I have a lot of enthusiast sewing people on this site -home sewers- people who never intend to manufacture. For my part, I like the mix so I encourage it. After all, this is the only forum I know of where manufacturers and consumers really mingle. The comments directed towards manufacturers is one of the things that I think keeps this site real. That said, this post could be said to be directed towards enthusiasts rather than “professionals” but DEs can learn a lot too. In any event, home sewers, this manufacturing post is for you. I know you normally skip these -and justifiably so- but just bear with me today, okay? Some background:
Joe posted about his sister’s blog Zig Zag in comments the other day so I went to visit her site and found the most amazing post entitled Bagging It. I don’t know how to describe it. My overall impression is to describe it as “the entrepreneur’s guide to manufacturing anything”. Anyway, Anne is a quilter and home sewer but she’s gotten into “volunteer manufacturing”. She and some of her friends have gotten together to solve social problems through sewing. Now, I know a lot of you make baby blankets for donation and believe me, I’m not slamming that, not at all. But Anne and her friends are doing something entirely different -with an entirely different approach- and I hope that more people will consider doing the same (hence this post).
First of all, Anne and her friends wanted to help in a meaningful way. Their first thought was to make baby blankets and donate them to the local hospital. That’s popular, sick children merit everyone’s sympathies. However, somebody had the foresight to actually ask the hospital if blankets were what was needed. As it turns out, they didn’t need more blankets. So, Anne and her friends persisted and asked the hospital if another department could use their services. As it turns out, Geriatrics needed services and was thrilled when the stitchers volunteered to supply them with necessities. I can only imagine that Geriatrics fares poorly in comparison to babies. The elderly are so neglected. Now, in manufacturing-ese, let me summarize what’s happened here:
- There is a clear mission statement (even if it’s only actuated by practice).
- The “company” is determined to provide a product that is needed in the marketplace.
- There is no ego here. They want to be “successful” and “manufacture” what their “customers” need, rather than making cute pretty stuff nobody really needs.
- They researched their market. Consequently, they had to change their product idea.
- They consulted with their “customer” to develop a prototype.
- They produced a sample.
- Based on the sample, they “took orders”.
- Based on the number of orders, they acquired the inputs.
- They manufactured their products.
- Then they delivered their products.
Now you tell me, how is this not manufacturing? And Lean Manufacturing at that? What you have here is product development by enthusiasts serving real needs. It’s “volunteer” manufacturing and I love it. I really have to hand it to these ladies. They ended up making a very practical item rather than something that satisfied their creative needs. How many of you can do that? That is selflessness. That is the real definition of putting your customer first. A manufacturer of integrity -even if that definition includes home sewing volunteers- responds to consumers wants and needs rather than their own internal ones. If someone is attracted to your style, then great, build on it. However, these ladies have very methodically determined to meet needs first rather than to satisfy their own creative egos. In real life -if the definition of “real life” meant they were profit minded- I have no doubt they’d become very successful. In my opinion, these home sewers can teach DEs a whole lot. Think about it.
If any of my enthusiast sewing visitors are involved in ventures such as the one described on Anne’s website, do speak up. Your participation may be the encouragement that someone else needs to get involved. Also, if there were an organized group of you, it’d be easier for the manufacturers on this site to donate inputs that you’re likely to need. All of us have end cuts of fabric, zippers, thread etc that need new homes. If you’re involved in an organized unit, I’m sure plenty of DEs would be happy to ship you stuff. I have tons of stuff. I just need an address to ship it to. Also, if there were a group in my area, I’d happily donate the use of my shop. I have a 20 foot cutting table, that’s got to be handy. And I’d bet I wouldn’t be the only person who could donate space and materials. Let’s hear about it. Comments are open.