For companies who want to make products that will last a lifetime, it’s important to know up front that successfully bringing your good to market is much harder than just coming up with the right product design. Here are some lessons if your goal is to make a product that endures the test of time:
Implement a quality control program at the beginning of production, not the end
Umbrellas are surprisingly intricate mechanisms—it can take over 200 parts to make a single folded unit. Early on, we learned the hard way that little can be done to fix a flawed rivet or missing spring after mass assembly. When this happens, starting production from scratch is often the only viable option, since disassembling a product can compromise its build integrity. Adhering to strict quality standards requires a certain tenacity, and even more so when you're producing durable goods that are guaranteed to last. Work with your manufacturer to establish several quality checkpoints at the beginning of the process, as soon as the parts and materials arrive.
Avoid the inevitable inertia to compromise
Over the years, though, I’ve faced situations where manufacturers have switched materials suppliers without telling me, or requested to omit certain product aesthetics. These compromises might seem small, but collectively they will have a significant impact on the final result. When you’re facing pressure to compromise, do the opposite. Insist on material authenticity, and resist using cheap materials that merely look good. We know that plated plastic might be less expensive to work with, or synthetic leather might look like genuine leather, but neither will endure.
Beyond using the highest quality materials, always look for ways to improve how your product is assembled, without sacrificing the important and often small design cues that make it special.
Choose the right country of origin
To build a product that lasts a lifetime, everything must be at the highest-quality threshold. Beyond using authentic and durable materials, choose a factory in the best geographic location for producing the product, whether that be in the US, China, Italy, Germany, or another country. Don’t shy away from the costs associated with using the best manufacturer for whatever you’re making, even if it means having to charge a little bit more for your product than you initially expected. Remember, the value proposition for goods that last a lifetime is longevity, not price. The people who will buy your product will do so because they would rather purchase one item that lasts than an endless stream of cheaper replacements.
Offer an unconditional lifetime guarantee
It’s not enough to make a product that lasts – exemplary service is part of the lifetime equation. Despite your best efforts to create a durable product, you’ll still have the occasional defect. Adding an unconditional lifetime guarantee that extends the good beyond its normal shelf life shows customers just how much you stand beyond your product’s durability.
If you use great materials, and maintain a laser focus on production quality, you’ll be able to offer a lifetime guarantee with the confidence that very few customers will ever need to use it. Ideally, for every one customer contacting you about a quality issue, you’ll have many more reaching out with praise for how well your product stands the test of time.