail below on why all of these questions are so important.
- What is your product?
- What type(s) of manufacturing service(s) are you looking for?
- What kind of run sizes are you looking for?
- How many SKUs do you have?
- Do you have a sense of your quarterly and/or annual volume projections?
- Can you provide samples for our production and mechanical teams to take a look at?
- Can you provide a copy of your product’s Safety Data Sheet?
- Do you have any pack out specifications in mind?
- Will you be sourcing the raw materials (corrugate, bottles, caps, mixing ingredients, etc.) or would you like us to include that in our quote?
- Is your product considered organic, OTC, or pharmaceutical?
- What are your quality control expectations?
What is your product?
This is an obvious one. Not much explanation needed. But, there are certain types of products that we aren’t able to work with for a number of reasons, including specific facility requirements, certification requirements, equipment limitations, dangerous materials, and so on.
What type(s) of manufacturing service(s) are you looking for?
While a prospect may come to us looking for one specific service, we offer a wide variety of turnkey solutions for our clients. The range of our capabilities stretches from materials sourcing to filling, and everything from packaging to shrink wrapping and de-kitting work. We believe that our wide range of capabilities and complimentary services are what separate us from the competition.
What kind of run sizes are you looking for?
Determining run sizes is one of the most important factors when it comes to pricing and turnaround time. Packaging projects are a bit trickier than filling because there are a lot more variables to consider. Filling is almost a completely automated process, except for the packing out of the finished goods, so the filling equipment really drives the pace of the line. Packaging projects are typically much more labor-intensive and require human touches to get the job done. In our industry, more touches mean higher costs. We’re always looking for the most efficient ways to run production, but some costs can’t be avoided. Typically, higher production volumes translate into better pricing because we’re able to create more efficiency and spread the setup and labor costs across a larger number of total units.
How many SKUs do you have?
SKU stands for stock keeping unit. In layman’s terms, it’s essentially a unique number assigned to a product so that it can be identified and tracked in the retail marketplace and also internally. Every product and each variation of a product are assigned a unique SKU code. In order for us to provide an accurate quote, knowing how many SKUs we will be working with is imperative. The number of SKUs affects line changeover time, which then creates downtime and has major impacts on efficiency and throughput. Minimizing downtime while changing from SKU to SKU is a crucial element to the production process.
Do you have a sense of your quarterly and/or annual volume projections?
Most prospects either don’t have this information or aren’t willing to share it. Which is fine and not a deal breaker by any means, but any kind of projections can help us build the most accurate and cost-effective quote. If a prospect can commit to a specific quarterly or annual volume, we’ll be able to give them our best pricing and also plan production during certain time windows to maximize our efficiency.
Can you provide samples for our production and mechanical teams to take a look at?
Obtaining samples from the prospect is the most important factor in determining pricing. Without samples, we can’t provide a quote. Samples allow us to run time and motion studies to determine line layouts and speeds. Based on the results of those time and motion studies and historical data from similar past projects, we’re able to determine the number of units that can be produced per minute and hone in on an exact price per unit.
Can you provide a copy of your product’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS)?
Part of the prospect qualifying process is determining whether or not we have the proper facility certifications to manufacture the product. Providing our quality control team with the SDS (formerly known as MSDS) will give them the necessary information to determine that. In some cases, we might have the right facility and certifications, but the product might contain an ingredient that our quality department deems to be too big of a risk to take on. Unfortunately, that does happen sometimes. But, it’s just as important that our operations team feels comfortable with a product as it is for the prospect to feel comfortable with Case Mason and our capabilities. We never want to mislead or overpromise to a prospect, so that’s why we feel the need to dot all of the I’s and cross all of the T’s before taking on a new client.
Do you have any pack out specifications in mind?
The way a product is packed out has a huge impact on pricing. The pack out decision is 100% up to the prospect, but it’s our responsibility to explain how different pack out options affect pricing. Packing each finished good into single unit cartons requires more labor and drops the efficiency of the line, which then results in a higher price per unit. In contrast, packing 24 finished goods into a master carton improves the efficiency and doesn’t require as many line workers, reducing the price per unit. Bulk packing is always the more cost-effective option, but the decision is completely up to the prospect.
Will you be sourcing the raw materials (corrugate, bottles, caps, mixing ingredients, labels etc.) or would you like us to include that in our quote?
It’s important to establish who will be responsible for materials sourcing before getting too far into conversations with a prospect. We have the ability to handle all of the sourcing ourselves or work with the prospect and their existing suppliers to organize the material flow. Either option works for us. When selecting new components, there are so many different options (shapes, sizes, colors, etc.). We’re happy to provide our feedback and recommendations, but would look to the customer to make all design decisions. Once decisions are made, CM is happy to work with suppliers to procure the components. If the prospect would like Case Mason to take over the souring, it’s important that we provide them with a few options so that they can compare material quality, lead times, and pricing from a couple different suppliers.
Is your product considered organic, OTC, or pharmaceutical?
We always ask this question because there are specific certifications and quality control requirements when producing any products that would be deemed organic, OTC, or pharmaceutical by the FDA. We want to make sure that we are only taking on work that we are certified to produce.
What are your quality control expectations?
Quality control is something that we take a lot of pride in. We know that the products we manufacture will eventually make their way into the hands of the consumer, so we make sure that all products leaving our facility are of the highest quality. Covering all quality control expectations with the prospect upfront sets both sides up for success. We have decades of experience manufacturing food and cosmetic grade products, so we know how important tracking details such as lot codes and expiration dates are to protecting the integrity and safety of a product.
For more information on how Case Mason can help bring your product to market, please feel free to give us a call at 410-687-0007 or fill out an information request form on our website services.