Brief notes

Tomorrow I’ll post regarding the vintage pattern design contest, I’m glad to see the interest. I also plan on writing about Project Management and Quality…guys, I just don’t know how much longer I can sit on my hands. I’m afraid if I start writing about these two things, I’ll never stop. For those interested in dynamic new business models in the information age, the topic will only be Lean Manufacturing. I’m starting to see that designer-entrepreneurs are craft-manufacturers, and I’m trying to figure out what that really means and what it takes to bump you guys up another level or two, with a growth and learning strategy that’s effective and fast. I don’t know how to teach you this and I wish I did. I’m trying to learn how myself. I’m reading _The Machine that Changed the World_. There’s 128 used copies if you’re short on cash.


Just a brief mention that pledge week is coming up soon on your local NPR station so get those pledges in now if not sooner. Nobody likes pledge week so there’s no reason to prolong everybody’s agony. Cough up now so we can all go back to focusing our NPR-related attentions on more trivial things, such as still harboring resentment over the dismissal of Bob Edwards, host of Morning Edition for over 20 years…I still don’t know what that was all about.

I’m reading a book written by a friend of mine. He says not to mention it but this is my blog and I can do what I want (my blog is not a democracy). The book is called _The Truth in a Moment_. It’s interesting (to me) because the main character owns several sewing factories so a lot of the story line revolves around the industry. It’s a work of fiction, not a design-house back door tell-all.

My new toy arrived today. It’s a pantograph for those who didn’t know. This thing looks to have a high learning curve…could somebody please explain to me, the utility of a brass bob with these things that look like fish hooks on the end of it? And what’s with the guy wires? I had no idea it was so complicated and I’m just grateful I even know what a guy wire is. Good grief! Where’s the _Pantograph for Dummies_ book when you need one? It’s so cool tho. Of course I’ve already taken it apart once and -yes- forgot where to put a crucial part and I hope I got it back together correctly.

The boy and I have started a continuing ed class in Aikido. Tonight was the first meeting. I’m really, really bad at all of it and I committed a major social faux-pas. The class is all guys and mostly big ones. They’re very nice but I don’t think they’re comfortable handling me which seemed most apparent when they’d grab my wrists. I could see the size surprised them. I am feeling very small in there. I hope I don’t break any bones, I’m such a klutz. The boy is doing lovely. His forward-falling is already natural. Somehow it doesn’t seem fair when he’s only 3″ taller but outweighs me by 80 pounds. I’ve just noticed that it’s midnight. Obviously I’m still processing the over-stimulation. g’night.

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One comment

  1. kathleen says:

    This is a compilation and crude importation of all the comments posted at the original site for this document. Feel free to add your comments.
    ————————
    3/30/2005 08:28:03 AM Mike C said:
    >>I’m starting to see that designer-entrepreneurs are craft-manufacturers, and I’m trying to figure out what that really means and what it takes to bump you guys up another level or two, with a growth and learning strategy that’s effective and fast.Kathleen said:
    Mike,
    you’d never imagine how much time I spend discussing these problems. I’d agree that the most pressing issues of making the leap are access to smaller quantity resources of inputs (usually fabric) and services (usually contractors). While the major tenet of lean manufacturing is JIT (just in time) and limited input inventories, it’s not clear just how one goes about establishing relationships with suppliers. According to “lean” DEs are right where they should be, only it’s not working out well. I’m trying to get a handle on this. I’d agree that you and Amy have huge constraints with time -not everyone can manage in-house production even on your scale- , you guys put out quite a bit of product. Has upgrading your equipment helped increase your productivity? I imagine it has but by how much?

    3/31/2005 09:23:15 AM Mike C said:
    The supply chain is still an issue for us, though not nearly so much as when we started. Foreign knitting mills have been fairly aggressive about capturing more of the market and tend to keep reasonable quantities of the “staples” in stock at all time. Most will let you order in as little as 10 yard incrememnts, though there is usually a substantial discount for ordering by the full roll (50-60 yards).

    Sadly, the US mills have no interest in dealing with us, even though our annual fabric consumption is now up to several multiples of their minimum dye lot orders. One domenstic mill that I contacted went so far as refusing to provide a quote for a multi-thousand yard order unless I agreed that I’d be willing to pay more to be able to put “Made in the US” rather than “Made in the US with imported fabrics” on my labels. Yeah, right.

    We’ve also found it critical to have multiple sources for all our inputs. I like to keep 2-4 weeks of raw materials on hand (unless there are significant price breaks for larger quantities, such as for printed hang tags) which doesn’t leave much wiggle room if a vendor is out of stock.

    As we started ramping up production, we were having major raw materials problems – mostly because we still lacked reliable commercial suppliers for some items and because we didn’t do a good job of anticipated how much we would really need. We’ve more or less got that under control now, though we still run out of items from time to time that we need.

    Because the supplier side of our industry isn’t really Internet enabled (at least not at the low end), it just takes time and digging to find the suppliers. Material World in Miami and the Textile shows in LA are both good places to go meet the suppliers.

    As far as contractors go, that’s really not been an issue since we gave up on using contractors. We’re just now getting to the volume where I’m thinking about maybe taking another look. But, since I doubt there is anyone local that can make our goods cheaper than we can, I’ll almost certainly be forced to look outside the area. That will involve a significant amount of time and money to get set up – so it will have to wait a while longer.

    Better equipment has improved productivity somewhat, but we’ve not yet invested in some of the things which would give us larger leaps. One of many downsides of doing your own production is the constant conflict between investing in efficiency to reduce expenses or marketing to increase income.

    Young companies have limited access to capital, so every penny that has gone into the business has come from the business or from our personal savings. We’ve definitely gotten some improvements in productivity through better equipment, but we still have PLENTY of room to get costs lower. We’re drooling over th e prospect of perhaps picking up an auto-cutter this fall. Just-in-time small volume cutting is just too expensive to do manually.

    I’ll have to spend some time reading the various JIT books out there though, to see what parts of the puzzle I’m missing.

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