The requirements to fulfill the production of any large order demand the following:
- Support from the head office
- Process structure
- Careful interpretation of stated claims
- Awareness of inconsistencies
- Verification of pertinent information
Above all, it is essential to Qualify and Quantify a substantial amount of information to make sure there is consistency among all stakeholders (regular staff, supervisors, and executives).
Many orders have operational limitations, time and budget constraints. It is wise to follow these steps below before allocating any production:
- Supplier/factory limitations
- Organizational structure
- Operational planning
- Workflow effects
- TCO (True Cost of Operation)
In an ideal world, you would meet with the factory prior to placing any and all orders to review:
- Material and trim orders quantities
- Delivery expectations
- Expected start and cut production dates
- The number of sewing lines
- Sewers per sewing line
- Their expected daily output
It is recommended to look for unique problems or weaknesses with this producer.
This order was especially unique as the order was for 200,000 units of an activewear short (4-way stretch material), which required a complete delivery within a 90-day period.
Thankfully, I got to visit this factory in Vietnam in the early stages of this production to verify the factory, conduct an inline inspection, and make sure everything was going as planned.
My objective was to bring the shareholders together who were involved in the production and discuss the strategy and planning for the order.
Some of my objectives of checking on the manufacturing were:
- Verify the materials and trims
- Oversee the supply chain planning (compliance, allocation, productivity, and more)
- Check on the early stage production, and provide immediate solutions to any minor/major problems
- Provide training and support to the shareholders involved in the production
On my first inline inspection, I encountered some of the following problems:
- There was no thought about the structure or planning for this order.
- I worked day and night to establish documents to manage expectations, workflow, performance measures, budgets, and timelines.
- I reviewed and approved expectations with all stakeholders, then went to all factories to implement, train and manage.
- The one factory that was approved to make this production had four other factories to help with the production of this order. I now had to cancel the order (not possible) or visit, validate, vet, qualify, train and manage the new stakeholders.
- During the inline inspection, I found one consistent quality issue at all factories.
The major quality issues on this production were the heat transfer labels that were not sticking to the fabric at all four factories using different equipment.
I needed to verify if this was isolated to one fabric (color), the print, the technique, the machinery, the weather, the factory
After verifying the extent of the quality issue, I needed to look at some possible reasons to rectify this issue immediately:
- Manufacturing was in North Vietnam, it was the end of the summer months and the temperature at the factories was very humid and hot
- Equipment was not properly set up (temperature)
- Application time was inconsistent
- Individuals applying the heat transfer lacked training and experience
- The materials (fabric) for the short had a coating or process that reacted poorly to the adhesive labels.
As a team, we were able to rectify the issue in a timely manner (within days) to ensure 100% of the products would not have this issue in the future.
The issue had to do with the various heat temperatures on each machine with the heat of the environment that gave the right heat temperature reading. But, in reality, it was too low due to the added heat and humidity of the environment that altered the reading.
Another major issue on the sewing floor was skipped, missed, or broken stitch lines. This issue should be spotted by the sewers, sewing line inspection, or final inspection. There is a break down when the product makes it to the retail selling floor.
Above highlights only some of the quality issues. I also needed to focus on compliance, planning, and budget issues during my first inline inspection.
The major importance was illegal outsourcing, order planning, and quality issues that would have jeopardized this whole order if it were not corrected immediately.
In closing, the delivery was achieved, to meet the standards, quality and delivery requirement of the client. The short was a success on the retail selling floor and the buyer placed a repeat order within three months after delivery for 400,000 units.