In case you’re not familiar with 3M’s “make a little – sell a little” philosophy, I’ve always found it very useful when launching new to the world products. When dealing with new markets or what Clayton Christensen calls “competing against non-consumption,” any pretense that you can know the market size and scale the supply chain accordingly is pure fiction.
Instead, with the make a little – sell a little approach, you turn a high risk product launch into a lower risk experiment to prove out your previous assumptions about commercial feasibility. Remember the 5 key feasibilities are commercial, technical, manfacturing, regulatory and intellectual property.
Not only can this approach confirm your assumptions, but because you haven’t locked into manufacturing assets it gives you the agility to adjust your product as early market feedback comes in.
Of course, flexibility usually means added cost, but it also means that you don’t invest as much in getting your idea to market. Then as your volume grows it’s important to have a supply chain plan that can scale for success. This WSJ article details issues 3M has had to deal with in untangling some of that supply chain complexity.