The fastest way to pattern and prototype

Returning to the poll of preferred topics, this one deals with #4, the fastest way to pattern and prototype. As I mentioned in that previous post, I think the topic is a bit self serving and accordingly, was a bit dismayed that it won the poll. This post won’t work for everyone so use what you can and leave the rest.

Being able to pattern and prototype quickly requires the right mix of people, skills, tools and most all, time. Lack any of those and you can’t speed up much. If you’re the one doing it all, your cycle time will be related to your own efficiencies and time. If you have a nicely equipped workroom (CAD, machines, cutting table etc) then there isn’t much I can tell you that you don’t already know unless you wanted to compare notes about being more efficient which isn’t what this is about. However, if you’re someone who is jobbing out the pattern and prototyping work, you may have some options to reducing the cycle time of getting approved samples.

It is possible to get one day turnaround on patterns but your provider (like me) may not realize they can do it to the extent that it would occur to them to offer the service. So, I’ll explain how it is that I do one day service so you can approach your preferred provider to see if it is an option.

The way I do it is to have the customer on site (see this for more about my factory) and we work on their product start to finish. I make the pattern in CAD (starting with digitizing the customer’s pattern if they have one), we cut it, sew it, fit it and rinse, lather and repeat for any needed corrections. We also create sample markers for costing (after rudimentary grading) so we have yield/allocation for fabric. Lastly, having done an iteration or two of sewing and with fabric estimates, we can cost it -all in my 5000 sqft factory. At the close of day, the customer is ready to be introduced to my local contractors to nail down requirements for a production quote the next day, or a check list to proceed with production sewing services if we will do that here in our sewing factory.

Arranging a one day service includes other benefits and options (speaking only for myself here). For example, I prefer to work with people who are managing their own production or would like to learn how to do it. My ideal customer is someone who wants to manufacture for themselves. Icing on the cake is someone who wants to understand the pattern process better -hopefully they have some skills and want to learn how to migrate their strengths to do their own pattern and prototyping. In short, my perfect customer is one who will not need me anymore. What can I say? I like variety and I like teaching people to be independent.

All told, this soup to nuts deal is $1500 per day (discounts for 2 or more) and includes accommodations in my guest house, pick up at the airport and breakfast. I wouldn’t imagine that many other providers could offer the same deal with respect to amenities and costs but if they offered the service at all, you may be able to come to terms provided you arranged for your own accommodations and meals.

So what are the benefits for a provider to provide this service? Well, we waste an awful lot of time if we can’t do a job start to finish and most of us are forced to work in fits and starts. We can’t do a project start to finish due to circumstances beyond our control, such as:

  • we need to confer with the customer but they have a day job,
  • the fabric hasn’t arrived,
  • we can’t fit the sample without the customer.

We lose time because we have to open the project back up, go over the notes to find out where we were before, follow the logic routine and and often, we can’t charge for that. We can only bill for whatever we do next -although there are exceptions of course. So, any time we spend going over job notes, reading the latest emails (or the ones before to make sure we didn’t miss something), finding the files and related work materials to get back into the routine is often a loss of billable hours.  So if we were to have the customer on site to do it all continuously, we could finish the work much faster or if not completely finished, have a very clear plan to tie up any loose ends quickly.

The downside for a provider is opportunity cost. This means we can’t do any other work (that could pay more) if the customer is on site. There is also the matter of disruption in the work routine and lastly, organization of the project before hand so that we have whatever we need on site (in the past, I’ve had to order new machines!) and of course, providing detailed instruction to the customer so they bring all of the work materials.

The benefit to the customer is a dramatically reduced cycle time. For customers who are needing many projects developed at once, I don’t think on site services such that I’m describing will be as useful. I think this service is ideal for a customer who only has one, two or three items needing development (you may need 2 or 3 days on site depending on product complexity). Small projects -paradoxically, can take more time because being a small job, there is greater resistance for the provider to go through the job notes to pick up where one left off because it is a tiny job that they won’t be paid to get caught up on. Tragically, the smallest jobs, can end up on the back burner indefinitely; a reality that many of you have to deal with. Anyway, if you’ve read down this far and the idea appeals to you, I don’t think it would hurt to ask your preferred provider to consider the option. If you would like to consider using my service, don’t hesitate to call me.

Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll update as needed.

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