Part II – How to Establish a Win-Win Relationship with a Cut and Sew Shop

Because of the positive response and several questions on the first half, I’m posting this ahead of schedule.

Now it’s time to ask another question. Do you know how to be a good partner in the outsourcing process? Realize that your manufacturer is typically not an expert in your specific product or application. Contract manufacturers are in the “Do as Your Told” business…meaning they follow customer orders and need to be led. Don’t assume much of anything. Otherwise, one of two bad scenarios will occur. They will nag you with endless questions or fill in the blanks themselves (which you probably won’t like). The standard for one company in your industry may not be acceptable to another.

Think of ways how you can help…Do I have any materials/info I can provide to assist my manufacturer make a high quality product?

  • the item(s) carried in a pouch/pocket for a fit check
  • critical dimensions to verify
  • a specific test procedure(s) to ensure proper functionality
  • info on how picky you are about loose threads, straight stitch lines, or stitches per inch
  • any other performance checks you can think of

I understand that you don’t want to hold your manufacturer’s hand, but the first time through, it makes a lot of sense to invest the time to make your arrangement work. There’s no sense in making this more difficult than it should be. It’s like an open-book test. There’s no conflict of interest knowing what you test for. You also don’t want your contract sewer focusing on things that are not important to you. Remember time is money and you’re being charged accordingly. I also highly encourage you to consider a visit to their manufacturing facility before or during the first production run. Not having access is a red flag.  

You’re in the home stretch. You finally get your price, now what?

Sewing is definitely not a commodity business. Quality differs immensely between shops. Get a sample and evaluate it. You want to make a good long term decision. Realize that switching from one manufacturer to another likely takes in the ballpark of 90 days or more.

Here’s a list of other significant criteria to consider:

  •  What is the contractor’s experience in manufacturing my type of product?
  • Can the sewing contractor’s capacity expand as my needs grow?
  • Will my product be made by sewers already on staff? (Note: you don’t want the newbies)
  • Is there someone assigned to my account? Is that person an owner or someone with leverage within the organization to make my needs a priority?
  • If there was an issue with the product, what is the process to rectify and how quickly will it get addressed?
  • How do I know that the raw materials are high quality?
  • Is there an open door policy for their manufacturing floor?
  • Besides price, how well will the sewing contractor fulfill the other critical elements of the relationships?
  • Will they effectively manage any materials and/or confidential information that I provide? 
  • Do they have the capability to ship products with the major freight carriers (UPS and Fed Ex), air in product if I need it?

Do the answers to these questions lead to a positive value proposition for your company? Don’t take it lightly.  If they fail on these, the opportunity cost of wasted time and disappointed customers will far outweigh saving a small % on the acquistion price.

Bottom line: Be realistic, be thorough, and be generous with information. It can be done successfully. In a complicated process, expect to have a rocky moment from time to time. But the best manufacturing partnerships are established through mutual commitment, good communication, and trust. 

Good luck.

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2 Responses to Part II – How to Establish a Win-Win Relationship with a Cut and Sew Shop

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