Prototypes and the Final Product
What is a prototype?
A prototype is a three-dimensional version of your vision. One of the essential early steps in the inventing process is creating a prototype. Simply defined, it is a three-dimensional version of your vision. But what exactly should a prototype look like? Firstly, it depends on your idea. Secondly, it depends on your budget and your goals. If possible, it’s great to start with a handmade prototype, no matter how rudimentary.
We have seen prototypes made from the simplest of household items: socks, nappy tabs, household glue, and empty milk containers – you name it. If it works for your initial demonstration purposes, it’s as good as the most expensive materials.
Developing the Product
You can grow without new products, but most small companies will find it difficult to grow at all, much less rapidly, without a constant stream of new products that meet customer needs. If you decide to develop new products as part of your growth plan, you’re in good company. Small companies like yours contribute a sizeable amount of the major industrial innovations occurring in South Africa (and at least half in the USA).
At the same time, approximately one-third of all new products are unsuccessful, and in some industries the percentage of failures is much higher. The way to increase your chances of coming up with good ideas is to follow the tested track to new product development success.
The Five Stages of Developing New Products
New product development can be described as a five-stage process, beginning with generating ideas and progressing to marketing completed products. In between are processes where you evaluate and screen product ideas, take steps to protect your ideas, and finalise design in a research and development (R&D) stage. Following are details on each stage:
1. Generating ideas
Generating ideas consists of two parts: creating an idea and developing it for commercial sale. There are many good techniques for idea creation, including brainstorming, random association and even daydreaming. You may want to generate a long list of ideas and then whittle them down to a very few that appear to have commercial appeal.
2. Evaluating and screening product ideas
Everybody likes their own ideas, but that doesn’t mean others will. When you are evaluating ideas for their potential, it’s important to get objective opinions. For help with technical issues, many companies take their ideas to testing laboratories, engineering consultants, product development firms, and university and college technical testing services. When it comes to evaluating an idea’s commercial potential, many entrepreneurs use the Preliminary Innovation Evaluation System (PIES) technique. This is a formal methodology for assessing the commercial potential of inventions and innovations.
3. Protecting your ideas
If you think you have come up with a valuable idea for a new product, you should take steps to protect it. Most people who want to protect ideas think first of patents. There are good reasons for this. For one thing, you will find it difficult to license your idea to other companies, should you wish to do so, without patent protection. However, getting a patent is a lengthy, complicated process, and one you shouldn’t embark on without professional help; this makes the process expensive.
If you wish to pursue a patent for your ideas, contact a registered patent attorney or patent agent. Many firms choose to protect ideas using trade secrecy. This is simply a matter of keeping knowledge of your ideas, designs, processes, techniques or any other unique component of your creation limited to yourself or a small group of people.
Most trade secrets are in the areas of chemical formulas, factory equipment, and machines and manufacturing processes. The formula for Coca-Cola is one of the best recognised and most successful trade secrets.
4. Finalising design research and development
Research and development (R&D) is necessary for refining most designs for new products and services. As the owner of a growing company, you are in a good position when it comes to this stage. Most independent inventors don’t have the resources to pay for this costly and often protracted stage of product introduction.
Most lenders and investors are trapped by a catch-22 mentality that makes them reluctant to invest in ideas until after they prove viable in the marketplace.
If you believe in your idea, you can be the first to market. R&D consists of producing prototypes, testing them for usability and other features, and refining the design until you wind up with something you think you can make and sell for a profit. This may involve test-marketing, beta testing, analysis of marketing plans and sales projections, cost studies and more. As the last step before you commit to rolling your product out, R&D is perhaps the most important step of all.
5. Promoting and marketing your product
Now that you have a ready-for-sale product, it’s time to promote, market and distribute it. Many of the rules that apply to existing products also apply to promoting, marketing and distributing new products. However, new products have some additional wrinkles. For instance, your promotion will probably consist of a larger amount of customer education, since you will be offering them something they have never seen before.
Your marketing may have to be broader than the niche efforts you have used in the past because, odds are, you’ll be a little unsure about the actual market out there. Finally, you may need to test some completely new distribution channels until you find the right place to sell your product.
Understanding the Patent
Protecting your invention through a patent.
Generating great ideas is rarely a problem, but launching them in a timely way can be a challenge. First you will need to develop a business plan outlining all your ideas. There are organisations that can help you optimise the research and development (R&D) cycle, help with marketing, operations and finance, but these services come at a fee. An expert is the best to write the plan for and with you. Deciding whom to approach depends on what kind of invention or idea you have.
Another option is to find a committed partner whose strength lies in marketing. Taking a partner on board with the right marketing expertise is a good alternative. Again, this can create a completely new set of problems, as a partner must be right for you and your products.
Protect Your Ideas
Before you even attempt to market the product, register a patent. A patent is an official document securing to an inventor, for a period of time, the exclusive right to make, use, or sell an invention. Before you can register a patent, you have to find out if the idea or invention has been registered before. In order to do this you have to conduct a patent search. You can do this, or if you can afford it, it is best to conduct a search with the help of a patent attorney.
Protect your Intellectual Property
The first step to take is to patent the product. This is how you will protect your Intellectual Property. A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, or offers a new technical solution to a problem.
In South Africa, the intellectual property division of CIPRO, (Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office), is responsible for the registration of patents, trademarks, designs and copyright. Patent searches in other countries are a little easier than in South Africa as the patent records of numerous countries are available on-line in specialist databases, while the South African system is manual and paper based.
South African Patent Searches
“Most patent attorneys in South Africa use USAPTO to conduct their searches. This site offers a good indication of whether or not an invention has been patented because the “novelty requirement” is truly tested in such a large market place. Most patent application will be granted by Cipro because they do not check to establish that an invention is unique. That is why a Provisional Application for Patent is so important.
In South Africa, a patent search can only be done at CIPRO and is located in Pretoria. Researchers and inventors can do searches at CIPRO’s Paper Based Disclosure Centre. South African patents are not available online.
Once you have established that the patent hasn’t been registered you can file a provisional patent application. The reason that you register a provisional patent application is to provide time to evaluate the invention publically. This means that if a similar or the same patent is registered, but was missed during the search, there would be a 12-month period for this problem to show up.
Applications for Provisional Patent Application costs R60.
Once the provisional patent application has expired, a patent application must be completed. Complete patents must be signed and filed by a patent attorney. The complete patent filing in South Africa, which can cost between R7 000 and R10 000 or more, including official fees. The renewal fee, payable annually from the 3rd year onwards, is on a sliding scale from R130 to R206 for official fees and R725 for a patent attorney’s fee.
Other search options:
There is an Electronic Patent Journal (EPJ) where South African patent information is available. It is currently being developed for availability via the Internet, but at present can only be accessed through the offices of the patent attorneys, Hahn & Hahn and Spoor & Fisher. The database is available on CD or hard disk at a cost of R55 000 for the basic set and R12 370 per annum for the update. There is also an option for ‘pay-as-you-use’ searches. An hourly fee is charged.
International Patent Searches
Patent searches in other countries in other industrialised countries are available on-line in specialist databases.
- USPTO: Contains US granted patents and US applications published after 15 March 2001
- EPO: This is the Official European Patent Office database. Contains over 30 million published patents world wide
- Alphapatent: For quick and easy downloading of published US, PCT, EP and JP applications and patents
- WIPO: Contains published PCT applications. This is the most probable site where new inventions will first be published.
- AUS: Contains published AU patents and applications
- EEVL: Contains the full text of over 250 engineering, mathematics and computing journalsUK Designs: Contains designs that can be viewed showing 128 images at a time
Freeserve: Contains status information for various patents
How long is a patent valid?
Patent protection is granted for a limited period. Patent protection means that the invention cannot be commercially made, used, distributed or sold without the patent holder’s consent. A patent can last up to 20 years, provided that it is renewed annually from the third year.
Organisations that can help you
As an inventor or designer or if you need to protect an idea following fields.
- Intellectual Property protection
- Technical, product design and development
- Business planning, marketing advice and obtaining venture capital
These organisations will be able to help you depending on the nature of the idea or invention:
- Tshwane University of Technology
- Technology Station in Chemicals
- Institute for Technological Innovation (ITI)
- Central Mechanical Services (SMD)
- The Industrial Designers Association of South Africa (IDEASA)
- Softstart Business & Technology Incubator (SoftstartBTI)
- Council of Scientific and Industrial Research
- Seda Technology Programme (STP)
- Support Programme for Industrial Innovation (SPII)
- The Innovation Fund Commercialisation Office
- The Innovation Hub
- SABS Design Institute
What are the advantages of developing a ‘homemade’ prototype?
Explore all the possibilities that are on the market. Eventually, if you decide to move forward with your invention, you will probably need what’s known as a “pre-production” prototype, especially if you plan to manufacture it yourself rather than license it. But as a first step, a homemade “presentation” prototype can give you a good running start.
A prototype provides other advantages, as well
- It enables you to test and refine the functionality of your design. Sure, your idea works perfectly in theory. It’s not until you start physically creating it that you will encounter flaws in your thinking. That’s why another great reason to develop a prototype is to test the functionality of your idea. You will never know the design issues and challenges until you begin actually taking your idea from theory to reality.
- It makes it possible to test the performance of various materials. For example, your heart may be set on using metal – until you test it and realise that, say, plastic performs better at a lower cost for your particular application. The prototype stage will help you determine the best materials.
- It will help you describe your product more effectively with your team, including your attorney, packaging or marketing expert, engineers and potential business partners.
- It will encourage others to take you more seriously. When you arrive with a prototype in hand to meet any professional, from your own attorney to a potential licensing company, you separate yourself from the dozens of others who have approached them with only vague ideas in mind. Instead, you’ll be viewed as a professional with a purpose, as opposed to just an inventor with a potentially good idea.
So now that you know that creating a prototype is a vital step in your invention process, how exactly do you move forward and actually do it? This stage in the inventing process is possibly the period of greatest learning. This is where your words and thoughts change from “Can I?” to “How will I?” Making a prototype by hand is a great way to start bringing your product to life. Remember, there are no rules. Give yourself permission to experiment. Look around the house and select materials that you can use to test in order to see if your idea works.
Of course, your product could also be made from any number of materials, ranging from metals to chemicals to textiles. When using any material, try to be open to alternatives you may not have originally considered. For example, you may be convinced that you want to use cotton. If this is the case, challenge yourself by asking yourself why. Perhaps another material might work better, such as a stretch material like Lycra. Or how about using mesh, canvas, nylon or leather? What about taking a leap and trying Neoprene? This is the time to say “What if” and allow yourself the freedom to explore. Put aside your original thoughts – you may end up coming back to them, but at least then you’ll know you have made the best decision.
Once you have developed your prototype as far as you reasonably can, it’s time to consider hiring a professional to help you with the next steps. There are many avenues you can take at this stage.
You may wish to hire professional prototype developers, engineers and designers, but others may be able to help you as well, including a handyman, a machinist or a student from a local industrial design college. The complexity and materials to be used in your specific product will help drive this decision.
Your budget may also be a consideration – a handyman or machinist, for example, will probably charge much less per hour than an engineer, and their services may be perfectly sufficient if your design is relatively straightforward. The prototyping stage is a great time to use all your untapped creative ability and to explore all the possibilities that are on the market.
Don’t limit yourself to any preconceived notions, be it material use or the types of professionals you can consult, and explore as much as you can as you begin bringing your product idea to life.
How to find a company to build a prototype unit once a patent is registered
Start by contacting the SABS Design Institute which is part of the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) in Pretoria.
Getting the basic concept built
Once you have discussed the basic concept of your invention and that you need to build a prototype, The Design Institute will advise you from there on.
“We have many organisations that can help you build a prototype, many of which are linked to Universities. In order to protect your idea and product you’ll have to sign a confidentiality agreement with us before anything can be done”, explains Design Development Advisor at the SABS Design Institute, Bongani Ntombela. In fact, if the invention is good, everything will fall into place, from funding to mentorship. The Design Institute will refer you to the Dti (Department of Trade and Industry) who will assist you to take the project through all the necessary stages to get it into the market place” says Ntombela.
In this way you will be able to control the development and commercialisation of your idea. The first prototype is a model that enables you to get a better feel for the basic premise of your invention. After the first prototype is built, a working prototype if often made in order for users to try out some or all of the features of the invention. Stage three is the final prototype which is a model that looks and functions almost like a manufactured product.
Make sure you are ready
Before you approach the SABS Design Institute prepare yourself properly and do the following:
- Write a description of what the invention will do.
- Make a list of the most important features.
- Draw a picture of how it will look.
- Build a model any way you can (on the cheap –just to give them a better idea)
Benefits of prototyping:
- A prototype is impressive and provides investors or companies with a more graphic presentation.
- A working prototype demonstrates that the idea is developed and therefore often means the inventors can ask for higher royalty payments.
- A prototype gets you closer to manufacturing the idea yourself.
- Prototyping shows people you are serious about the idea.
How important is quality to a small business and how does one address quality of products in a small business?
Quality products are the key to success for any small business. The basic goal of quality control is to ensure that the products, services, or processes provided meet specific requirements and are dependable, satisfactory, and fiscally sound. The goal of a quality control team is to identify products or services that do not meet a company’s specified standards of quality.
Under traditional quality control, inspection of products and services (checking to make sure that what’s being produced is meeting the required standard) takes place during and at the end of the operations process.
The question of whether or not quality should be sacrificed to cut costs is one that many business owners ask themselves. However, this strategy is counter-productive and short-sighted as it costs the business its reputation. Without a good reputation, the business is set to fail.
If you feel the price of your products or service is high, rather than compromise on quality, find a way to add value to the product. This can be done by offering better and longer guarantee terms, personalised service or free options depending on the product
- Website: https://www.sabs.co.za/Business_Units/Design_Institute/About_Us/index.aspx
- Tel: +27 12 428 6326
- e-mail: email@example.com
Free Contract Of Employment Template Download
Download your free payslip and contract of employment here to get you started in the right direction.
In your downloads you will find the following resources below:
- A standard contract of employment (template) that complies with all the relevant laws.
The permanent contract of employment should be read carefully and changes should be made in line with the offer of employment and the company policies and procedures.
When employing staff you should ensure the contract is legal and legally binding. Customise this contract of employment to suit your business and what you can offer your employees.
Please note the template provided is for a permanent placement.
What steps do I need to take to start manufacturing toilet paper?
This comprehensive guide takes you through everything you need to know to start a toilet paper business.
The business of producing toilet paper has been recognised as one of the fastest developing assembling commercial initiatives in Africa.
Toilet paper is used in our homes, work places, schools, hotels, restaurants, shops, maternity homes, hospitals, churches, clubs and many others. It can be used in various other ways such as cleaning up messes and decoration.
The difference between toilet paper and other tissues is that it is created to breakdown in septic tanks and other tissues don’t necessarily do this.
To start and run a business, it is not enough just to have a good, viable idea. You also need to have the right skills, attitude and personality to make the enterprise succeed.
Benefits of starting a toilet paper production business
- It has a simple production procedures
- There are not many product offerings or varieties
- Simple organisational involved
- High interest on the product
- Easy to market
- Product is a primary necessity in society.
Possible challenges of starting a toilet paper production business
- The biggest constraint will be the insufficient amount of planted trees. This will affect you as this is where you will harvest your raw materials from. This can result in a reduction of plantation productivity. According to the Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa 60% of all plantation trees are planted and grown especially for pulp and paper production.
- You will need to apply for water permits to meet the terms of the regulatory framework managing water usage. This is a long and difficult process and can limit you from achieving profitable operations.
- Transport, labour and licence costs will have a negative impact on your ability to competitively trade. You will need to apply cost control measures to remain competitive.
Did you know?
- In an average public bathroom, it takes 71 separate visits to finish a single roll of toilet paper.
Financing your venture
It’s most likely that you will need finance when setting up a toilet roll production business. The toilet roll production equipment is available in South Africa and ranges for a single machine from R175 000 for the bottom end of the range model to R500 000 for a fully automated machine.
Manufacturing plants are also very large in size which means financing it will be quite expensive. You should use your capital to purchase the equipment you’ll need.
Try and save money by buying economical but high quality equipment. Once you have all your equipment find a premise that will accommodate all of it. Once that is completed then contact stores and potential clients.
You can save money by renting or buying an inexpensive lot for your toilet paper business. You could even start in a smaller building and when you have increased your funds, upgrade your facilities into a bigger space. Make sure to take all of the costs into account when trying to finance your toilet paper business.
You’ll have to include raw material required to make the rolls. These are supplied in jumbo tissue rolls and cost from R6 600 per ton. You will also have to take into account staff.
Zhauns, a supplier of business opportunity machinery supports BEE by offering a variety of empowering programs for street vendors, unemployed and disadvantaged groups through consortiums, local and international joint ventures and has financial links which assist entrepreneurs in need of funding.
A start-up would need two-five people operate a small business of this kind. It takes about three months to set up the business and to properly train staff to operate machinery”. Zhauns offer free training when they install equipment purchased through them.
Planning is always your starting point when starting a new business. There are several techniques you can use for your planning process. You can use ready and existing techniques and plans or you can use innovative techniques which will make your toilet paper business more unique.
Focus on the specifics of what you will need for your toilet paper business such as equipment, employees, property and raw materials. Making errors during the planning phase is normal. After your plan is finalised it should be flexible enough that you can add changes.
In this industry you are not just competing with local manufacturers. When you become a toilet paper business owner you have to figure out how you’re going to compete with different international manufacturers.
Speak to owners of similar businesses
The best source of information you can find about an area of business, is other toilet paper business owners. They will tell you in practical terms whether your ideas are feasible or not.
To locate similar businesses which can give you advice on any aspect of their toilet paper business, contact your local Chamber of Commerce. Shereen Crowie of Curviro Trading says: “It’s a commodity with no age restriction and no seasonal production demands.”
For support and guidance
If you are going to be a toilet paper business owner you need to have business skills, even more so than technical skills about your product or service. This means you have to understand finance.
You need to know how much your idea is going to cost you, whether it will make enough money to pay back these costs and make enough in addition to satisfy your requirements.
The DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) recognises that support in the form of advice from specialist organisations is vital and the offer support groups to SME businesses.
One such arm is Khula Enterprise Finance which is a wholesale finance institution that has well-developed ties in the public and private sectors.
Through these channels – which include commercial banks, retail financial institutions, specialist funds and joint ventures they play an effective role in order to bridge finance gaps that are not addressed by commercial financial institutions in the small business sector.
Did you know?
- People use on average 8.6 sheets per trip, which is a total of 57 sheets per day. That’s an annual total of 20,805 sheets.
It is recommended to get training when joining the toilet paper business industry. There are many essential practical skills which you will need when starting a toilet paper business.
There are courses offered by universities which will help improve your skills and understanding of the technology involved. You can alternatively get training from current experts in this field.
You can apply for internships at factories and get first-hand experience. If this is your plan of action make sure to take very detailed notes about all the process involved.
Draw up a business plan
Business plans are essential for businesses from when they start out to years later when your businesses has evolved and improved.
It becomes a guide for you and your employees to track whether your business has gone off course from the core of quality production. Experts can be hired to help you draw up a toilet paper business plan for a fee.
Business plans can be used to organise everything from your marketing strategy to the strengths and weaknesses of your business.
We recommend: Business Plan Examples to Get You Going
It will help your toilet paper business keep clear objectives as well as making your priorities recognisable. Milestones recorded in your toilet paper business plan will help you follow your progress.
Choose a good location in an industrial area for your toilet paper business. It’s recommended that you get a realtor, since they are the experts in their field.
They will advise you on which buildings are better for your toilet paper business and which ones would be unsuitable.
Make enough time to view each property before purchasing or renting it. Your toilet paper business can’t be in a residential area.
Types of Machinery
You will need to buy or rent the necessary equipment with the finances you have. Some of the machinery that you need to get going with your toilet paper business is:
- Core making cutting machine – This produces the brown cardboard core that the tissue is wrapped around.
- Jumbo reel winding machine– This winds the tissue paper from the jumbo reels to the cardboard core. It will automatically stop at a programmed size.
- Embossment attachments or embossing machines – Embossments are the prints on the surface of the tissue and the tissue roll can either be plain or embossed.
- Band saw cutting machine – this cuts the paper into the right side.
- Other machinery requirements:
- Generator for power outages
- Auxiliary equipment
- Transportation – its optional but can be essential.
This type of business will require trained employees. It would be a definite advantage if you hired experienced operators or people experienced in similar industries.
This will allow you to hit the ground running instead of slowly training your staff from scratch.
Hiring inexperienced people can also cause a decline in the quality of your production as well as a decline in the level of your toilet paper businesses productivity.
Once production has started you will need to come up with various ways of distributing your product.
Since your brand is new, you will most likely have to do a demanding marketing drive so that customers know who you are.
Customers won’t buy your brand if they don’t know who you are. Advertising consultants can help your toilet paper business with effective strategies which will help increase sales.
Which works better buying machinery first or getting orders before buying equipment?
Look at your market before spending the money. It is good business practice to establish if there is a market for your product before buying expensive equipment. For this reason, it is vital to do research and to prepare a business plan.
Renting manufacturing equipment for this purpose may be a solution. Once the toilet paper business is up and running you can then consider buying your own machines.
Buying outright can result in a huge drain on cash in the first year of your toilet paper business.
Did you know?
- In South Africa a family of four uses approximately one toilet roll every 1.5 days
Example of innovative thinking
Chandaria Industries operates out of Kenya and Tanzania. They sell their products in 15 African countries.
What sets them apart from their competitors is they make their recycled toilet paper from used paper.
What innovative thinking does for them, their communities and their country:
- They are making money from recycling
- They are transforming waste into a necessity
- They are now a source of national wealth
- They provide employment for many thousands of people
Just the used paper recycling activities creates nearly 20 000 jobs. By doing this they have saved over 30 million trees since they started in 1964. They still have more room to grow, saying that they don’t get as much used paper as they need.
Toilet paper will always be a necessity in people’s lives. Where your toilet paper business can grow to:
- Custom toilet paper – creating toilet paper with personalised images or custom images
- Various sizes – You could expand your toilet paper business into various other toilet paper sizes and thicknesses
- Various tissue paper opportunities – You can expand your business into the tissue paper manufacturing business
Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa (Pamsa) executive director, Jane Molony says that the pulp and paper industry’s is continuing to grow and make profits because of their energy-saving initiatives.
Molony also says that the value of the pulp and paper industry (excluding forests and recycling) in 2014 was around R27.8 billion.
Tissue paper achieved a yearly turnover of R2.5 billion in 2014 which is a yearly growth of 2.7% since 2009.
This industry has large growth potential and is a great business opportunity. Toilet paper has become a basic need all across the world. It can’t be recycled so there is always need for more.
Every single person on the planet uses it on a daily basis. Why shouldn’t you be the one making it and selling it to them?
Related: Free SWOT Analysis Template
A Guide To Registering A Non Profit Organisation In South Africa
I would like to register an NPO. What should I know before I do?
The non-profit companies exists solely to provide programs and services that are of public benefit such as the promotion of social welfare, economic development, religion, charity, education or research. Earnings may not benefit individuals or stake-holders.
What is the difference between a NGO and an NPO?
An NPO is a Non-Profit Organisation while an NGO is simply a widely used term for various organisations that are not part of government, but focus on development, environment and human rights.
What are the steps involved in registering an NPO?
All organisations that fall under the Non-Profit Organisations Act (NPO Act) must register as a Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) with the Department of Social Welfare.
- Different types of NPO’s
- Which types of organisations can apply for NPO status?
- What does it cost to register an NPO?
- How long does it take to register an NPO?
- How to register a Section 21 company
- What are the pros and cons of operating as an NPO?
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