I had the opportunity to tour a factory that was a little different from the usual factories I visit. A friend of mine has a friend that owns an “adult toy” factory near Ningbo. I’ve always been curious about the manufacturing processes used, as well as the business model. It was absolutely fascinating. The facility was much bigger than I imagined, which is a testament to the size of the industry. It turns out that internet sales has added a new dimension of anonymity for the buyers of pleasure devices, which has generated an explosion in sales.
Most of the products from this factory are sold in the US and Europe, but they also sell some in mainland China using their own brand name. They mostly sell OEM and ODM products to other companies who design, test and market the products under a different brand.
The factory was VERY clean, and even had a semi-clean room with a sealed environment and a blower chamber when you entered. This factory makes the internal components (motors & plastic parts) and packages the final products. They have another facility in Guangdong that molds the soft silicone material around the outside of the devices.
As we toured the factory it was easy to make jokes about the products they make, but this is a huge industry with some tough competition. We talked about how they innovate in this type of category and we discussed the design process. They use the same CAD tools and manufacturing processes we use for our outdoor products.
I was curious about what the owner told people when they ask about his company. His standard answer is “hardware products”.