Turning Your Prototypes into Factory Samples

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If you’re a soft goods maker and want to move to scale your production with a cut and sew partner, we’ve got some tips to share with you on how to set your Brand up for success. When I created the original concept for Spand-Ice wearable ice & heat gear, I worked with my Product Designer  from our original concept drawings through creating a tangible prototype and eventually partnering with our production house to create our perfect samples (What we call the “Gold Sample”) to reference for each production run.

After going through this process with several other thermal therapy products we developed in our Spand-Ice Brand, we streamlined our process from taking an idea and making it into a quality product ready for our customers.  When you’re ready to work with your cut and sew partner on making your products for your Brand, we’ve outlined the easiest way to onboard your new production partner:

Make a Great Prototype:

The first step is to start by creating a prototype. Being part of development is an important step to ensure that your product is at its absolute best before making multiples. So do your best to be sure that whomever you hire for the process is a good fit. This process can take many iterations and months until you find the right fabrics and determine specifically what your product needs to be successful.

Provide a Sample, Pattern and Tech Pack:

A sample of your new prototype serves as a reference to your factory during their process of making your product on larger scale. At Spand-Ice, we always create 2 final prototypes, one for us to keep in-house and one for the production house. Hint: This makes it easy when reviewing the factory sample.

Spand_IceTherapyPrototype

If you can also provide a tech pack and paper pattern along with your sample, this will be the fastest way to communicate HOW to make your product. The tech pack provides instruction to the factory on everything they need to know to make your sample such as materials, stitch operations, and assembly. The paper pattern represents the actual cut pieces of materials to ensure their pieces march up during assembly.

Factory Made Sample + Review:

The next step is for the factory to make a “counter sample” based on what you’ve provided to them. It usually takes a few weeks for this stage before they send it back to you for review. Make sure that you take the time to thoroughly review this sample! It may look very similar to your product, but you may notice differences in things like stitching, tension, dimensions and label placement.

After making your product, the factory may even suggest alternate materials, construction or sewing operations to improve your production process.

Work Out the Kinks:

It’s not uncommon for a sample to need some modifications after comparing your prototype to the factory’s version of your product.  If you do go through any changes, be sure to document these details.

Spand_IceTherapyPrototype3

Get to GOLD:

Getting you and the factory aligned on how to make your product will result in a “Gold Sample” that you both sign off on. This will be the reference sample that you and the factory will refer to going forward. It will serve as what is acceptable coming off the production line as well as a tool to help with any future changes on future production runs.

Spand_IceTherapyPrototype2

Start Small:

For us at Spand-Ice, new products are really quite new in the marketplace, so we work with our manufacturer to start with small batch production runs before ramping up. This helps us to ensure we’re aligned with our customer and it allows us to make quick changes as needed.

Weather you are starting with a new factory or a new product in your Brand, the key is to communicate as much as you can about the construction of your pieces. What you establish in the beginning as your standard will be the quality you are willing to accept on your customer’s behalf.

Review: Quick Steps to Perfect Samples:

  • Create great prototypes
  • Provide a sample, tech pack and pattern to your factory
  • Factory sample Review
  • Work out the Kinks
  • Get to your Gold Sample
  • Start Small Batch Manufacturing

Learn More About Your First Sample with a FREE Email Course

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  • Antony Antony

    I have soft goods made in China and I wonder how much more expensive would it be to have it done in the US.. I know, it really depends on the kind of products, details, etc. but, has anyone experience with this? I’m trying to figure out how much more expensive it would be if I take in consideration shipping costs & customs duties that I normally incur in when I import from China