Apparel Manufacturing Boot Camp: building manufacturing in America

This is the guiding concept of my business. I included the above in the introduction of my book (The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing) in 1996. For many years, I was the object of public ridicule; most people didn’t even bother to conceal their contempt of my ideas. It stung but I kept at it. Maybe they were right then, but you know, they’re not now.

Thankfully, the issue today is the resurgence of sustainable manufacturing within the United States of America. Problem is, it’s not the same climate it was in 1995 when I started my business. In the olden days, if you wanted to start a factory or apparel manufacturing business of your own, you got a job in a factory until you figured it out. Today, you can’t find a factory to get a job in -so how do you learn? In a nutshell, that’s what we do. We teach manufacturing with two goals in mind. The first is to benefit needy people in our community. The second is to give entrepreneurs an opportunity to experience the workings of a real factory. To be sure, one isn’t wholly prepared after this experience but it is certainly an eye opening, trial by fire, immersive learning experience that opens a new world.

Care to join us? Sign up for the Fall 2016 session, manufacturing children’s coats.

Pictures at Apparel Manufacturing Boot Camp

The coat manufacturing boot camp, benefiting needy children of New Mexico ended on Monday. There remains work to be done on the jackets -such as top stitching (call me if you want to learn how to do it, we could use the help!) but we’re still on deadline. The delivery deadline is October 1, 2015 (yay me for building that into the timeline). We still don’t have a final coat tally (after final inspection) but we’ve got about 130 coats which is 33% higher than we promised. The charities will each get 10 more coats than they’d anticipated. Always under promise and over deliver. I’ll tell you more about it later but for now, some photos!

Tanner Ennis from Calgary Canada. He was our best sewing line supervisor.

Tanner Ennis from Calgary Canada. He was our best sewing line supervisor.

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Coat Manufacturing Boot Camp Progress Report #1

abqfi_jkt_sketch1bLate in coming but here is a tl;dr bullet point list of what we have accomplished so far with explanations to follow :

  • Found “customers” for the donated coats.
  • Nailed down the design -at least four times.
  • Determined the size range (6-12).
  • Technical illustration.
  • Made the pattern (x3)
  • Cut and sewed 3 mock ups, and fit them.
  • Ordered sample fabrics (guaranteed continuity).
  • Checked the pattern (x2)
  • Graded the pattern.
  • Created first marker to determine yield.
  • Costing (x3)
  • Selected final fabric.
  • Ordered zippers.
  • Ordered trims (donated)
  • Ordered cuff ribbing (donated)
  • Ordered quilted lining fabric.
  • Created sample marker (jump set).
  • Cut shell for final sample and hopefully, sew bys.

Missing from this list is lots of stuff -to a large extent, all of the industrial engineering activities. The latter is needed to determine the amount of time we’ll need to sew this stuff up and with how many people and machines. We still don’t have a clear answer on this but should have a much better idea when we do the sew bys this week and weekend.

Indirectly, time studies introduce the subject of both design changes and equipment. Initially, we’d wanted to do welt pockets but decided that the preparation would soak up too many resources (time in marking, pressing and training) and still take longer to sew than we’d like. So we changed the design to do an exposed zipper pocket. Time studies showed that sewing one pocket would take anywhere from 1:30 to 7 minutes, depending on the experience of the operator. Fast forward, I somehow ended up on eBay and bought a welt pocket machine. Now, we’ve decided to go back to welt pockets. An experienced operator can make a pocket in 10 seconds (literally) but I’ll be satisfied if we complete one per minute. Reason is, everybody is going to want to play with the machine but even at that rate, we’ll have all 200 pockets completed in under 4 hours. Before, with the results of the time study, we estimated that we’d need 7 operators on single needle machines, to complete the pockets in a bit over 4 hours. Read More