(Views expressed in this article are the personal opinion of the author)
Purchasing the right fabric can be sometimes a tough challenge faced by apparel manufacturers. Out of the total cost of manufacturing a garment piece, the cost of fabric can contribute between 50 and 65 per cent. Furthermore, even a minor oversight in selecting the right fabric and right manufacturer may spoil the entire apparel programme. Interestingly, though the fabric constitutes the main part of a garment, many of the apparel merchandisers have a very limited knowledge about fabric. They consider fabric as another component of raw material like buttons, care labels, and hang tags or packing materials. Unfortunately, describing a fabric in terms of specification to fulfill its end use is much more complicated than communicating the requirement of any other component of a garment and many apparel merchandisers do not have the necessary knowledge or training to order the right fabric from the right manufacturer at the right price. To be on the safer side, they simply ask various suppliers to bid for their lowest price and finally select the one who offers the lowest price or the most favourable term.
Consequently we often see the adverse effects of poor fabric sourcing strategy every day in the apparel industry. Garment air shipment cost is prohibitive and applied as penalty only when the apparel manufacturer fails to deliver the consignments beyond acceptable delays. The cost of air-freight is so high that air shipment of a single consignment of garments may wipe off the profit of a few months for the garment manufacturer. A study revealed that more than 80% of all garment air shipment is caused due to poor fabric sourcing management.
Fortunately, such critical errors can be avoided when sourcing woven fabric for manufacturing garments and the procedure is easier than we think about it. When discussing with the garment buyer, do not just talk about the target price he or she is giving you. Ask about the fabric in more detail. This is not only about the counts, construction and weight of the fabric but about some important and critical points. Here are certain things to keep in mind to ensure a trouble free fabric sourcing.
Know the end use that clarifies the required quality standards like colour fastness, pilling / abrasion resistance, tear and tensile strength, stability towards special types of garment wash if any etc. Do not feel hesitant to ask those questions because at the end of the day if something does not match the buyers requirement, everyone will suffer losses.
Special requirements like shade / strike off approval conditions, finishing standard, feel of the fabric, etc., to be discussed, noted and shared with the buyer and the fabric manufacturer.
The garment delivery lead time should be calculated after taking the fabric delivery lead time into consideration. Many garment buyers demand very short, sometimes unrealistic delivery lead time. You should consider the lead time required for each necessary activities like LC opening, sample approval, lab dip approval, one or two re-submits that may be required, inspection and shipment time for the fabric, clearance and transportation to the warehouse and all related activities.
Inspection of the fabric and grouping those according to shades are to be done with extra care. For example, if one particular colour is having a large quantity, it is natural to have 2-3 batch wise variation. Mixing shade batches on the cutting table can result in disaster. To make the process easier, the fabric supplier should be instructed to supply the shade grouping charts with roll number mentioned against each shade swatch. The garment buyers also should be informed clearly that for large volume orders that require fabric processing in more than one batch, there would be small batch to batch variation in properties.
Fabric with special surface finish like peach finish, micro-sanding, etc. needs special care. Firstly, the supplier must be instructed to roll such fabric with face inside and put arrow marks on each piece showing the direction of such finish with clear arrow marks at both ends. This is to avoid massive shade variation due to stitching pieces finished in different directions, together.
Transportation and storage Avoid buying fabric that may change properties during the reasonable time required for transportation storage. For example, do not buy a post-cure resin finished fabric from a faraway place because during transport and storage, the resin may start cross-linking in the fabric, thus spoiling the required DP rating after garment finishing process.
Last but not the least; orders should be placed with fabric manufacturers of reputation. Giving 10 cents more to a responsible and reputed manufacturer may prove to save lot of costs and penalties going forward. Failing to supply garments on time also badly affects the reputation which is priceless. The products of reputed companies also give better realization, lesser wastage and higher efficiency at garment making process.
At the end of the day, we should keep in mind that real prosperity does not mean only buying cheap and selling high to earn short term profit. The apparel manufacturing company that focuses on delivering quality, punctuality, communication and value to each customer will never have any shortage of business and riches in the long run.
About the Author:
The Author is specialized in management of Apparel Fabric business. During his more than 30 years of managerial experience of working with a number of Indian textile fabric and apparel manufacturing companies, he has observed that more than 80% problems in the Indian Textile and apparel Industry is related to managing people and lack of adequate HR Development initiatives. Besides having his consulting profession in textile fabric marketing, he also offers Executive Coaching and Consulting in the textile and apparel industries.