How to Establish a Win-Win Relationship with a Cut and Sew Shop
Are you ready to find a new manufacturing partner? There are many reasons why you might find yourself in this situation.
1. You don’t have our own build capability.
2. Your current manufacturer sucks
3. You’re wasting your own scarce time making product instead of marketing and selling.
4. You have some internal capacity, but you need supplemental help.
5. You just landed a huge order that can’t be late.
6. You need a partner who you can plug in when you decide it’s time.
These are all good reasons.
Just remember, custom manufacturing is not for the light hearted. It’s messy, tedious, and detail-oriented. Murphy’s Law stands ready to pounce. From a sewing contractor’s perspective, the process of integrating a new customer takes time, money, and the allocation of limited resources. Evaluation of fit is a two-way street. Set your expectations appropriately and prepare to do your portion of the heavy lifting to make the endeavor successful. This is a process with multiple decision points.
It’s best to have some perspective on how you will be evaluated from the manufacturer’s point of view. If you’re an established company, that’s a plus. If you are prepared with manufacturing information and can share a lot about the opportunity, contractors are even more intrigued. If you have a finalized design, a prototype, an expectation of cost, and a known lead time…Wow! This is looking good. Established businesses with big quantity requirements and proven sales channels are the core of the manufacturing business.
If you’re a new company with a new product, don’t fret. We’re still here, but experience teaches us to be a bit more cautious. Empirically, the success rate of launching new products is very low. Contractors find it difficult to re-coup the cost dedicated to new projects. They never want to run 1 order and call it quits. Essentially, they’re going to evaluate your potential for selling your product as much as you will evaluate their capability to make it. It’s truly a partnership where both sides have to work well with each other.
If you need a prototype, it can be done, but maybe not by the larger manufacturing shops. Manufacturers are typically not set up like professionals services firms. Anyone who’s worked with an attorney knows the delight of getting a bill for $100 for a 15 minute phone call. Contractors find it difficult to charge for this time because there’s an expectation in manufacturing that this type of information is just part of the sales process. They’re not thought of as consultants, even when providing resources or information on the manufacturing process.
If you have to have a prototype made…
The people willing to do prototype work are typically 1-person shops. But they’re an important stepping stone in the process. You can find them or even call me to refer you. It is very difficult to make money in this type of business, so expect to pay for their time. I can tell you that many, many companies in the sewing business have tried and failed. It’s also not a business model that scales very well. This is research and development cost that should be budgeted for every new product.
Part II covers how to be a good partner and evaluate the contract manufacturing offer.