When should you hire a full time pattern maker? pt.2

Wanting to center the focus of scaling your business growth pragmatically in hiring your first full time pattern maker, I decided to add a part two rather than leaving a comment on part one.

Rocio was first to comment and brought up what I was hoping someone would. She said adding a pattern maker is a good step once average weekly invoices of pattern services would equal the cost of a pattern maker’s salary. Her point of weekly invoices is good in that it eliminates companies who do short term product development although I would imagine that most companies fitting that profile wouldn’t have the financial wherewithal to consider the option.

Doing this sort of cost calculation of outside services versus what it would cost internally has been a traditional barometer but I wonder if it is a good one for two reasons:

1. Companies typically ration outgoing work, their actual need is greater than invoice history would show. It is easy to say they do that because they are cheap but it often has more to do with hassles (transaction costs) associated with assigning work. Either the package isn’t ready, a key person is out, a sketch isn’t ready, fabric isn’t in, somebody doesn’t understand, there are misunderstandings and projects are delayed. If you had a pattern maker in house, these issues are smoothed over on an ad hoc basis.

2. It is also more common that a company will make do internally with a pattern that really should be modified however slightly but doing a cost benefit analysis, figure it’s not worth sending out. It may not be but not having taken that path, they really don’t know what the savings would have been. One can estimate but let’s be frank; they mostly cannot know because the same skill set needed to assess the savings is the same skill set that can do the work -which is the whole point of this discussion in that they don’t have those skills in house. My summary conclusion is that one should reconsider using invoice totals as a make or break decision point. Perhaps when invoices amount to 65%-75% of what it would cost to bring someone in is better?

Misc thoughts:
Rocio and Esther both mentioned the challenges of a pattern maker assuming production duties which can’t be minimized. Optimally, this would be worked out. Your traditional pattern maker won’t want the responsibility of production manager but if you get someone younger who is panting for an opportunity and is otherwise sane, first hand experience with production constraints will make their pattern work awesome. You’ll save a bundle because over time, patterns will be made better at the outset with fewer revisions needed later on.

Rocio mentioned that a pattern maker with the skills to grade, make markers and manage production would be about $90K. This is an unfortunate reality in high cost of living cities but it could be substantively less in outlying areas, maybe as much as 30% less (she squeaks).

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