Working With Factories If You Are A Small Company November 12 2015
A few months ago, I went to a Maker's Row event that featured brands showing and selling their wares. Each representative gave a brief speech about his/her brand and how Maker's Row helped to streamline and expand his/her business. One statement really struck me because, at the time, I was dealing with the same issue. "If you only have small orders, factories don't care about you."
That statement may sound fatalistic, but it's true. If you are a small company with a small order that will barely pay the factory's light bill for the month, they really don't care. Many factories will get one order from one company that will bring 10's of thousands of dollars in revenue. Money talks, but there are ways that a small company can mitigate being lost in the shuffle.
Small Batch Factories
There are factories in the USA that primarily fulfill small batch orders of a few hundred or less. It behooves a small company to stay away from factories that primarily fulfill large orders because, as mentioned before, money talks. You will see your order pushed to the side over and over again and/or haphazardly constructed by a newbie employee because their priority is large higher revenue orders. Stick to factories that work with small businesses and focus on small orders.
It is important to check up on your order, especially as you get closer to the due date. Make sure that they have everything needed in order to complete the order and have a phone conversation to ensure that they are clear on the specs of the garment. As the due date grows near, ask for a progress report. Never get into the tardy dance with a factory, because tardiness will become a habit if they know that they can get away with it. If a week has passed and they haven't even started your order, I would reconsider working with them. You always have to be on top of your orders not just in terms of quality control but also timeliness.
Know When To Give Up
As a small company you will not have much clout in terms of a factory prioritizing your orders, so do not hesitate to ask the tardy factory to forward your pattern and fabric to a different factory. I was working with a large batch factory to make one sample shirt and after 1.5 months of calling and emailing almost everyday, I finally pulled the order (I should've done it a long time ago). They even stopped answering my calls because they recognized my number on the caller ID. It is important to note that I was never rude or short with anyone, I was polite. It does not pay to get nasty ESPECIALLY if you are a small company with not that much clout. Persistence can only go so far when you are competing with large orders that will bring $10,000+ in revenues for the factories.
BE ON TOP OF THINGS! Never let the due date pass without contacting the factory and seeing what's up. A lot of places will take on more than they can chew and I've had tardiness issues with pattern makers and small batch factories. If you are hands off then factories and other service providers will cut corners. You should only work with factories that are meticulous with quality and stick to their lead times. There are many factories in the USA and you should only work with those that value your business and your time.