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The Importance of Speed in Meeting Consumer Expectations: Interview with an Apparel Sourcing Expert (Part 3) – SPEED 2/2

Q: Is there anything brands and retailers can do to get their goods quicker?

A: Instead of telling the manufacturer to deliver on September 30, tell them to deliver on September 20. They will still follow the same analytical path, but they will have the raw materials in 30 days prior to their committed delivery date. Also, it is possible to shorten the pre-production and approval processes, but it requires a dedication from brands to review their practices, cut through bureaucracy, and redesign some of their processes. For example, many brands are indecisive (a result of watching what other brands are doing) and have excess processes, thereby slowing approvals.

I know a US company that delivers a specific bespoke garment, with requested spec changes, in exactly two weeks upon receipt of order, and the product is a higher quality than most retailers. So, the model can work, but it needs certain commitments from the brand.

Q: What are the usual bottlenecks that cause delays in apparel production?

There are a bunch, but probably the most common delay is when factories do not coordinate raw materials and/or accessories to be delivered on time (three to five days before cutting). If you can’t cut on your target date, then you can’t deliver on your target off-line date.

Since factory management is focused on manufacturing processes and not delivery of raw materials, logistics are usually left to planners or the merchandise department. Unfortunately, while planners or the merchandise department place orders, they seldom monitor the materials delivery, so the factory is not aware when a supplier is running late or a boat gets delayed.

To avoid this delay, a production person should cover logistics, since they are more likely to alert the supplier when they are late and need to air ship a certain amount, color, and balance.

Other common reasons for production delays include:

  • Late sample approval, which is most often due to the factory itself or the brand (when they wait to the last possible moment because they are watching the sales trends of competitors)
  • Receipt of poor quality raw materials
  • Missed line loading date, usually the result of late delivery of raw materials and/or accessories, receipt of poor quality raw materials, or poor line performance on the previously loaded style
  • Production issues, such as poor output calculations in the planning process and poor line performance (due to inefficiency, absenteeism, or insufficient technical ability to construct the product)

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