Who pays for a sewing contractor’s mistakes? SOW
It seems there’s no end to the potential for discussion in resolving problems with sewing contractors and I’m approaching my wit’s end. I can’t imagine how it must make the rest of you feel. Here’s an email from a manufacturer on her second go round with a contractor:
The M/L samples I made up were clearly indicated to be X dimensions. I purposely attached instruction tags stressing the finished sizes so that there wouldn’t or couldn’t be a sizing issue like last year. However, the new M/L are only 1/2″ larger than the smalls (should be 2″). The smalls are exactly correct as per my measurements so why aren’t the M/L’s correct too?
The other thing is that every label, on every garment, (which were neatly sewn) is completely off center in the same exact way on all sizes! Every label is 2″ off to the left of the center back. Somebody somewhere measured wrong and it is so obvious when you look at it! Where is the quality control?
Tragically, this is not a complex item. It’s one pattern piece, a rectangle with one seam. It’s a tube! It’s getting to the point that I’m beginning to think the trade should be using Statements of Work (SOW) even for simple and small projects. The latter is actually the subject of this post.
Statement of Work
A Statement of Work -hereafter abbreviated SOW- is a sort of contract one uses to define the parameters, conditions, delivery dates, standards and pay of a job. Here is a more complete explanation and definition. For our purposes, it would define who, where, when and how the work is to be done. It details who agrees to provide what. It’s normally written in bid format to present to a variety of potential sources who would then bid on the job. In real life though, you’re not going to have a bevy of contractors lobbying for the work so it should be done differently. I think that if you use one, it should be written specifically to a given contract you place, with a mutually agreed upon party.
In the normal course of working with a contractor, you rarely have a separate contract beyond the work order and the specifications you provide in a tech pack define how the item is to be made. The problem with a SOW is that it’s a rarity in sewn products, especially among the smaller contractors you’re likely to hire so the use (or misuse) of one could be resented as too corporate or much ado about nothing. I don’t think these should be too complex but they should definitely include issues over which we are constantly conflicting. Specifically, if you are concerned about redress over product failure (as in the example I opened with), it should be spelled out in advance how the situation is to be remedied. You should define the criteria of acceptable work as best as you are able. You should spell out the appropriate remedies (repair, replacement etc). In the event the work is a total loss meaning you’re out the cost of fabrics and inputs, the SOW should list who pays for the loss of goods. Which reminds me, the SOW should specifically list the contractor is responsible for any of your goods in their inventory because inventory shrinkage (a euphemism for theft) is a constant problem. Or maybe it’s not even theft but poor management. You need to be covered in the event of loss.
The SOW should be flexible, it’s not concrete but points of negotiation. I also don’t think a SOW should be required before you’ve placed your first (domestic) contract but perhaps only after there’s been a problem. You don’t want to start throwing a lot of paper at someone right away because the best contractors will avoid you. If the contractor wants further work from you, they’ll be more amenable to guaranteeing future work will be done to your specifications or they will compensate you. Obviously a SOW wouldn’t be necessary if there were a problem for which the contractor was acting in good faith and made you whole.
There’s a sample in the forum you can copy and paste that was used in reference to this squabble between a contractor and a subcontractor (educational in itself to see conflicts and complaints between the two). A word of caution in that some of the terminology is odd because the subcontractor who wrote the SOW in question was a self-taught bespoke tailor with no experience in the apparel industry until he joined our forum. Actually, it was untoward that the subcontractor, technically an employee, should write a SOW for the contractor who hired him. More details (again, very educational) are here and here. This will be of particular interest if you make lined garments like suit coats, coats or sportcoats because it outlines the work process of constructing them. I have yet to edit the list so get with me before interpreting it with the gravity of the sermon on the mount.