Manufacturing for Innovators

A message to startup founders, entrepreneurial teams, and innovators manufacturing new products.


Your team has spent countless hours building prototypes, designing marketing materials, raising funds, and studying your customers. You’ve put blood, sweat, and tears into creating something unique out of an idea. You launch your product, go viral on social media, and receive thousands of new orders. You are ready to conquer the world.

Now, a pale dose of reality kicks in. You’ve got to figure out how actually to fill all these orders! You start scrambling to find your suppliers, buy the right machinery, and hire the right people to start producing at scale. You begin to realize the enormous difference between building a prototype and scaling production.

Post-it notes fly down the line as operators work hard to assemble products. Shift leaders populate excel sheets with your production data, work orders, and part information.

Now things start to get tricky.

Just in automobiles, look at the Ford Pinto, DeLorean DMC-12, and Tesla Model 3.

The Ford Pinto introduced North America to a new class of cars, the subcompact (B-segment in Europe). The DMC-12 was one of the first cars with iconic gull-wing doors and the star of the cult classic, Back to The Future. The Model 3 revolutionized the electric vehicle world with a mass-market, affordable, and attractive car.

Each was a massive innovation, generated huge demand, and sold thousands of units. The problems started to appear in production. 

When someone hit the Ford Pinto from behind, the gas tank had a high probability of combusting, leading to a recall of over 1.5 million units. The DMC-12 failed because production costs skyrocketed as they tried to scale manufacturing and production delays drove the company to bankruptcy. Tesla Founder Elon Musk described producing the Model 3 at scale as “Production Hell,” with the company nearly going bankrupt.

How can you learn from this as a startup founder or product innovator?

The best way to avoid these types of failures comes through deeply understanding your process. In many highly regulated industries, product traceability is a legal requirement. Often this is done through excel spreadsheets and post-it notes.

These work until they don’t, when you need to scale rapidly or update your production quickly. The solution to this is to implement digital process control and traceability. The downside to digital process control comes from introducing complexity, rigidity, and expenses to your production.

Committing to this type of system leaves you in a tricky situation. How can you scale your production understanding, control, and traceability without building a system that keeps you many steps removed from responding to your customers?

The trick is to use your digital processes as little as necessary. The digital process control you choose should only serve one function: automate away the repetitive tasks required to track and synchronize the physical processes in production. Over-emphasis on a wide array of integrations and treading through the green field of “what-could-be-possible-ifs” will create a monster of a system to manage.

With a minimally invasive digital approach, MBrain is an excellent solution for innovators trying to launch new products. MBrain reduces the complexity that traditional production software brings to your manufacturing while not sacrificing the process control, understanding, and traceability needed to manufacture like a badass.

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