Why isn’t my style development on time?

The development centre or sample room of any apparel organisation is a critical part of the process, and as such needs to be thoroughly evaluated in the initial sourcing qualification of any new vendor.

Ensure your supplier evaluation package has an appropriate area for the assessment of the development centre.

Key areas of a successful development centre;

  1. Management & Capacity
  2. Pattern Making & Grading
  3. Fabrication
  4. Sample Warehouse & Cutting
  5. Sewing Operators & Finishing

Who manages the sample room?

Know who manages the sample room, what is there experience and who are their team before getting into the detail.  Understand the process and the workflow, who are the principal supervisors and ultimately who is responsible for achieving development deadlines and a quality outcome.

Discuss the overview of your current development process and what your business requirement are, then overlap your process on what the suppliers current process is so you can understand any gap, where training development would be necessary and the total viability.

Know the total capacity and what free capacity the supplier has now.  Further detail should be clarified with the technical and sample production line supervisors to ensure it balances as you go through the process.

Is the pattern technician qualified?

The detailed finesse and the fit all stem from the pattern if the pattern technician is not skilful in your product type and market then they are unlikely to develop the best fitting pattern.  To understand their ability, look at the garments in the sample room, are the garments the same or similar to what you do, are they for a similar market, and do they look good.  Does the sample room have mannequins, are the mannequins suitable for your brands, do you see any standard fit measurement charts from other customers? Do they represent your market, brand and customer?

Many brand organisations no longer have pattern technicians or machinists in their head office.  Design teams, design concepts and technical packs that are rendered from standardised block sizing, where shapes are new or highly technical, calculating detailed measurement is challenging without a pattern or sample.   Consistently this is now left to the supplier pattern technician to interpret, adding inaccurate measurements will make it difficult for the technician to get the pattern right especially when the supplier is new.  For new non-standard styling, only basic measurements should be provided.

Garment construction is an important part of the manufacturing process and should be detailed in the technical pack what the full requirements must be.  In certain organisation technician, construction details are left to the supplier; this leads to inconsistency of supply across the entire vendor base and potential quality issues.  Ensure there is one constructional and labelling standard for each brand, and the supplier is aware of the full requirement.  Don’t diminish your brand image by having inconsistent product manufacturing and branding on the retail floor.

Are the pattern technicians used to following a specification 100% or have they had an artistic license on the pattern and construction to do what they think is right?

Talk to the pattern technicians, understand their professional experience.  Will they be responsible for the product throughout the sampling process, their ability dictates the outcome of the product development from a technical standpoint?

It is important to understand the capacity of the pattern technical team, knows on average how many patterns each technician can make daily and total as a whole team.  The pattern output is critical to total development capacity the supplier is capable of per month.

Fabrication, what are the types of fabrics sewn?

Fabrics come in different weights and compositions, particularly knit or woven, and the weight is very specific to the supplier’s capability. Vendors will be geared to knit or woven; light, middle and heavy fabric weights example; dress or blouse weight, bottoms weight, denim and jackets.

Sewing machine and needle type are dependent on the fabric type, knit or woven and the weight.  Smaller and some middle-sized factories that try to be everything to everyone making small to medium production runs, may not change sewing needles resulting in tension challenges, fabric needle damage and gathering, puckering and twisting as the operators are not skilled at all the different fabric types.

Look for fabric pre-shrinkage steamers and relaxing bins.  Ensure pattern technicians check the shrinkage of the fabric sampling and apply it to the pattern.  Understand the full process through to the pre-production sample and that the same principle is applied to bulk fabric on arrival.  Is shrinkage accommodated for in the pattern before pre-production samples are produced?

Understanding the fabric type used in production, you will identify the overall capability of the supplier.

Evaluate any other ancillary value adding processes the supplier executes such as screen printing, embroidery, digital heat transfer printing, lazar cutting, embossing or any other innovation the vendor may have that adds to the brand value.

How is the sample fabric managed and cut?

Understand how the sample room raw material store receives fabric, and issues that fabric to the production floor as a work order.  Know how the supplier manages capacity and planning of the sample room. How do does the supplier issue the right fabric and shade to the right style?

Do they cut with hand drawn makers or with digitally printed markers and what is the equipment and safety precautions used in cutting?

What is the sewing operator’s capability?

If the pattern is great and the fabric quality is acceptable, then it is left to the sewing operator to ensure the sewing and manufacturing of the sample are perfect, and achieve a nice finish through trimming and pressing.

Look at the job sheet they receive, is it sufficiently detailed, is there someone to assist the operator when they don’t understand an operation.  Understand the work flow to ensure ambiguities do not arise that can lead to sample sewing errors and delays.

Review all the sewing machines on the sample room floor, ensure they match the operations needed for your product type, is the sample room capable of performing all operations, if not what do they do and how do the operators carry out the task.

Ensure the sewing operators utilise a fusing press, and the press is calibrated daily for temperature and pressure, templates are used to get correct shapes, and sewing machines have the right folders to get sewing line consistency.

After sewing and finishing are complete, ensure the pattern technician reviews the final sample, updates measurement and checks construction before passing to merchandising for dispatch.  The number one supplier challenge is samples not being checked; this is a critical process.

It is important to understand the capacity of the sewing operators, knows on average how many pieces each operator can make daily and total as a whole team.  The pattern and sewing output is critical to know the total development capacity the sample room is capable of per month.

Conduct sample trials to measure performance

New suppliers must have a due-diligence evaluation or trial where garment samples are produced to ensure the new vendor has the technical expertise; the understand of your market brand value and overall ability to manufacture the desired product quality level.  The supplier must use a production-ready technical pack that is standard for evaluation use; specification measurements are correct with a sample so they know the constructional requirement if not explicitly stated in the technical specification or included in the technical manual.

Is your vendor base delivering your development on time?  Irrespective of your current vendor matrix, do you have a supply base that can deliver your development on time and in perfect fit?  ID Global Concepts can help you source capable vendors to meet your supply chain requirements.

Managing development for retailers and brands globally, ID Global Concepts has managed over 100 collections annually across women’s, men’s and children’s apparel collections and private label. We add value to your development operation either through consultancy or management contract to ensure your business is using a supplier that is the right fit for your organisation and meets your value expectations.

Below are the retailer’s ID Global Concepts has delivered apparel and accessories to over the last ten years;

Macy’s, Urban, Sears, Marks & Spencer, Myer, Kmart US & Kmart Australia, Dunnes Stores, Debenhams Monsoon Accessorize, Asos, Witchery, Brown Sugar, RM Williams, Coles, Chloe, John Lewis, Disney, Next, Firetrap, Lonsdale, Postie, ASDA, Harris Scarf, River Island, Tesco, Woolworths, Walmart, Glassons, Babies’R’Us, New Look, Target US & Australia, Primark, David Jones, Best & Less, Sophie, Yakka, Top Shop, BHS, Burlington, BigW, Oasis, JayJays, Blue Illusion, Driza-Bone, Just Jeans, Volcom, House of Fraser, Pumpkin Patch, Suzanne Grae, Pelaco, Laura Ashley, Sportsgirl, Ted Baker, Truetex, TableEight, French Connection

If you would like to learn more or wish to discuss other supply chain opportunities, please email us at info@idgc.co.

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