Manage Your Bulk Production
At the end of your product development cycle it is finally time to sew and make all the garments in larger quantities. Revisit our article Finding A Factory to read more on how to find a production partner if you haven’t found it yet.
Hopefully you had a great sell in and have written orders and actual production quantities for each and every single style in your collection. It might even be so that on certain styles you had too low order quantities. Then you have to either drop that style or pay a surcharge to manufacture the exact amount, which ever you do is your choice.
Decide what you want
Your first step is to decide how many styles you want to produce, and in how many variations. You have exact orders from your buyers after your selling period, so use this information to place the manufacturing orders. You know which styles, which colors and which sizes your buyers want. Determine the exact quantity for each variation before you start talking to the factory about the production.
Book your production early
Early on in your product development phase you need to discuss the time schedule with the factory. You know when you have the delivery drops for that certain season, and just count backwards to determine your production deadline. The factories usually plan their production a year ahead. Depending on how, what and how much you need to produce, they can see how it fits into their schedule. Booking up your production slot gives you a clear time frame to develop your styles within.
Order the material
When you have decided your fabrics and trims, you first have to order enough for your samples, read more at Material Sourcing — Fabrics & Trims, but you also have to order your materials for the bulk production. Since it can take a couple of months to produce your fabrics, you need to take care of this well in advance before the clothing production starts. Don’t forget to incorporate the transportation times in your schedule.
After you have received your salesman sample, see Prototyping, you make the final adjustments and order a size set. The size set includes a sample of each of your production sizes. Once again you verify that these samples meet your requirements and with any adjustments you order the preproduction samples. These look exactly like the ones you are about to make in the larger bulk.
Service Level Agreement
We recommend that you write an agreement with your supplier that clearly states what both you and your partner should deliver, and what your expectations are. Having a written agreement makes it clear if you have understood each other during the discussions. And when things are not up to par, you have already agreed what should happen. Have all the dates and the critical information confirmed in writing by the manufacturer.
For every sample during the product development it is important that you put in the work, measure, comment, adjust, and communicate as clearly as possible with the factory. It is your responsibility to double check that they have understood you and what changes you wish to make. This is to make sure your garments will come out as intended. Right before or just in the beginning of your bulk production, it is time for you to check that your garments are made according to your agreement. Preferably travel to the factory and perform the quality control there. If you need to change something you still have time for corrections before it is shipped. The more time you can spend at the factory the better it is. Try to visit at least once during the product development and production phase.
Packaging & shipping
All styles are finished up, steamed/pressed and folded, then placed in a plastic bag. Every style/ color is later packed in a box and shipped to your warehouse or distributors. Read more about the shipping at Time to Ship!.
So to sum up the production phase there are quite a few things to coordinate and you need to start well in advance. Don’t think it is just to pick up the phone, order a production, and you’ll have your garments in no time. Put your project management hat on, and be thorough in all the details along the way. Make sure things are agreed, written down and confirmed. With signed orders from your customers you have a promise to keep and a brand reputation on the line.