Every designer hopes for production to go smoothly without any delays, but anyone who has had a product made knows that there are many things that can delay a production run. The good news is that if you are prepared and aware of what can go wrong, you can avoid many potential delays. Here are ten things that can disrupt your production schedule, why they hold up the process, and what you can do to make sure things stay on track.
1. You didn’t provide a sew-by sample and tech pack
If you don’t already have the technical details, sewing operations, and quality expectations documented, these will need to be created before you move forward with a production order. There needs to be a process for creating the garment before that process can be repeated at scale. Ideally you can provide the factory with a physical example of your garment and its construction (called a sew-by sample) along with the written tech pack.
2. You haven’t approved the PPS or TOP yet
Before cutting your bulk order, the factory will cut what is called a pre-production sample (PPS) and send that to you for review. This is your chance to make comments on the quality and finishing before giving the go-ahead for production. Once approved, the factory will cut the production order and send you the first garment sewn – called a top of production sample (TOP). If you haven’t reviewed and approved these samples and communicated with your factory about the next steps, you could be the one delaying your production run.
3. Missing labels
For some reason labels often get forgotten until the last minute. I get it, they are small, but they are still an important part of your garment. You are legally required to have certain labeling. Don’t forget to order your brand, size, and care labels and have them sent to your factory in the appropriate quantities. Although designers may think of labels last, labels are often one of the first things that are sewn on a garment so if they aren’t to your factory on time, your whole production timeline will be pushed back until they arrive.
4. Materials arrived late at the factory
If any of your materials, whether labels, fabrics, zippers, etc., arrive past the date you and your factory agreed upon, you run the risk of not only delaying your production, but missing your allotted window in your factory’s schedule. Unless the factory is owned by your brand, the factory is working with multiple brands and has to keep their schedule with other projects even if yours gets delayed. Your materials might only be a week late, but you might have to wait even longer to reschedule your production run.
5. Damaged materials
Despite rigorous testing during the sample and development stage, sometimes your production materials come in damaged. If you are working with quality materials and suppliers, this is rare, but it can still happen. Often if there is damage to a fabric, you won’t fully know the extent until the fabric is unrolled for cutting. Minimal damage might just need extra attention when laying out and cutting the marker to avoid the damaged areas and cause minimal delays to production. If the material is heavily defective, it might need to be replaced which would result in a more extensive delay. While this scenario isn’t always avoidable, you can test your fabrics during sampling, build quality relationships with your suppliers, have your fabrics arrive early to the factory, and inspect them promptly upon arrival in order to reduce the possibility.
6. Not enough fabric to cut the order
A miscalculation in the amount of fabric needed can also delay production. If your fabric is laid out for cutting at the factory and there isn’t enough to cut what you ordered, the process comes to a halt as you and the factory have to reassess. The fabric will have to be remeasured so there is an accurate count and then the difference calculated for how much more is needed. Sometimes part of the order can be cut before the remaining fabric arrives but not always. Be prepared to at least pay an additional cut fee to cut the remaining fabric when it arrives. Make sure you have ordered enough fabric to cover your production order accounting for any uneven distribution of sizes within your order, plus a bit extra.
7. Last-minute changes to materials
Any last-minute changes once the production order is in the works will definitely cause a production delay. If any of the materials need to change, you’ll have to go back a few steps and have the factory make a new PPS. Machine settings, markers, or even patterns might need to be adjusted to best suit the new material. There is rarely an even swap when it comes to materials.
8. Lacking information needed to make the markers
To make the marker for your order, your factory will need to know how many of each size you are ordering as well as how wide the fabric is. Fabric cuttable width can vary by a few inches from lot to lot, so often the factory wants to wait until receiving the rolls of production fabric before making the marker. If you don’t have your P.O. completed or have your fabric on hand at the factory yet, the marker will have to wait until these two are available.
9. Poorly-made patterns
This is an issue that should have been caught and addressed in sampling, but if a poorly-made pattern got approved for some reason, it can complicate and slow down production. Pattern issues won’t necessarily delay the start of production, though they can. It is more that they will slow down sewing and delay completion of the order.
10. Interrupting the work once the factory has started your order
Production is based on efficiency. You only reap the benefits of bulk production when you eliminate excessive handling, optimize set up, and let the smooth system do its thing. If you interrupt or stop a production order part way through, you lose that efficiency and delay the finished work. Avoid reordering priorities, pressuring the factory to rush a certain style or size, or changing your mind last-minute if you want to keep your production on track.