Contract Manufacturing: The Co-Man’s Perspective

All too frequently, we find that new brands approach co-mans from the perspective that the brand is looking to hire the co-man to do a service. The reality is that you are actually beginning a partnership, one that will hopefully be long-lasting and support you through your growth as a company. In order to approach co-man conversations from that perspective, we wanted to give you some insider insight into contract manufacturers.

Co-man Business Models

While every manufacturer will differ in the exact structure of their business model, most tend to follow this rough format.

  1. 2-3 LARGE brands will take up the bulk of their production time.
  2. These companies will either book up the manufacturer frequently (i.e. a full month every other month) or will book them out for a season (i.e. August to mid November for the holiday season).

    These are stable companies whose business the co-man can generally rely on. They get lower production rates due to reduced cleaning time and down time between productions, as well as the guarantee of consistent manufacturing.

  3. A handful of MID-SIZED brands that the co-man is hoping will grow larger
  4. These companies may look for production for a week or so every month, or may do a single larger production for an event.

  5. A number of SMALL / STARTUP brands
  6. These companies tend to act as filler for the co-man when they have off days. Because they often only need a day or two of manufacturing, costs will be much higher due to all the down time associated with a new production - machinery cleaning and changing parts, ordering unique ingredients, etc.

    These companies pose a higher risk to manufacturers, and despite paying higher production costs, the co-mans don’t often make money on these productions. The long term goal is that some of these smaller companies will begin to grow and turn into regular, mid-sized companies that work with the co-man regularly.

As you can see, manufacturers are looking at the long term plan as they search for new partners. Coming in to early conversations with a clear strategy may make your project much more appealing to future partners.

Manufacturers have access to incredible networks and can be amazing resources for new brands that peak a co-man’s interest, so it’s helpful to find a co-man who you are interested in partnering with longer term.

What do co-mans want from brands?

Co-manufacturers, or contract manufacturers, often have specific expectations and considerations when working with brands. Here are some things that co-manufacturers may wish brands knew before entering into a collaboration:

  1. Clear Product Specifications:
    • Co-manufacturers appreciate detailed and clear product specifications. This includes information about ingredients, formulations, packaging requirements, and any other critical details. Need a checklist?
  2. Realistic Production Timelines:
    • Realistic timelines are crucial for efficient production. Co-manufacturers prefer brands that provide accurate timeframes for product development, production, and delivery. If you are unsure, have an open conversation with the manufacturer about what they need.
  3. Consistent Communication:
    • Open and consistent communication is essential. Co-manufacturers value brands that maintain clear channels of communication, promptly respond to questions, and provide updates on any changes or developments.
  4. Understanding of Manufacturing Processes:
    • Brands that have a basic understanding of manufacturing processes can facilitate smoother collaborations. This includes knowledge of the production methods, quality control procedures, and compliance requirements. If you are reading the PartnerSlate Academy articles, you are off to a great start!
  5. Flexibility and Adaptability:
    • Flexibility is important in the dynamic manufacturing environment. Brands that can adapt to changes in production schedules, unforeseen challenges, or modifications in product specifications will be better long-term partners.
  6. Transparency in Forecasting:
    • Transparent forecasting helps co-manufacturers plan production schedules and manage inventory efficiently. Brands that can provide accurate and timely forecasts contribute to a more streamlined manufacturing process.
  7. Compliance with Regulatory Requirements:
    • Co-manufacturers appreciate brands that are aware of and comply with regulatory requirements in their industry. This includes ensuring that products meet safety and quality standards.
  8. Collaborative Problem-Solving:
    • Challenges can arise during the manufacturing process. Co-manufacturers value brands that approach problem-solving collaboratively, working together to find solutions and overcome obstacles.
  9. Consistent and Predictable Orders:
    • A consistent and predictable order pattern helps co-manufacturers optimize their production processes and resource allocation. Brands that can provide stable orders contribute to a more efficient partnership.
  10. Respect for Lead Times:
    • Providing ample lead time for orders and changes is crucial. Co-manufacturers appreciate brands that respect lead times, which helps in managing production schedules and avoids disruptions.
  11. Long-Term Partnership Perspective:
    • Co-manufacturers often prefer working with brands that view the relationship as a long-term partnership. This perspective encourages collaboration and a commitment to mutual success.

Building a strong and positive relationship between brands and co-manufacturers involves mutual understanding, clear communication, and a commitment to shared goals. By keeping these considerations in mind, brands can contribute to a successful and productive collaboration with their co-manufacturing partners.