The product requirements document, PRD, goes by a few names including product specification sheet and product data sheet.

Regardless of the name, the spec sheet is absolutely necessary for your Chinese manufacturer. Without one, they will not be able to make your products to your customer’s satisfaction.

There are plenty of stories of buyers who did not specify details of their products and lost their investment. You need clear and precise requirements along with pictures. Having a PRD keeps unnecessary mistakes and delays for your products.


PRD Background – The why before the what

All products begin with a concept.  The general concept gets outlined and passed on to the design team before going to the manufacturer for an initial run on samples.

If only it were truly this simple in reality.

Often, designs will function flawlessly in some ways and fail completely in others.  The vision of the creator is not what the design created.

This is not always the case.  There are times when a product design does not require a full on spec sheet.  “Design a standard, wooden hexagonal pencil with metal ferrule and synthetic eraser in blue” is fairly simple and straightforward.

As the product moves away from simplicity and into more functions, parts, colors, configurations and the like, a product requirement document becomes absolute.  For example, you would like a private label, roto-injected cooler.

The first thing we at Sourcing Nova and your product sourcing agent will want to know, “What are the specs of your product?”

You will need to have sizes, densities, handle design and makeup, internal insulation type and other things that will only be the start of the product sourcing process.  A designer needs all of this information and more before handing the design off to the next step in the line.

This is before other elements come into play as well – things like the user experience, assembly, brand, label, package, warranty, service policies and so much more.  All of this is exceptionally difficult for a design team and will require a multiple page document to outline properly.

Basically, if you cannot lay out your design on a standard napkin from a restaurant, break the DNA code and win a Nobel Prize, you will need a product requirements document.

What is a Product Requirements Document?

The product requirements document is a sheet that lays out what your product is and does.  The spec sheet breaks down all of the individual parts and pieces you expect in your product.

The PRD should be succinct yet detailed.  It should not be full of unnecessary information.  In other words, the PRD:

  • Communicates your product goal
  • Context for the development teamwork
  • Clarity for streamlining, timelines and miscommunication

You will need this document when you are ready to order the first samples of your new product.  Sourcing Nova will use it as a checklist on your sample products and provide a copy to a third party inspection service if necessary.


Why the PRD matters for your specific products

There are a few good reasons for you to have a spec sheet.  These are in addition  to the fundamental reasons – the purpose of this blog.


Manufacturer specific requirements

What do you want to see your product do besides make customers happy and turn a profit?  This is especially important if you are creating a private label product.  Sourcing Nova has provided a few examples of products appropriate for private label in other blogs.

There are times when manufacturers will cut corners to save money for their profits.  It is important that you have the correct details in the PRD.  Sourcing Nova works hard to find the most appropriate supplier for you, but no supplier is going to be 100 percent perfect.  Your PRD should reflect what is an acceptable margin of error during an inspection.

The manufacturer needs to know explicitly what you want in your product.  There is some room built in for negotiation, but there needs to be the absolutes – the things you simply will not do without in your product.


Product quotes

An accurate price quote on samples or on MOQ requires accurate requirements on the product.  If you are looking to source moka pots for example, you want quality aluminum or stainless steel   for your moka pot.  If you lack to mention this, the supplier will give you a price quote based on the cheapest materials and labor possible.


Get the best of the best

Sourcing Nova has said before our goal is to find you the best manufacturer and not the cheapest.  Even the specific manufacturers we use will sometimes try to cut corners unless you are very precise in your expectations.


Non-goals – What to avoid to keep the customer happy

This may seem a bit strange at first glance.  What are you NOT trying to do with your product?  Knowing what you do not want the product to do is important.  This keeps the project set and limits unnecessary features and additions that slow manufacturing and exportation.


Be realistic about your product and its design

Your research should be done.  It is time to read all of the details and make changes for your initial product run.  It is common to adjust things or add new.

Your first product design needs to be realistic for the manufacturer.  Too often people get wound up in the idea but cannot manifest the idea in reality.  There may be videos for you to watch about some products, but if not, you will need to do some deep research into the industry and its trade publications.

Again, remember: The more the steps, the more the cost.  The more simple a product is, the cheaper it will be.  (Consider synthetic vs. human hair wigs as an example.)  Your products should be made in a single manufacturer’s location and have little to no outsourcing.

The product requirements document template design – The individual parts of the whole

All PRD begin with some general information on a title page.  This will include the product name, company, division, responsible person, creation date and document version.

The PRD will outline the entire project for all who have a hand in its creation.  There are any number of different criteria to use when developing this outline as long as what the customer wants is the ultimate goal.  So long as every element covers the needs of the customer, the PRD will suffice.  It is when details are omitted that issues begin.

Start at the beginning as the customer unpacks your product for the first time.  How will it be used?  For how long will they use it?  Have you forgotten something important that will take the designers into unnecessary directions?  Is the product so detailed that there are no possible alternatives that may be even more successful?

If you have these out of the way, it is time to move to the next step.


Necessary background on your product – the WHY of your product design

Framing the PRD as a way to resolve a problem with your product is how to start the entire document.  Why does this product stand out and meet the needs of a group?

Once you can have these answered, move onto the body of the PRD.


Introduction to your new product design

Your introduction will have a few specific pieces – the product name, code, full description, purpose, photographs (more to come on this later).


PRD body – The meat of the entire design

This is where the product begins to come together.  Your overall vision tied to a set of a few metrics, KPI and time frame, for example, go here.  These are your technical details of the spec sheet.

Individual requirements – Time to stand up and out from the competition

This will include measurements and raw materials.  The weight and dimensions are important as it determines packaging and shipping.  The same with any specific raw materials, especially important for products like chef’s knives.

Particular colors make a difference and should have been carefully researched beforehand.  Some products are meant to last for some time – like French press coffee makers or consumed regularly – like your own private candle.

Labeling and packaging – Necessary for your private label

If you have a private label product, you will want a package that will reflect this.  The same can be said for your label.

The package and labels may or may not be made in the same factory.  Sourcing Nova works to make sure this is never an issue for you or any buyer.

Packaging will include individual products and the master packaging – the bigger box your products will ship in from China.  Most products ship in about 50 – 200 per box.  This is only an estimation.  Some may ship more or less.

Standards and certifications – Necessary for the E.U. and the U.S.

Depending on whether you are in the E.U. or the U.S. will determine what standards and certifications your products must meet.  We are familiar enough with the majority of these that it is rarely an issue for our customers and suppliers.

Optional instructions in the PRD – Anything extra and different

If you have a private label and want a personal logo on the package, here is where to include that information.


Create a draft of your Product Requirements Document

It is time to tie everything together and get the draft ready to send off to the manufacturer.  There is something very important to remember at this point:

Your PRD is a living document.

What does this mean?  This means the PRD will never be finalized completely.  It should be changing and evolving as your customer’s needs and desires change.  You will always be making changes to your products no matter how small and insignificant.

The original PRD is the hardest one since you are creating from the absolute beginning.  Later, changes will be easy since there is not much to do.


Design sheet with the manufacturer in mind

Review what you have done to this point, and put the finishing touches on the PRD.  At this point, the manufacturer should be able to take what you have and build your sample product.  Two things to remember at this point about your product:

  • More features means more expense
  • Make sure your product can be made by a single manufacturer

You may be wondering: “Should I include a picture or two of what I want to have?”

Yes, yes you should.


How pictures in your PRD help your manufacturer with your vision

There is a saying, “A picture is worth 1,000 words.”  A PRD with exact specifications and requirements is a powerful tool for you to submit for your product.

Diagrams, illustrations and pictures give your supplier an even better concept of what you are looking for in you product.  Adding visuals like arrows, text and close-ups of the finer elements of your products is also a good idea.

One more reason to remember to include pictures – language.  Your supplier may or may not speak your language, be it English or another language.  A picture speaks in all languages and can be universally understood.


A word on highly customized products

It is completely understandable if you are leaning to a product with a significant number of ‘bells and whistles’ that rises up and wows your customer.

A custom product is always a great idea if you want to have a product that will certainly stand out from the crown and competition.  Sourcing Nova’s sourcing services routinely finds manufacturers who can customize products, and it is our pleasure to assist.

Recognize something now – the more custom your product becomes, the more initial investment you will make.  This could mean a specialized tool or mold made or a computer aided design that is outside of the scope of our team.  These are one time costs and are recouped as you begin to turn a profit on your business products.


Tooling – Does the manufacturer have the capability

Tooling means the manufacturer will need a few things like special machinery, molds, files and anything else necessary for your specific products.  We will check factories over carefully to be sure they have what you need or can have access to it in short order.


Molding – Necessary based on your product requirements

Molding means making a mold for specific shapes of your chosen products.  Products like candles, for example, can be molded into a variety of shapes and sizes.

Be aware – Molds can be expensive – several thousand dollars – but will last a considerable amount of time.  This is an expense that you will incur.  Be certain the mold shape is something your customers will want for some time.


CNC, 3D and more

A 3D print and rendering is more than most people would think.  A digital model needs to be designed by a trained professional, upload the file and run the printer.  CNC machines carve objects from material.  Design files and digital models are similar but will still require someone to build them.


Final touches on the PRD

It is time to tie everything together and work up the PRD.  Your sheet should have simple, easy to understand language yet concise and straight forward.  The only exception is the technical details.  Most of these should be universal or easy to understand based on the photographs.

Type it up neatly, and the PRD is almost ready to send off.


Why PDF is best for a Product Requirements Document

Most of the PRD are made in a word processing or spreadsheet format for quick and easy changes.  It is recommended you send to us at Sourcing Nova as a PDF.

The PDF format guarantees a few things:

  • PDF attaches and sends more quickly than a document
  • There will not be formatting changes emailed as the email may go to a few people
  • The supplier cannot easily alter it

Lastly, be sure your PRD has a header, footer and appropriate page numbers for all pages.


Final thoughts

Remember: this is a first draft of what is a living document.  You will send off this initial PDR to us and then to the supplier.  You will get samples and can adjust your product and PDR after.

Meanwhile, you may still be in the initial phase of looking for appropriate products.  We are always willing and able to help you with any of your Chinese product sourcing needs.  Contact us in the form below, and we can get started on your path to a successful new business venture.