Life in the trenches from the real world of a technical designer
Edited July 1, 2012 the server this site is hosted on has been undergoing sustained hack attacks. Please disregard any unpleasantries, I’ll deal with it in an expedited fashion when I return on Tuesday. I appreciate your patience.
The alternative title of this entry is How to check the accuracy of graded patterns pt.4.
In part three I had mentioned I would publish an email from an esteemed colleague who wishes his company did sew samples in all sizes (if you need to catch up, see parts one, two and three). This email is very telling -it says much more than on the face of it. It is a very candid and telling portrait of what goes on in many larger offshore companies. If you read between the lines, it is a message of either hope or doom. It is hopeful if you’re a small company committed to staking a future in this business because there is definitely room for you if you’re doing things right; your time is coming so stick it out. It is also doom because the old (old as in from 1990-today) ways aren’t working so well anymore so if this is your model or the model you aspire to adopt, it is only a matter of time. It will become increasingly difficult to make headway with price being the only point of differentiation -ultimately a race to the bottom. Anyway, this email indirectly shows why I think the market is still ripe with opportunity for people who don’t fall into these traps.
Hi Kathleen, I just had to comment on your grading articles–they were so timely.
The company I work for has no technical background in their staffing. They have always left everything up to their vendors. In late August of last year they hired me -someone with almost 40 years in the industry as a designer, patternmaker, merchandiser, sourcing manager, Design Director and Sr. Technical Designer. I have worked with factories in almost every country in the world or have done trend research in the balance of the rest.
It has been a long and hard battle where I am working– to do things properly that will result in better quality goods. Management has been focused on getting new product into the stores every month. They have never checked the goods delivered from China. The goods were not checked at the factory nor were they checked in the DC [distribution center] upon arrival. I got them to hire an inspector for one of our bigger vendors in northern China/Shanghai area, but the work load has become too difficult for one person to do a 4.0 AQL on every style. He has no time to go back and recheck to make sure that they have corrected the callouts.
I have asked for a QC team to be put to work in our DC, but that would cost money–and you know management does not like to hear that word.
So now we are getting feedback from store managers about the fit and quality of production -it is not good. I and my assistant (newly hired three months ago) have been doing as best as we can to make sure that the samples we see are perfect in both fit and construction. But here is the catch -we get fit samples, pre-production samples and TOP samples in one size. And I know for a fact that all of these garments are made in a sample room. Our company has stopped us from getting full size runs because it is too many samples–so we have no way to check the fit of the other sizes. Also, we only have a 48 hour turn around time frame to measure, fit and write comments and then send them to the vendor. Sometimes a very daunting task when you received 30 fit sample each day. Plus have to create tech packs for another 50 styles that will be released for the next season
Of course, our designer now wants to do a Skype video call so she can see the fit samples on our Alvanon form -she is in another city. Which means we have to coordinate these fittings with her schedule.
Upper management has been telling us that our grade is incorrect. The customers do not like how garments fit. Nothing is consistent. People have to buy larger or smaller sizes. Buttons fall off–you know this drill.
As we have no in-house inspection team, I have said that I cannot comment on production–because all of our pp samples come in almost perfect–and in only one size, we do not see these issues. So, they agreed that we should inspect everything that comes into the warehouse. We can check 4 pieces in each color in different sizes. If we see issues, then we ask for more garments. The warehouse people said it would be easier for them if they just gave us a 15 piece pre-pack with mixed sizes. So we check these and if we need more then we request them. Today, I measured 60 garments (4 pre-packs one of each color) and found horrible results (not tiny little difference in a POM measurement but big ones like 1″-3″–all of our measurements are taken on the half, so that equates to 2-6″ in body girth)
I am sure you can imagine what our findings have been. I have put so many styles on hold–awaiting a decision from management on how they want to proceed with the distribution of these goods. It has opened people’s eyes. Now, the grade is really not the object, it is the sewing of the goods. I have tried to explain that these factories do not have in-line inspectors, no one is monitoring how much is overlocked off the seams. When I have traveled to these factories and walk down the line–I am appalled, the overlock operators are trimming not 1/8″ off the cut pieces as allowed by the pattern, but they are trimming off 3/8″-3/4″ and that means you are losing 3/4″ to 1 1/2″ per seam. Multiply that by 2 and you are losing 1 1/2″ to 3″ in girth measurements on a simple tee. The bigger problem comes in when you have several operators overlocking and some sizes will come in correctly and others will be way off the spec. Without this knowledge, the technical designer/patternmaker gets the blame because management thinks your pattern grading is wacko. When in reality it is not. The hard part now is trying to get a full graded set that matches the grade so we can show management how our garments should really fit.
Thus is life in the trenches from the real world of a technical designer.