Creating Custom Skincare Products Part 2 – Developing Your Bill of Material

Written by: | October 31, 2016 | 22 responses

A bill of material is a critical document for you and your manufacturer. When you started down the path of creating your own indie beauty brand, you were probably excited about creating a great product. You were probably less excited about the ins and outs of manufacturing, filling, and getting your product shelf-ready. In fact, some of the terms we use in the contract manufacturing space might even seem like a foreign language.

As part of your journey to market, you’ll create a BOM, or bill of material, for you or your manufacturer to use to create the final, shelf-ready product.  BOMs differ from company to company, and from product to product within a company or product line. But they all have the same goal: to act as the final ‘recipe’ for your product. Your BOM should be a comprehensive list of parts, items, assemblies and sub-assemblies that tell everyone how to assemble your final product. Your BOM, too, will act as your shopping list for getting all the materials you need– labels, jars, lids, seals, retail boxes, inserts, etc.


Bill of Material Basics

Your BOM details will emerge by reverse-engineering your finished product from shelf back to manufacturer. Is there a retail box? Is there a box insert? How is the label positioned on the bottle? Are there packing and shipping restrictions to get your product to the retail outlet or consumer? By answering these questions, you’ll have the beginnings of your BOM.

Shelf Presence

How will your product be displayed? This is a critical question concerning brand and selling strategy. Whether your product is competing on a lower shelf at Ulta, near the register of a yoga studio or bike shop, or as a stand-alone hero product at your salon, you’ll need to have a vision for how it will grab the attention of your consumer and outshine your competitor.  Think beyond just the logo, copy, label design, and bottle. Dig in and see the rest of the details you need to answer to get your product in stores and in your customers’ hands.

Your answers and your vision will determine your recipe. Will you go to market with a retail box? Will you have extras in that box? Or will our product stand on its own?

  • Is there a retail box around your container?
    • Will your retail box require an liner or tea insert to hold your bottle in place?
    • Will you put a directions insert in the box?
    • Is there a sticker on the outside of box?
    • Do you want a lot code? A lot code is a unique identifier that tells you in which batch, or lot, a product unit was made. This helps with inventory management and with recalls, if required.
  • Kitting – the assembly of multiple items to ship with the product
    • Thank you card
    • Product catalog
    • Coupon
    • Paper insert in the retail box
    • Put in a plastic bag with a note, as you might for Amazon.
    • Extras like a bamboo spoon, soft brush, cotton rounds, gift, fun saying, etc.


Shipping and Handling Considerations

When you ship your product from the manufacturer to your retail distribution location– either a retail store, distribution center (DC) or fulfillment house, you’ll need to tell the manufacturer how the receiver wants to receive your products. You’ll also want to be sure you think about how the individual units will ship to the end user, if applicable.

  • How many units will ship to each location?
    • Is there a limit on the number of units per box?
    • Is there weight limit per box?
    • Can your products be mixed together or is each box a unique set of products?
    • Can the box contain biodegradable peanuts or is paper dunnage (packing material) required?
  • What should the outer box label say?
    • Does it need to be a waterproof label?
    • Are there any special considerations from the receiver?
  • Do you need waterproof pallets for shipping overseas?
  • Will you use case packs and master packs?
    • A case pack is an inner case of a number of units, and multiple case packs fit in a master case.
    • How many units to a case pack?
    • How many case packs to a master pack?
  • How are your individual units packaged?
    • Will each unit go in a bubble wrap envelope?
    • Does each unit need a sticker or bar code, as you would for Fulfillment by Amazon?


Filling the Bottles, Jars, Tubes, Containers

This should be an easy aspect to communicate, but there are a lot of variables.

  • What kind of package are you using?
    • Bottle, jar, tube? Is there a style name, such as a Boston Round or an Double Wall Straight Sided jar or Airless Pump?
    • Who is the provider and what SKU are you buying?
    • What size is the container?
    • Is it plastic, glass, wood, or metal?
    • What color is it?
    • What is the neck size? – This is to ensure lids, shrink bands and seals fit properly. You can get this from your packaging supplier.
    • Is the style of packaging sustainable from the vendor you chose? Do you see back up vendors on the market in case of an out of stock situation? Will shipping time of your packaging affect deadlines in the future? i.g. China to US
  • What type of closure are you using?
    • Disc cap, treatment pump, spray nozzle, saddle pump, etc.
    • What is the neck size of your closure and what is the length of any stem that goes into the bottle?
    • Does the jar need an orifice reducer or plug?
    • Is there a liner in the lid? If so what color and type?
    • Let’s say you want a seal in the cap of a lid that doesn’t come with a seal pre-installed. Are you prepared to pay for that labor?
    • Do you need a seal? If so what kind? Is it in the lid or does it need to be assembled?
    •  If you’re unsure talk with your packaging provider and with your manufacturer.
      • Pressure seal
      • Induction seal
      • Heat seal
  • Do you need an extra seal?
    • Is the shrink band just for the cap or is it for the entire bottle?
    • Will the bottles be taped with plumber’s tape?
    • Does it need to be in a plastic bag, to create a 2nd seal for Amazon purposes?
  • How is the label applied?
    • Silk screened on?
    • Is there more than one label or sticker?
    • Where precisely does the label go?
    • Will your label’s ink withstand a concentrated essential oil or fragrance oil coming into contact with it?

And so it goes. Your BOM may be simple or complicated, but once you have it, you’ve taken a big step in making sure your end product meets your vision.


It’s About the Details

As you begin to document what your product will look like and how it will arrive at its destinations, you’ll quickly see that all the little details add up to a clear bill of material for you and your manufacturer. If that’s not what you’re seeing, go back through it–after all, a BOM with a lot of details missing is a recipe for disaster.

But not only are the details important for your manufacturer and distributor, the details are also about your brand. Check out YouTube videos of people unboxing their newest Apple product. Those happy faces are on the receiving end of a meticulous BOM!  Now imagine your package on a crowded shelf or on a fabulous table in a boutique retail shop. What will it take to get a WOW? By knowing who you serve and the experience you want them to have, completing your BOM is simply a matter of documenting  your vision for your product.

The good news is that a BOM is changeable. If you decide glass isn’t holding up well, and want to switch to a recycled paper tube, just update the BOM and you have a new recipe and a new shopping list.


Power Tips for Successful BOMs

  • Have your retail box and labels reviewed prior to printing to be sure you are in compliance with your governing agencies, such as the FDA, the European Commission, or Oregon Tilth.
  • Provide your manufacturer with the name of each supplier and the SKU you ordered. Be sure your vendor puts your information on the packing slip and that each shipment contains a packing slip so your manufacturer knows if everything has arrived.
  • Take digital photos of your final product. Include ‘unpacking’ video to show your manufacturer how you want the end-user to experience your product.
  • Experiment with your product in the final packaging to ensure it dispenses correctly, and that the user experience is what you want.
  • Mail yourself a finished product to see how your chosen packaging holds up in transit. Does it dent? Does it leak? Did it freeze and thaw okay? Or get hot and cool back down?


We’d love to hear your BOM nightmares and successes. What works for you and what didn’t?  Any power tips to share?


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