Product spec sheets outline all of the necessary details that take a product from concept to completion. Even within a specifically defined economic sector, such as the tech arena, merchandise can range from a microchip to an industrial robot, so you won’t find a universal template for what spec sheets should look like. What’s far more critical is to have a solid grasp of what a spec sheet should entail, then design one that works well for your products and processes.
What Information Should a Spec Sheet Contain?
The first section should consist of an overall product summary: this is where you provide context. Remember that the reader doesn’t have any of the background you have, so you should briefly outline what your product is, what it will be used for, how it will be used and any other necessary information. It’s critical to keep this section short and to the point. Include every detail someone would need to understand your product, but nothing more. Think of it this way: every word that doesn’t matter distracts from the ones that do.
After this, you should list the product specifications. Physical details like dimensions, weight, tensile strength and colors are critical. Business information like the target price, intellectual property rights and the intended market geography and demographics can also substantially affect how the product is made. A table is often most useful, with a list of items and a corresponding cell with any necessary details.
The bill of materials generally comes third, and here you’ll list everything that should go into your product. This can be vague if you don’t have strong preferences (e.g., “16 GB of RAM”), but if you need something specific, mention it here (e.g., “Crucial Ballistix 3000 MHz DDR4 DRAM Desktop Gaming Memory Kit 16GB [8GBx2] CL15 BL2K8G30C15U4B”). A bulleted list is typically the most effective format for this information.
Visual references like sample photos or drawings are critical, particularly when dealing with new products, working with new partners or if you’re handling a supply chain that crosses national borders. Language barriers can cause confusion even with the most seemingly explicit written directions, but pictures tend to be more universally understood. You should include both sample photos of the product itself and then technical diagrams with dimensions and tolerances.
The fourth section should involve packaging, which is something many people overlook. Include the type of materials used to package individual units as well as the master carton dimensions, which outlines how many units should be shipped with each box. Pay particular attention to shock absorption requirements for sensitive tech products.
Finally, include any necessary compliance standards. This is where the legal department gets involved, because everything from target country intellectual property rights to manufacturing approval from local government authorities may need to be addressed. The basic rule of thumb is if you could get in legal trouble for any aspect from manufacture to final sale to warranty, mention those requirements here.
What You Should Do Before Writing a Spec Sheet
In a world of 3D printing and virtual design, it can be easy to forget that physical manufacturing processes have limitations. Creating an unrealistic plan will only result in frustration, expense and compromised standards, so it’s best to do some research and confirm that what you’re asking for can be made. YouTube is an excellent resource: you can learn about various manufacturing techniques and their limitations; some companies even make videos outlining each aspect of what they can do to educate their customers proactively.
Remember that the more customized your design is, the higher the initial production costs will be. Specialized products might require unique tools or manufacturing equipment, and those expenses will be frontloaded. This might be as simple as a unique mold or 3D-printed part, or it could be as involved as a specialized type of CNC machine.
Understanding What Customers and Manufacturers Need
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a customer or a creator — the more you understand about how spec sheets are used and what they need to include, the better equipped you’ll be to send and receive that information. Never lose sight of what a spec sheet is at its very core: a communication tool. Research and realistic expectations pay off. The more effectively and concisely you can communicate what you need, the more likely you are to get it.
Developing a standardized template for your business will also help on both sides of the aisle. If you’re a customer, communicating your information the same way each time will help manufacturers know precisely where to look for details. For manufacturers, the more proactively and clearly you indicate the data you need, the more easily you’ll get it from a customer.