The objective of this article is to share my 25 years of passion, expertise and experience in brand building and manufacturing of apparel. Previously, I was the director of an activewear (sport apparel) brand that sold to fortune 500 and speciality retailers and I managed the Asia products from Shanghai, China.
The requirements to fulfill the production of any order require allot more than mentioned in this article as you need to have the structure, support from the head office, and must have an ability to read between the lines, verify false information, qualify and quantify a substantial amount of information from all stakeholders.
There were many operational limitations, time and budget restraints on this production, which I will not discuss on this article but I want all of you to know you need to make the best out of what is put on your plate. In this article I needed to manage someone else’s decisions which did not take into consideration TCO, structural, operational planning, workflow effects and management.
An important requirement of any production was going to check on the manufacturing during the initial stage of production. Due to the size of this order and production base (Vietnam), I travelled to the factory to manage this product. Our supplier head office was based in Taiwan, so we all would meet in Vietnam or Taiwan to review this order.
This order is especially unique as the order was for 200,000 units of an activewear short (4 way stretch woven short with a knit stretch waistband and liner, and a woven short with a knit stretch liner) which required a complete delivery within a 90 day (3 month) period.
Some of the objectives of checking on the manufacturing was to:
– bring the shareholders together who were involved in the production and discuss the strategy and planning for the order
– verify the supply chain (compliance, allocation, productivity, and more)
– check on the early stage production, and provide immediate solutions to any minor/major problems
– provide training and support to the shareholders involved in the production
Can you imagine the issues and failures with this order if you empowered the wrong person who lacked the passion, proactive leadership, intelligence, expertise and experience to oversee this order.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, I do not discuss the details involved in the successful fulfillment (costs, allocation, planning, production, fulfillment, and more) of this order as this is only a top-level public discussion of some of the requirements to ensure successful fulfilment of this order.
On my first visit for the early stage production, I encountered some of the following problems:
1) The one factory that was approved for compliance and structure to make this production, had four other factories to help with production of this order. I now had to cancel the order (not possible) or visit, qualify, train and manage the new stakeholders. There was much more that I had to deal with during the discovery and investigation process that I will not cover in this report.
2) Planning, there was no thought about structure or planning in this order. During my supplier visit, I had to work day and night to establish a document to manage expectations, workflow, budgets, timelines, and more. Then I had to review and approve with all stakeholders. The supplier liked my document so much that they are still using it today.
3) Major Quality Issues found during the initial stage of production. I will review below to highlight the corrective action to rectify the issues I found in my previous reports about the four major sports apparel brands.
One of the first major issues on this production was with the heat transfer label that was not sticking to the fabric, so I need to verify if this was isolated to one fabric (colour), print or factory.
During the process I concluded that this was an issue that affected all fabrics (colours), prints, and factories.
After verifying the extent of the quality issue, I needed to look at some possible reasons to rectify this issue immediately:
– The manufacturing was in North Vietnam, it was the end of the summer months and the temperature at the factories was very humid and hot
– The equipment was not properly set up (many factors here)
– The application time was inconsistent
– The individuals applying the heat transfer lacked training and experience
– The materials (fabric) for the short had a coating or process that reacted poorly to the adhesive labels.
I am not going to disclose the resolution to the above problem, but I want you to think of all the possible solutions (This one problem and the solution is one report/article). In the end we were able to rectify the issue in a timely manner (within days) to ensure 100% of the products would not have this issue in future inspections and on the retail selling floor.
One of the most major issues on the sewing floor, is skipped, missed, or broken stitch lines, in the world of fashion this will happen, but it should not make it through the factory floor QC/QA, if it does you need to review with the staff during the initial inline inspection stage.
The next issue is a stretched or twisted waistband, which quickly is rectified by reviewing with the QC/QA staff on the factory floor.
Another challenge with production is ensuring all panels are the exactly same size, this might be an unavoidable problem, but if found on the production floor, this issue must be brought to the attention of the QA/QC staff.
I also found construction issues on these products which I had to review with the QA/QC to ensure that we would not see these problems on future inspections.
The above highlights only some of the quality issues, but the major importance was illegal outsourcing and planning which would have ruined this whole order if it was not corrected immediately. So over and above the quality issues I needed to focus on compliance, planning, and budget issues during my single visit. Thankfully I had the experience and expertise to deal with all in a rational and quick manner.
In closing, the delivery was achieved, to meet the standards, quality and delivery requirement of the client (buyer). The client had so much success with the shorts, that they placed a repeat order within three months after delivery for 500,000 units of these shorts over a 7 month delivery period.
A quick top-level discussion of the ROI for this single product order is:
– 200,000 units of shorts at a cost below $5/unit is an order value of close to $1 million USD
– if the retail value of this short is $20/unit, the total retail value of this order is $4 million USD
– if the retail value of this short is $50/unit, the total retail value of this order is $10 million USD
Within 3 months of delivery the future order of this single short order was increased by 250%, so now the ROI and success of this order is heightened. The challenge with success is the parties involved egos and attitudes, also become a management issue for future seasons.
If you would like to experience the same passion, proactive leadership, resolution management, success, professionalism, and integrity please let me know? Happy Manufacturing!!!