Pop Quiz: Ordering sizes for production pt.2 (Surrender)

I avoided the follow up to this and this long enough and will have to call for a surrender -mine, need be- the first answer we got was good enough.

That’s what this is all about my friends, good enough -hold that thought. Truly though, I was bogged down in notation and word problems, backtracking to determine the respondent’s intent. For example, writing 3XS and 3XXL but also including 3 plies of black and white, in my (our) book, makes for a total piece count of 9 of each size and in each colorway -in other words, 36 pieces when we needed a maximum of 12. I guess this is where meta cognition comes in. When creating a cut order for production, you need to be sure you’re sending the right message.



But back to good enough -Several people suggested using one ply of black, one ply white, and drawing in the XS and the XXL 3 times. Doing something like this would make my contractors very unhappy and ultimately, the customer. People aren’t stupid to suggest this because they are (wisely) concerned about wasting fabric on ply lay ends, so let’s talk about costs.

Cutting a marker like the one illustrated above is going to cost you 4″ per ply for lay ends. Namely, 24″ will go to waste (one ply wastes 4″ so it’s really 20″ over and above the single ply option). Let’s assume this fabric costs $10 per yard; you’ve lost $6.60 on lay ends with the marker illustrated above. However, this marker has saved you quite a bit of time with respect to labor.  With an average shop rate of $50 (avg $30-$70), the marker with XS and the XXLs drawn in three times apiece, will take nearly 3 times longer to cut. To make up for the $6.60 you’re losing, it would literally have to take less than 2 minutes per unit to cut, to break even. And you know as well as I do, it’ll take longer because it will have to be done with scissors instead of a knife. And so maybe you don’t care because your contractor hasn’t parsed out the cutting costs, throwing that in with the CMT so it won’t cost you anymore doing it the long way, so you may as well save the $6.60 in fabric – you my friend, aren’t going to have very many friends for too much longer. Specifically, friendly relations with your contractor. As for me, the patternmaker and marker maker who passed you off to my contractor, with whom I need to stay in good with, I’ll do everything I can to change your thinking. If you don’t listen, you’ll pay a penalty. Yep, I’ll charge you for the excess length over and above what the marker should have been so you won’t be saving a dime. Not that I’m so mean; it’s not worth my time to bill for a yard of paper. For six yards, sure. In real life tho, the contractor is going to take one look at the marker and the ply count and throw your plan out the window. The contractor will lay 3 plies of each color and only cut each size once. And you know, you’ll never know the difference (except your contractor may be somewhat annoyed from there on out if you continue to make decisions similar to this one).

Again, returning to good enough.  People had great ideas about the most effective use of fabric to get the desired piece count. However, in real life, it often doesn’t work this way. As I mentioned repeatedly to see pages 114-120 in my book, the customer’s order needed to be adjusted because there was no way to cut this cost effectively with the order quantities per size. To do as the customer specified would have taken at least 3 markers which is overkill for an order this size. We did it with two markers. The only way to do that though was to up the order quantity for the black pieces. Specifically, we increased those to match the ratios of the white. Like so:


If you notice, this was the first solution as proposed by Marguerite [who thought she got it wrong and who then went away to pout about it :)].  There are a couple of other reasons that this worked. For one thing, the customer was just pulling numbers out of his hat; he didn’t really know what was going to sell. Going over on the piece count for black was a safe bet because black outsells everything else -especially in this market. Second thing is, the customer has a solid handle on his sizing. The greatest number of sales are coming from the middle of the size range (also) -these days, the mediums and larges. Truth be told, at the time, I thought it was odd that the order quantity for the black colorway was low.

So, that’s all theoretical blather, no? Well, it’s been a few weeks since we processed this order. At this writing, the black has been selling 2:1 to the white and they’ll need to cut more soon.

The take away of the series:

  1. Be flexible with order quantities, they’ll probably need to be adjusted.
  2. Understand cutting ratios, particularly for multiple colorways that can use the same exact pattern.
  3. Read pages 114-120 of the Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing. Carefully.

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  1. Vesta says:

    I want to reiterate this point: the contractor will throw out a crappy plan and do what they want. Cutters think about this stuff all the time. Their brains will spot a bad marker in a heartbeat. We see cutters rearrange markers and choose their own lays every day. They strongly prefer more plys, less cutting labor (sometimes to the point of absurdity). It is so bad that in Dallas, the default for small runs is markers with a full size run, and the cutter works it out. Makes folks upstream very lazy.

  2. Kathleen says:

    I’m struggling with a contractor right now who threw out a perfectly good plan (made by a colleague who has been making markers for 20 years) and rearranged the pieces to suit himself. Problem is, the pieces which don’t seem too important being inner pieces, were actually stays. The fabric was a one-way stretch… meaning abject disaster. The cutter is being a real pill now and not wanting to compensate my customer for the loss on 300 units.

    I suppose that is but one other thing to consider in the SOW; provided you’ve hired an expert to make the marker, a condition of the contract is that the contractor follow the provided marker unless they’ve gotten permission to do otherwise.

    I’m rather depressed about it. I know everyone concerned and have nothing but the highest respect for each of them. Guess that goes to show what can go wrong even if you’re working with the best because people sometimes have a lapse of judgement.

  3. Vesta says:

    Ouch. I hope y’all come to an agreeable solution. That’s a very good idea to discuss/require the marker setup ahead of time. Even just knowing it’s a common phenomenon will hopefully help a few folks.

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