Over the summer, MAKE IT IN LA had a call for applications for its pilot Factory Tour Workshop program and was overwhelmed by nearly 100 applications. We selected a dozen entrepreneurs for our inaugural tour on September 13, aimed at hardware entrepreneurs getting ready to scale their product. We designed this invitation-only gathering in response to their needs, and we visited two production facilities. It was a unique day for those looking to understand how hardware products are manufactured and learn the ins-and-outs of partnering with Contract Manufacturers (CMs). The goal of the program is to help startups, designers, and makers scale their businesses and meet like-minded entrepreneurs.

We started by visiting an Electronics Manufacturing Services (EMS) supplier to learn how printed circuit boards are manufactured and tested. We also saw how full box-build products are assembled from beginning to end. We learned the difference between full turn-key manufacturing and consignment.

In the afternoon, we learned how custom part designs can be manufactured efficiently and cost effectively using injection molding. We visited a state-of-the-art plastic injection molding supplier. We saw how designs are turned into aluminum and steel molds and watched parts made through the mold as plastic pellets are heated into liquid, shot into the mold, then cooled back down to create the final parts for assembly.

The tour included lectures on how to engage with manufacturing suppliers, what to look for when evaluating them, and what documents one needs to have ready to begin discussions. Guests also learned about the considerations when designing products and choosing various manufacturing processes. There was ample opportunity for everyone to network with fellow entrepreneurs and ask questions, and it was inspiring to learn about each others’ products, current challenges, and past experiences.

We will be putting together more FTWs in the future (our next one is scheduled for October 12 in soft goods), with a new call for applications in the New Year.