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How To Find The Right Partner For Your Manufacturing

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28 June 2023

How To Find The Right Partner For Your Manufacturing

How do you go about finding the production partner that’s right for your brand and product? As a start-up, this can be a really daunting part of the process, so we are here to help. Over the last decade, we have been finding manufacturing solutions for both our own brands and many bodywear clients. We understand where to look for different types of production, know the ins and outs of the required technology and how to match-make the right brand with the right factory.

The two most important factors that you need to consider first, are 1. The product that you are building and 2. Your target cost price. Production partners will not specialise in everything, so find a partner that is knowledgeable in your product area, this will be a huge advantage to you. By identifying your target cost price, you can work backwards and establish how much to invest in the CMT (Cut, Make and Trim). This will dictate the type of production partner that you are looking for.

As an entrepreneur, you have four main options when choosing your production path.

INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS

Independent contractors will usually consist of designers, pattern cutters, graders and machinists. These individuals often work very independently and from home. If choosing to work with independent contractors, you will need to thoroughly manage the work and the critical path yourself. If you do not already have experience working with these different roles, you may not know what to expect. This will make it difficult for you to establish timelines and stick to your critical path. If you have studied fashion design and have some experience working in the industry, then you may be able to manage the team efficiently. However, this may not be the best use of your time, when you could be running and growing the new business. Although this path may need a bit more hands-on management than the others, working with self-employed individuals is likely to give you some more freedom to negotiate finances and start small. It is important to remember that independent contractors may not have access to industrial machinery. Consider the complexity of your product and how it will be produced, then discuss capabilities with the contractor.

Pros: Flexibility, ability to negotiate costs and start small.

Cons: Workload and timelines managed by you, may not have access to machinery/technology.

This solution is right for you if: You are producing luxury pieces and are able to manage the process yourself.

TECHNICAL PARTNER

Technical partners come in all shapes and sizes, so you need to find out specifically what they offer. Some will work with you on the whole product cycle from start to finish, but others will only offer specific services. Usually, a technical partner will have the team under one roof and will manage the process for you. They may be able to offer small production runs for the start of your business in-house, and may even be able to grow with you. Technical partners are likely to have relevant industry experience and be time-efficient. This allows you to continue building your brand, whilst everything else is being managed on your behalf. Although the cost may be higher than that of the independent contractors, having an organised and efficient team working together on your project is likely to get you better results faster. You may end up saving money in the long run by avoiding mistakes and unnecessary sampling.

Pros: May offer a fully factored service, everyone under one roof, managed for you, experience.

Cons: More expensive than independent contractors, capabilities will depend on the technical partner.

This solution is right for you if: You are looking for quality over quantity and want some help managing the production process.

STRAIGHT TO FACTORY

The next option is to go directly to the factory. This can be a good solution depending on your product and target price point but requires a lot of management. You will need to have the necessary toolkit and information in order to control the factory production. If you are working with the factory on the full process from design to production there will be quite a high minimum order quantity. Most of their revenue is made in high-volume production. This option is best if you are producing low-end to mid-market products. If you are willing to purchase large quantities in the beginning to get a good price, then this may be the solution. When working with a fully-factored factory (from design to production), if you aren’t requesting large volumes then there is a good chance that your job will get pushed down the list. The factory will prioritise their bigger clients and largest volumes. Factories do not usually offer smaller runs at a good cost. If this is what you are looking for, then you will need to find a smaller, efficient factory with enough machinists to fulfil the order.

Pros: Low cost price, high volumes.

Cons: You need to manage the relationship and provide all of the necessary information, high MOQs, may get pushed down the priority list.

This solution is right for you if: You are looking for high quantities at a low cost price and have the technical capabilities to manage the relationship.

PRODUCTION AGENT

As an entrepreneur, you may not have the time to shop around or investigate the different production paths. Working with a production agent means that they will take on that responsibility for you. The agent will work with you on managing the full process from start to finish. They will earn a commission on the production, and potentially also a retainer for managing the day-to-day. This is likely to also be fully-factored, so the volumes will still be higher. But the agent will relieve the pressure of having to work directly with the factory. Make sure that the production agent has a strong relationship with the factory, as this will show you that they have worked well together before. If there is no pre-existing relationship between the agent and the factory then there may be teething problems as they test the waters. It will be best for you if they have already overcome these issues.

Pros: Managed by the agent, high volumes, the agent should already know how to work with that particular factory.

Cons: High MOQs, higher cost price than going directly to the factory.

This solution is right for you if: You are looking for high quantities at a low to medium cost price, but need someone to help you manage the production and guide you along the way.

The general rule is that the larger the volume, the lower the cost price. However, the larger volume may mean that a bigger initial investment will be required. If you are focussing on high-end or luxury collections, then it may be better to keep your production small scale. This will allow you to have more control throughout the process. For more information on manufacturing and choosing the right partner and location for your production, take a look at our Manufacturing Masterclass or get in touch to see how we can help you find your perfect partner.

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What is Brands of Tomorrow?

Brands of Tomorrow is a curated program, designed to support the growth of an exclusive group of creative entrepreneurs embarking on the journey to develop their businesses in the bodywear sector.

Interested? Find out more on our sister company,
London Contour Experts website.

What is Brands of Tomorrow

Brands of Tomorrow is a curated program, designed to support the growth of an exclusive group of creative entrepreneurs embarking on the journey to develop their businesses in the bodywear sector.

Interested? Find out more on our sister company,
London Contour Experts website.