Batch product development 2

Posted by Kathleen Fasanella on Dec 20, 2005 at 12:47 pm / Production, Sales and Marketing / Trackback

This is the second of a three -if not four- part series discussing lean manufacturing with respect to batch product development as practiced in the apparel industry (read the first post). This posting (as well as the first) details some potential practices which appear promising for vastly increasing product development cycle time. While unproven, I wouldn’t stick my neck out if I didn’t think there was immense potential with this.

Let’s start with a review of current methods -batch product development- this is how most people are doing it. I’ve put each batch activity into its own time line because not all of these activities are taking place at the same time. For example, Selling can’t start until product development is done

Timeline

Batch 1

Batch 2

Batch 3
3 weeks

Product Development



6 weeks



Selling  



1 month



 

Production

The time line shown above is very subjective but is based on 3 styles. Now hopefully it wouldn’t take 3 weeks for product development (use the strategies I outlined in my book) but I’ve found the above to be typical rather than not.

Other than product development, most of the selling and production periods are waiting time (muda). Now, I’m not suggesting it is possible to do anything with the above matrix on a micro level -per style- basis unless you adopt Zara’s scarcity model (to be discussed later). The trick will be to release each style as it’s readied rather than the big batching. Therefore, we have to look at it on a per style basis. Three styles would look like this (note I changed the headers of each column to reflect the given activity):

Days
Product
Development

Selling

Production

2
Style 1001





2


Style 1001



2




Style 1101

2
Style 1002




2


Style 1002



2




Style 1002

2
Style 1003





2


Style 1003



2




Style 1003


Still, the above matrix leaves an erroneous impression; the calender approximates 18 days which -while this is still a vast improvement- does not reflect reality. Each of the greyed blocks should be interpreted as wasted time. In real life, your matrix should look like this:

Days
Product
Development

Selling

Production

2
Style 1001





2
Style 1002

Style 1001



2
Style 1003

Style 1002

Style 1101

2


Style 1003

Style 1002

2




Style 1003

First compare the timeline above with the timeline shown in the first table; this is 10 days vs nearly 2 months. With this table you’ll see you can be selling Style 1001 while you’re developing Style 1002. Another line down, you can see you’d be developing style 1003 while you’re selling 1002 and sewing style 1001 in production -all at the same time.

Now, I’m not crazy, I know that 10 days is awfully fast for a small company without developed infrastructure. Still, if you’ve developed a Zara-like scarcity relationship with your retailers and have a solid production infrastructure developed, your matrix could look something like the table above. Oh and by the way, the 2 day time slot for production is dead-on solid. In real life, that’s all most styles take. The first day is spreading/cutting/sorting. The second day is construction. Of course, that’s assuming you’ve got all your inputs on hand. Speaking of inputs, there’s additional advantages to this, a primary one being sourcing. If you were ordering goods after receiving your orders, this means you could take advantage of jobbers. Jobbers are very happy to sell you goods they’ve got in stock; your buying calender would shorten drastically.

Now just for kicks, let’s throw in another concept, that of reorders. Retailers want to buy closer to season and they also want the option of reordering styles. Maybe your styles didn’t sell as well the first time around but interest really picks up for reorders. Anytime you can turn over products for which you’ve already done product development and gone through an entire production cycle, you’re going to save money. First, you don’t have to spend the time or money on product development. Second, your reps are selling a known quantity that takes less effort to push. Third, your production people already have experience with the style in question so fewer errors and time are the usual consequence.

Tomorrow I’ll bring up limitations that new companies have with particular emphasis on product development. That’ll hang you every time -you all just think that production is the hard part :)

10 Responses to “Batch product development 2”

Comments RSS feed

Vesta
December 20th, 2005
1:38 PM

It’s funny to be reading about this sort of rolling development and production, as that’s how we’ve always functioned (granted, not efficient, just rolling). And we’re just now making moves to more of a batch schedule (quarterly, seasonal) for two reasons:
1) marketing to brick and mortar retailers – we’ve sold primarily to online retailers until now, so our rolling introduction of new offerings was fine. Our retailers would just log into the website and see what’s new/available before they order. But as we bring on more brick and mortar retailers, we’re finding that they’re not so fond of online transactions, and prefer to have things in print, like catalogs or line sheets. So by batching a little more, we’re able to send out, say, quarterly line sheets and still give the retailers access to the newest offerings.
2) our sanity – quarterly batching of new style launches helps us plan more easily. We can look forward at our year and see when the major cash outlays will be, when we’ll need to have postcards and line sheets printed, when we’ll need to have photo shoots and meetings set up.

Rolling production has, I think, contributed to our feeling stretched thin and a little out of control. Now, I’m speaking for a micro-company here. There are a total of about 5 people involved from within the company. Perhaps if there were more people working full time, it wouldn’t feel so out of control.

Joe Ely
December 21st, 2005
6:45 AM

Great example, Kathleen. I’m very interested to see who and how this can work in the gritty world of clothing sales.

I have to think that this rapid turnaround could be a big big competitive advantage to some enlightened value stream.

christy fisher
December 21st, 2005
8:09 AM

I agree with Vesta. I tried rolling production with the majors (department stores) when I was doing a line of production knitwear in the 80s (similar to Units, but in sweater knits). The overwhelmed/anxiety level was awful for me and the continuous outflow of promotional material was ridiculous for us.
Rolling production could work for cars..or a specified product with minor adjustments,,but in the world of fashion (not jeans and shirts), the outlay is far too great for a smaller company.
The sweatsuit company (I think it is Mike who owns that)would have an easier time because they basically sell one PRODUCT.. I can see where Vesta’s babyslings could also fall into that category, but she is even seeing the overwhelming expense of continuous PR costs ..and she is right.. most of our buyers are still into the paper. Many go online, but many do not. I find cranking new stuff out every 2 weeks..or even every month..is just too much..plus I think the buyers would become numb and actually order less per order. Most of us make the REAL money off of REORDERS..a base line is so crucial to keep a company going..The “new items”, in my opinion, should be icing on the cake, not the cake itself.

Jinjer Markley
December 21st, 2005
8:33 AM

First compare the timeline above with the timeline shown in the first table; this is 10 days vs nearly 2 months.

I don’t understand how you can compare these when you gave 3 weeks for product development in the batch graph, and a total of 6 days in the rolling graphs. I’m not arguing with either assumption, just with the comparison. It’s apples and oranges.

Dave
December 21st, 2005
8:42 AM

Christy,
I have to set you and any others who read about the “sweatsuit company” that Mike owns. Actually, he and his wife run the company, and his product line is amongst the finest and best valued I have seen in a long time. He is using some very nice technical performance fabrics, and their workmanship is exemplary. However, he does sell a one “themed” product. That theme would be outstanding value for the buck. Thought you should know.

christy fisher
December 21st, 2005
9:58 AM

I am not putting his product down at all.. I am just saying that production methods on a line like this vary greatly from a “fashion line” . Production methods on his type of product (and also for companies that are denim product manufactueres etc) differ because they are more focused on one or two items. It is more like car production , than say a line like Anna Sui.

Another thought on the “batch theory”.
When we were doing a rolling line (and working more similarly to Mike’s type of production)..
One of the most annoying things was when our Yarn mill would discontinue a color and come out with a new one in the middle of “season”..our buyers were expecting items to match up to existing items and we had to get into having specialty dye-runs made. etc just to keep our base items going. This added to most cost to product (and more stress).
The suppliers come out with “new” and discontinue often enough. Small producers have to work around that parameter until they can get to the point of guranteeing a large enough fabric run to assure dyebatch/print matching.

..and as a former retailer (yep, owned 3 stores back then too)..It drove me nuts when we would just get a roll going on a product and then it would be discontinued. When you bring in new, something has to be let go, or your line gets too large…but retailers are used to the seasonal ebb and flow of product, so marjket seasons are the best time to “bring in and let go” rather than continuously. An occasional “new is fine”. but I feel a constant woudl be too much.

One shift I am seeing..which the “big guys” will have a hard time competing with.. is the focus on “personalized”.. I am thinking that a new method of manufacturing is going to involve the buyer being able to “pick a sleeve, a body, a color, etc” and the have a 3-4 week turnaround on the production.
If patterns are done “kaizen style” and you limit your fabric sources, and keep production in-house..this is possible.

Mike C
December 21st, 2005
12:01 PM

I am not putting his product down at all.. I am just saying that production methods on a line like this vary greatly from a “fashion line” . Production methods on his type of product (and also for companies that are denim product manufactueres etc) differ because they are more focused on one or two items. It is more like car production , than say a line like Anna Sui.

We’ve got 30+ styles and somewhere in the neighborhood of 1000 SKUs. Construction of our pieces is simpler than some RTW, but the manufacturing issues overall are at least as complex (if not more so given our model).

julia
September 13th, 2006
10:06 AM

I am not sure if this is the correct place to post this question, but here I go anyways. (Is there a place to post new questions or topics?)
My question is: are the sewing contractors typically the ones to figure out yardage needed for a certain style before ordering sample yardage. I have done a calulation of yardage but I do not know how much clearance (or space) to allocate between pattern pieces, I am assuming that professional cutters will be much more efficient when they layout pattern pieces than I am as a home sewer. The reason why I ask this is because one sewing contractor that I was working with told me that I should figure out the yardage that I would need and like I said earlier, I assumed that the contractor would have a more efficient way of laying out the pieces. In the end I did not use her because she told me that the factories that she works with would not take my design because it was too labor intensive, I will be talking to a new contractor soon and I hope that I have better luck with them.

Kathleen
September 14th, 2006
3:26 PM

I am not sure if this is the correct place to post this question, but here I go anyways. (Is there a place to post new questions or topics?)

Comments are open for the purpose of continuing discussion on “old” topics. When you comment on a topic that has long scrolled off the page, in my way of thinking, you’re doing us all a favor in that it encourages people to read portions of the site that they haven’t seen. Otherwise, you (or anyone) can just email me. I don’t answer all questions (particularly if the search box provides a fast solution) but try to address the ones that could bear the airing.

My question is: are the sewing contractors typically the ones to figure out yardage needed for a certain style before ordering sample yardage.

You’re responsible for doing the best job you can. See the section on marker making in the book (particularly pgs 111-112, bottom of pg 115 through pg 118). Now, if you had your patterns digitized into a computer by a service, they could dummy a marker for you and give you allocation. That’s assuming of course that your marker maker wasn’t crazy.

I have done a calulation of yardage but I do not know how much clearance (or space) to allocate between pattern pieces

Julia, read your book! :)
See the illustration labeled 4.5 on pg 115. The answer is “none”. No clearance.

I am assuming that professional cutters will be much more efficient when they layout pattern pieces than I am as a home sewer.

The best way to know -definitively- is with a computer made marker (and knowing the number of units you want to cut). I understand if you can’t do that, no problem. Your other option is to assume the job yourself. Do it as professionally as you can using the guidelines starting at the bottom of pg 115. Take that to your contractor. Ask that person to critique it for what you should change. Then, re-make it. You have to read that whole marker making section in the book and buy the right kinds of supplies that I tell you about. That section is relatively detailed because so many DES need to cut their own stuff.

Your last option is to have the contractor make the marker but for that, your pattern needs to be production ready, all pieces cut out. They will need to know the number of units in order to plan the cut.

[...] of apparel manufacturing What to do when you don’t know what to do Batch product development Batch product development 2 Batch product development 3 How to start a homebased handmade sewing business How to start a [...]

Leave a Reply

Current ye@r *

Archives

Categories

The Entrepreneur's Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing

Often described as the garment industry “blue book”, the most highly rated book in the business is guaranteed to get you off to a solid start or your money back. Many service providers require you read this before they’ll work with you. Learn more »

Subscription Options

RSS Feed Google Reader My Yahoo My MSN Technorati

Subscribe by email: