Today, I want to focus on LOGISTICS! Wow, I have to thank my wonderful Husband for his persistence and patience in dealing with the shipping/logistics of getting our heated chairs here in Illinois. From our Manufacturing blog, we have two manufacturing facilities. One is in Ningbo, China and the other is in Kaiping, Guangdong. The all-season heated chair assembly is in Ningbo and the powerpacks and chargers for the chair’s heating system are in Kaiping.
The first action you should take when dealing with international shipping is find a trusted Freight Forwarder. This person is responsible, as a 3rd party, in organizing and arranging shipments. They will help you with communication between you and your manufacturers. Please ask for references and then call them! You will start with asking questions about US Customs/import process, logistical acronyms, transportation process and expectations. Don’t hesitate to ask them anything you don’t understand. Logistics is typically new to all of us starting this process! Then you will want estimated container costs, duty fees, entry bonds (ask about continuous bond) and any additional fees that may apply. Duty is calculated as a percentage of the commercial value (Cost) of the goods being imported and the cost of transportation (Freight). This is called CIF value. If you pay $15,000 for the product and freight costs $3,000 you would pay duty on $18,000. In this process if you do not have a warehouse lined up, please work with your Freight Forwarder on this. One line of caution if you are using multiple manufacturers—Sales Tax of 17% may apply if you are shipping from one mfg. location to another. Please ask these questions at the beginning so you don’t run into problems at the end. There are alternatives so please ask your Forwarders.
Another thing to keep in mind with logistics is you will need to assign item numbers or a sku for your products to help identify the items once they make it to warehousing. Keep great records of the numbers you assign to your products to prevent confusion later on. You will need to know how the product/s will be shipped in the container. Will they need palletized, packaged, etc? You will need a Bill of Lading and signed Custom Power Of Attorney(make sure you fill out EVERYTHING). One more thing I will add, make sure your manufacturers take pictures of your final product in their shipping packages or pallets. Make sure they are protected for the ride to their final destination may be a rough one.
The best advice I can give when dealing with logistics and your Freight Forwarder is to educate yourself, stay confident and be persistent! The next Chaheati Journey Blog will discuss the beginning of the Sales and Marketing phase.
I spoke in my last Blog that our next Journey would be on the manufacturing process of our All-Season Heated Chair. We use two manufacturing companies, both of which are in China. One is our heating system manufacturer; including, the batteries and chargers. The second gathers all the raw materials and builds the final outdoor heated chair.
When communicating to international manufacturers, you have cultural and language challenges to overcome. We were fortunate with the manufacturer that was assembling our outdoor heated chair that we had an established relationship with one of their Managing Directors. He is from St. Louis. We were also able to meet his partner and other Managing Director when she made a trip to the States. However, most of the time we were communicating via email with a Project Manager. In order to communicate our product specifications, we sent Specification Documents, Scope of Works, photos and sometimes video. We used the same communication methods with both manufacturers. Patience and illustration (visual) are vital to effectively communicating your ideas, plans, etc. We had 3 samples developed and shipped to us before we arrived to the final sample and ultimate outdoor heated chair.
I recommend getting a Mentor/Coach or Product Designer to get involved at some point to review your details-final product and quality. When you are so close to a product, you might overlook details like hanging tags, fabric tags, quality stitching, packaging (shipping and in-store), etc. If you are working with manufacturers you do not know, you will want to interview and hire a 3rd party Quality Assurance person to investigate your manufacturer. Please make sure they send you video!! This is not as expensive as you may think. Please be careful that someone does not take advantage of you.
Manufacturing was one of our biggest learning curves and challenges. We stayed strong, patient and persistent to get the quality product, All-Season Heated Chair, we wanted. The next learning curve and extreme challenge of product development is Logistics. What is a freight forwarder, duty fees, FOB, LCL, etc????? Check out our next Chaheati Journey Blog-Logistics-Shipping of the Heated Outdoor Chair.
Three years ago we went to Armstrong Teasdale to run a patent search on our new product idea, heated collapsible chair/heated camping chair. We were elated to find out that no patents were filed and no publications existed. To the drawing board we went, we were a go! We spent months in R&D. My wonderful, brilliant Husband worked with heating system Engineers across the world. Our heating system is based on a carbon fiber non-wire (coil-free) heating technology powered by a 7.4v rechargeable lithium-ion battery with four temperature settings. We worked with numerous companies before we found the best quality heating solution.
After product concept and design, we knew we needed mentors to help us. Neither one of us had ever done new product development or worked with manufacturers. We reached out to InnovateVMS in St. Louis, MO. They promote entrepreneurship education and leadership through team-based mentoring. They assisted us through the process; along with, Gary Kellmann. I was very fortunate one day. I was doing some R&D and looking for product experts on LinkedIn when I came across Gary. I sent him a message and asked for his advice. He told me to call him. I walked through our product design and business plan with him and he decided to become our Mentor and eventually our Manufacturer. He kept us on our toes and on a deadline. But the main thing is that he never let us give-up or even slack off a little. One piece of advice I have for all Inventors out there is Execute, Execute, Execute!!! Both of our manufacturing companies are in China. Next time in our Chaheati Journey Blog, I will write about our challenges from logistics to communication differences.
Three years ago was the start of Kyle and I’s product development journey. It was a chilly November evening, in front of a bonfire, when the idea of a heated collapsible chair/all-season heated chair began. My husband knew I was getting pretty cold and miserable but knew I didn’t want to leave everyone and go in the house or sit in the car by myself. He told me that I needed to get a heated collapsible chair/all-season heated chair and don’t worry what it costs, just buy it. After the weekend, I googled to buy one but found nothing so I gave up looking until a few months later when I was outside cold and miserable again. Kyle and I were going to have fireworks at our wedding so we were invited up to Litchfield in April to watch them be displayed. I needed a heated collapsible chair/all-season heated chair really bad so at that point I was on a mission to find one. I searched again and again but nothing…it did not exist. At that moment, Kyle and I decided that were going to develop the original All-Season Heated Chair. We want people to stay outdoors and do what they love; whether, you are just outside spending time with family and friends like I was or you are cheering your son and/or daughter on at a soccer game.
Keep your eye out for Our Journey Blog. I will write weekly blogs about the moments of the past that have gotten us here and what is going on now.
We attended the RV Rally 2010 in Louisville, KY from July 22-25. We cannot thank the RVing community enough for all their kind words and support. It was our first trade show/convention and we were quite nervous. It is intimidating to put a new product in front of consumers for the first time. We received the best feedback we could not have asked for more, smiles covered our faces every day we were there.
RVers are a perfect consumer for our All-Season Heated Chair. Some RVers spend a lot of time outside in cooler environments. We strive to keep them warm and comfortable while enjoying their time outdoors.
The RV Rally was huge! There was 1000s of RVs and 100s of booths. Louisville was a great host city and their Expo Center was amazing. We were very pleased with the organization and the facilities for the event. Please check out http://therally.com for more information on RV Rally 2011 and the recap of 2010.
We have to say “Hi” to our show neighbors…..Patrick, David, Alex and the Port-A-Lift family!!