3 Manufacturing Strategies All Established Fashion Brands Should Know

MakersValley Blog | 3 Manufacturing Strategies All Established Fashion Brands Should Know
Frida Plata

Frida Plata

Fashion experts project significant growth in 2022. In the aggregate, McKinsey suggests global fashion sales will reach 103 to 108 percent in 2022. Yet, while experts anticipate significant growth, especially compared to 2020 pandemic levels, the fashion industry expects to see a variation in recovery profiles. This varied recovery depends on a multiplicity of factors: 

  • Continued supply chain disruption
  • Economic shocks from more COVID-19 outbreaks
  • Potential inflationary impacts from economic slowdowns 

All of these complex factors could significantly stunt a fashion brand’s growth, especially during this period when brands search for ways to remain competitive amidst economic instability and rapid industry change. A promising strategy towards brand growth will almost always involve production success because the right manufacturing strategy will allow factories to remain both compliant and competitive. 

Here are three key factors that impact brands’ ability to do that and achieve garment manufacturing success.

1. Using Information Technology to Drive Project Management and Collaboration

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With constant innovations in the fashion industry, technology remains an important part of running a successful brand. To optimize manufacturing efficiency, brands assume that technological innovations automatically mean they should implement “the latest and greatest” in their production process. When manufacturing, fashion brands presume that if they incorporate more apparently “innovative” technologies in their production process, then it will limit production errors and result in savings because of reduced labor costs. However, even simple technological innovations could improve automation. Indeed, manufacturing improvements don’t necessarily mean completely renovating the manufacturing technologies used in a factory’s production process. Manufacturers don’t have to use automated sewing machines to ensure production success-–it could simply mean utilizing some newer information technologies to optimize the machinery and systems already used. 

For example, to improve interdepartmental communication, fashion brands can adopt a software platform that helps create checklists, manage project completion, and allows departments to confer with each other when troubles arise. With software platforms such as Xometry and 3D Hubs, manufacturing centers and fashion brands can communicate more effectively and use those records of communication via software to solve future manufacturing problems. Furthermore, when a manufacturer partners with a new fashion brand, they can update each other on production statuses using an information technology platform (e.g., tech pack changes or updates). And for certain manufacturers committed to their production traditions, even the use of simple folders and guides can help automate the production process, especially when training new hires. 

 However, one factor to keep in mind includes how advantageous some automations or improved timing actually enhances the production of certain product categories. Since production strategies have a direct impact on production costs, manufacturers and fashion brands should collaboratively conduct detailed evaluations that ensure certain automations or production changes improve manufacturing for particular product categories. 

2. Conducting Regular Compliance Evaluations

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Manufacturing compliance generally refers to the industry standards and regulations related to manufacturing operations. These regulations are determined by state, federal, and international laws relevant to operating factories. Additionally, compliance is established by important industry groups that determine regulation precedent. Compliance regulations are absolutely critical to production success because they ensure proper chemical safety measures, establish rules related to shipping goods internationally, and assess whether manufacturers ethically produce their fashion products. 

Global fashion brands must conduct regular compliance evaluations because, in doing so, they verify that manufacturers remain up to date with important procedures absolutely critical to manufacturing success. Also, by remaining compliant with manufacturing regulations, fashion brands can show proof points to consumers if their goods are ethically sourced and manufactured. This ethical manufacturing proof is arguably one of the most important factors that impact whether a fashion brand successfully expands business to the global buyers’ market. To reach and maintain support from that lucrative B2B segment, fashion brands should conduct regular compliance evaluations within the following categories:

  • Anti-corruption
  • Data protection
  • Employment law
  • Export controls
  • Fair competition
  • Health, safety, and environment
  • Information technology safety and security
  • Product safety

While compliance remains important to manufacturing success, its complexities might confuse fashion brands (or even investors). This occurs because of manufacturing’s varied regulations, which depend upon factories’ locations, size, production product, and more. In such cases, a manufacturers’ broker can help fashion brands and investors establish and maintain compliant production that adapts to industry changes. Since manufacturers’ brokers remain up to date with shifts in the manufacturing world and changes in production practices, they can update both designers and manufacturers with any industry or onsite factory changes that may directly impact a brand’s designs or operations. 

3. Adjust the Factory Layout

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Factory Layout concerns the “physical arrangement of the industrial facilities such as sewing machines, storage systems, supporting fixed assets, among others.” 

To create an effective factory layout, brands and manufacturers should work together to save space and limit material and labor movement. Slight adjustments in spatial design have the potential to significantly improve workflow across the manufacturing process and improve efficiency. Such efficiency and workflow improvements can ultimately lead to reduced production costs and make room for new machinery or production systems that optimize manufacturing productivity. 

According to academic research, the factory layout that impacts productivity is considered a “multi-objective problem,” and its evaluation involves two key components: 

  1. Goal Programming - Goal programming uses mathematical formulation to satisfy a set of goals in manufacturing decision-making. By using mathematics to satisfy production goals, manufacturers try to deviate as little as possible from expected, quantifiable production goals. These quantifiable goals can be understood through two basic models. The first model, the pre-emptive (lexicographic) model, quantifiably orders goals according to a manufacturer’s priorities. According to this model, the established priorities significantly outweigh goals with lower priority. For the second goal programming model, the Archimedian model, manufacturers must specify weights or penalties for not achieving targets, and attempt to minimize the sum of weighted infeasibilities. This is to determine how well factories execute optimization plans and identify, using mathematical formations, areas of opportunity. In addition to the two goal programming model, experts emphasize that successful goal programming requires effective communication between manufacturers and fashion brands because they must work together to create and prioritize detailed, cardinal goals.  
  2. Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) - AHP is a multiple-criteria decision analysis that allows manufacturers to troubleshoot production issues based on pairwise comparisons between attributes. AHP can be used to evaluate the relative performance of manufacturing options that could potentially replace current ones, should they improve production efficiency. To evaluate production efficiency using the AHP analysis, manufacturers may consider using a pairwise matrix. Conducting analyses of entities in pairs makes the AHP method more flexible because it allows production evaluators to alternate different manufacturing processes for evaluation. A successful AHP evaluation leads to a hierarchy structure that helps brands and manufacturers prioritize production goals. 

As a final consideration regarding manufacturing success, both manufacturers and fashion brands should request feedback as much as possible. By consistently requesting feedback from the workers who actually operate the production lines, factory workers can offer key insights only noticeable to those who maintain a close, daily interaction with production lines. Using this production feedback information, manufacturing managers and fashion brands can further optimize manufacturing efficiency, thus allowing them to remain competitive, despite rapid industry change and instability.

fashion-designers-strategizing-manufacturing-optimization

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