5 Smart Strategies to Reduce Sample Lead Times

November 15, 2016

One of the most common complaints about apparel manufacturing are the long lead times. From our online survey, brands were experiencing an average of 4-8 weeks to get a single sample. So what can you do as a brand to reduce lead time?

Finalize Design Sampling

Before you start sampling, have your designs finalized. The best way to reduce lead time is to reduce the number of iterations required. While there will inevitably be design changes, keeping these minimal can literally save months of lead time. Remember - changing a button or seam on Illustrator may only take you 5 minutes, but it also requires the pattern to be re-made, fabric to be re-cut, or materials to be re-sourced.

Submit a Complete Tech Pack

The tech pack is a central document in the manufacturing process. By having a complete tech pack, it helps improve the quality of the first sample, which leads to less iterations. So what do we mean by a “complete tech pack?” Your tech pack should include the bill of materials, a specification sheet with grade rules, and all design details clearly documented.

Send Good References

There are two types of references that help reduce lead time: material references and construction references. Material references are fabric, button, and other trim items sent to the factory. This removes the guesswork out of the materials you want and can save weeks of sourcing time. Construction references are physical garments used for fit or construction techniques. While having a solid tech pack means a construction reference is frequently not required, providing them can help the patternmaker translate your vision into a pattern more accurately.

Provide Good Feedback

The first sample of a style will rarely be perfect, which means there will have to be iterations. This is both ok and expected. However, providing good feedback can help reduce the number of iterations you’ll need. When providing feedback, be as specific as possible. For example, don’t say “body length is too small.” Instead say body length should be increased by 1” from 28” to 29.”

Submit a Purchase Order (PO)

Factories don’t make money on samples. They view them as loss leaders for production. So by providing a PO, the factory knows you’re serious and will prioritize you over other customers who have not submitted POs.

Conclusion:

While these aren’t the only tactics, these represent the methods we’ve seen customers have the most success with. Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to faster lead times.

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