Push-Pull Manufacturing

I’m trying to do a process review and feel it’s important that it be understood in its proper context because some errors discussed in the review are unique to push manufacturers. Also see p.201+ in the entrepreneur’s guide to sewn product manufacturing. This brief introduction to push/pull manufacturing -as applied to the apparel industry- comes as a separate entry for indexing purposes.

Pull = Sell first, Sew last.
Pull manufacturing describes a company that sells their products before they produce the product line in quantity.

Push= Sew first, Sell last.
Push manufacturing describes a company that sells their products after they produce the product line in quantity.


Pull Manufacturing: Sewing to Order (sell first, sew last)
The manufacturer designs in-house, makes patterns/prototypes and solicits sales based on the samples. The manufacturer orders fabric, cuts and sews styles based on existing orders. A pull manufacturer can also cut re-orders for styles that sell well. The downside is a loss on product development costs (patterns and samples) on styles that are dropped due to lack of interest. Other than pre-arranged sales events, items are not marked down with an allowance provided by the manufacturer and returns are rare. Like most domestic manufacturers, most DEs are pull manufacturers.

Push Manufacturing: Order to Sewing (sew first, sell last)
The manufacturer designs in-house but has their patterns, prototypes and products made off-shore (usually). The manufacturer decides how many they can sell and then orders fabric, and cuts and sews styles based on that figure. If a style sells better than expected, re-orders are rarely possible (two months on the water, you do the math). Another downside is that some styles will sell poorly and will be marked down with an allowance provided by the manufacturer (many push manufacturers are retailers). Returns are so common that other companies are in the business of processing the items nobody wants. While most push manufacturers are usually large off-shore entities, it also includes small businesses that sell at art and craft shows.

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4 comments

  1. Designers at craft fairs

    Last weekend I went to the Dona Ana Arts Council Renaissance Craft fair; it’s an annual thing. I like to go to these things to shop the designers. Well not to shop exactly, I guess I spy on them (spying…

  2. Vesta says:

    Unfortunately, my segment (soft baby carriers) is all push, at this time. I am always wistful for a pull situation when I read your book. We’re starting to move toward more seasonality in our fabric selections (which are the main differences in our products from season to season, rather than style changes), and I’m scheming about how to create more of a pull-type situation (for instance, by holding mini seasonal “online buying markets” for my distributors – if enough of them order a particular fabric combination, we’ll produce it).

    Another thing that has interested me, and I think is perfect for our situation, is mass customization. Unfortunately, I am finding sewing contractors resistant to the requirements of such a setup, which means we’d need to bring our manufacturing in-house. But that’s just a whole different business.

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