The Expert Guide: How to Determine What Manufacturing Process Works for Your Brand

Determining the right manufacturing process

Choosing the right manufacturing process for your brand’s products involves a careful consideration of various factors, such as the nature of your designs, your target market, production volume, budget, and your brand’s values.

When aiming for sustainability, it’s essential to select processes that minimize environmental impact. Collaborating with manufacturers who share your commitment to sustainability and exploring innovative techniques can help you create products that align with your brand’s vision without compromising the environment.

Ultimately, the right manufacturing process and sustainable practices for your brand depend on a thoughtful evaluation of your unique circumstances.

Determining the right manufacturing process

Design complexity and material compatibility: Consider the intricacy of your designs and the materials you intend to use. Some manufacturing processes are better suited for complex or delicate designs, while others work well with certain materials. Also evaluate the scale of your production. Certain processes are more cost-effective for smaller batches, while others are optimized for larger quantities.

Lead time: Determine your desired production timeline. Some processes may have longer lead times due to their complexity or demand. 

“Timing is everything”, says Nicola Ferraro, former senior product development lead for Alexander Wang. “Not sticking to your calendar may affect your product quality. Make sure all your partners also have your timeline so they can plan accordingly and deliver on time and eliminate last-minute changes and timing issues. It could take up to four weeks to create a sample so give yourself and your partners enough time to plan and create.”

Cost: Analyze the cost implications of different manufacturing processes. Some methods might be more budget-friendly than others, but remember to balance cost with quality. 

Your margin is the difference between the cost of making a product and the profit you would like to make on it, which determines your retail price. You should mark out your material and make costs (FOB) and sourcing based on these numbers. Margins are based on company goals and you should aim to make more than 50%; 65% to 75% is regarded as a healthy margin.

The FOB (free on board) cost is how much it takes to create your products (such as factory, manufacturing, transport and distribution), while the landed cost is the expenses related to shipping the finished product either to a buyer, retailer or customer.

Quality control: Consider the level of quality control required for your products. Some processes allow for more precision and consistent quality. Though maintaining the integrity of designs can be difficult due to cost, it’s important to always maintain the design in the fit of a garment. Keep it as close as possible to the original idea or materials and don’t cut too many corners in order maintain the brand aesthetic.

Expertise: Assess your team’s expertise or the availability of skilled manufacturers for different processes. Complex techniques may require specialized knowledge. Align the chosen process with your brand’s identity and the story you want to tell. Handmade processes might emphasize craftsmanship, while technological processes may highlight innovation.

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Creating sustainable products

Material selection: Choose sustainable materials with a lower environmental footprint, such as organic fabrics, recycled materials, or innovative sustainable textiles. Opt for local suppliers and manufacturers to reduce transportation emissions and support your local economy.

According to Jacqueline Shaw, fashion consultant, author and founder of Africa Fashion Guide, a platform that provides brands with access to garment, shoe, textile and accessory makers on the continent,“You have to know what you want and where to get it from. Approximately 37,000 farmers in eight African countries grow organic cotton. Tanzania is the largest organic cotton-producing country in Africa, followed (in order of volume) by Uganda, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Egypt, Ethiopia and Senegal.”

Vetting a potential manufacturer is a crucial step in building a successful relationship for your brand’s products. By thoroughly vetting potential manufacturers based on these key factors, brands can make informed decisions and choose a reliable partner to produce high-quality products for their business.

Ethical manufacturing: Partner with manufacturers that adhere to ethical labor practices and provide safe working conditions for employees.

Energy efficiency: Look for manufacturing processes that consume less energy and emit fewer greenhouse gases. Minimize waste by designing efficiently, using materials wisely, and exploring zero-waste or minimal-waste manufacturing techniques.

Circular design: Design products with end-of-life considerations in mind, aiming for recyclability or upcycling potential.

Dyeing and finishing techniques: Choose eco-friendly dyeing and finishing methods that reduce water consumption and chemical usage.

Packaging: Use sustainable packaging materials and designs that lessen waste and can be recycled or reused.

Transparency: Communicate your brand’s commitment to sustainability to your customers. Transparency builds trust and encourages conscious consumer choices.

Certifications: Look for certifications like GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) or OEKO-TEX Standard 100 that validate the environmental and social sustainability of your products.

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What to look for in potential manufacturers

Vetting a potential manufacturer is a crucial step in building a successful relationship for your brand’s products. By thoroughly vetting potential manufacturers based on the key factors below, you can make informed decisions and choose a reliable partner to produce high-quality products for your business.

Experience and reputation: Look for a manufacturer with a strong track record and reputation in the industry. Check how long they have been in business, their client list, and any reviews or testimonials from previous customers.

Compliance: Verify that the manufacturer complies with industry regulations and standards. Check for certifications such as ISO, FDA, or GMP, depending on your industry requirements.

Production capacity: Determine if the manufacturer has the capacity to meet your production needs, both in terms of volume and timeline. Discuss lead times, production schedules, and flexibility in scaling production.

Technology and capabilities: Assess the manufacturer’s technology and capabilities to ensure they can produce the type of products you require. Ask about their equipment, processes, and any specializations they may have.

Quality control measures: Ensure that your potential manufacturing partner has stringent quality control measures in place to guarantee the highest quality products. Ask about their quality control processes, certifications, and inspections.

Location and logistics: Consider the manufacturer’s location in relation to your target market and distribution channels. Evaluate their logistics capabilities, shipping options, and potential cost savings from sourcing locally or internationally.

References and site visits: Request references from other clients who have successfully worked with the manufacturer and consider visiting their facilities in person. This will give you a firsthand look at their operations, workforce, and overall capabilities.