How to fix production problems with production managers

From the forum, paraphrased to omit sensitive information:

I paid the pattern maker I hired to provide production management services but I’ve had so many problems with the factory he used. My small production run of thirty dresses had so many construction problems that they had to be returned to the factory to be fixed. I am due to pick them up beginning of next week. But before I go there and possibly encounter any further issues, I would appreciate any advice I can get regarding quality control responsibilities of factories and the person handling the production management.

Q: When you hire someone to handle the production management, what should they be responsible for? If they tell you their fee includes being at the factory to make sure everything is going smoothly, but then there ends up being many problems with the construction of the clothing, is this something that should have been prevented or am I expecting too much?

Brief background: The pattern service in question has a solid reputation among colleagues. Pricing is in line with competing providers and he has 30 years experience working with contractors in his area. I had been told that he did his own small runs in house (50 pieces or less) so I’m not sure why he sent this work out.

The designer in question (Tina) has been proactive and diligent in learning about the process. In my opinion she should not have experienced the problems she described particularly because her pattern maker was the ideal party to prevent these problems with his colleagues. It would be another story if the production manager was a separate party who could not vett the accuracy of the pattern or understand construction fully. I do not know all that went on but I plan to find out. Ideally, one would have an agreement in place to list the sorts of duties and responsibilities included below. Note, this varies slightly because it applies to duties that should be typical for an outsourced service.

Roughly, the duties of a production manager break down into categories as product, man, method, machine and materials.

PRODUCT: Manages all phases of the production process

  • Creates a production schedule for items in the line with the contractor
  • Controls production, ensuring cost effectiveness
  • Responsible for the work to be produced on schedule
  • Establishes and/or enforces the quality standard
  • Responsible for product to meet specifications
  • Confirms the contractor is in good standing and pays according to the law
  • Confirms insurance coverage, whether it covers you is another story
  • Responds quickly to any problems that arise.

MAN: Verifies the contractor has the proper staffing

  • Determines needed human resources
  • Ensures workers have the proper skills
  • Determines whether additional training or coaching is needed
  • Makes sure the workplace is a safe environment

METHOD: Verifies that the contractor’s processes are intact

  • Ensures proper work methods are used
  • Must know the best work methods in cutting, sewing, pressing etc
  • Troubleshoot problems that arise
  • Devise solutions to technical problems in the process

MACHINE: Verifies that the contractor is properly equipped

  • Determines the kind of equipment needed
  • Ensures that the equipment is available, maintained and in good repair
  • Verifies equipment is safe and used safely

MATERIALS: Verifies material controls at the contractor are stable

  • Checks that the right materials are used for the job
  • That materials are handled properly
  • Accountable for shortages, must audit for inventory shrinkage
  • Verifies that fabrics are inspected prior to spreading
  • Controls inventory, coming and going
  • Ensures that inventory is stored securely and properly.

You can use these items as a checklist in a hiring contract for a outsourced production manager. It is also advisable to list remedies for each category as is possible in the event there are problems. Specifically, how are the costs and responsibilities assigned?

Being responsible for a production run is no small task. A small run can be as much or more work than a large one but larger jobs pay more. That explains why a lot of operations only want larger jobs. In the case of small jobs, you usually do this yourself or the contractor does -usually by default- which also explains why they want larger jobs too especially if production services that are not typically their responsibility (and they’re not being paid for), end up causing a back log or losses on their end.

Tina’s next questions are:

If a cutter cuts your fabric and one of the pieces has a very visible defect in it and the piece gets sewn into the front of a dress, rendering it unsellable, is this something common that happens and you have to allow for some waste when having clothing made?

I’m hoping for the best, but what do I do if I get down there and still find problems with the garments?

Any recommendations on how to prevent disasters like this in the future? If I can’t be at the factory myself, do you think it’s even worth it to pay a prod.mgmt. person, if stuff gets messed up anyway? How do manufacturers normally ensure quality control when they have clothing made up in other states or countries?

And finally, am I completely off base taking a recommendation for a factory from a patternmaker?

The answers to these questions are posted here.

CMT vs Package sourcing

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