Counting Backwards to Create a Production Timeline That Works

Marina Barnes is founder of Racysuits, the ultimate unitard inspired by ski racing suits worn by her grandfather in the 1980s!

Working backwards is the only way I can make sure I’ve scheduled my production timeline correctly. There are so many variables that come into play! A timeline is definitely the best way to stay organized, and sane!

Here is our upcoming manufacturing timeline, accomplished here in New York, that will fulfill our recently launched Kickstarter Campaign!

Timeline

Let’s start with my target “product in hand” date, January 2nd 2017. I immediately give myself a 2 week “OMG what happened!” cushion to prepare for setbacks. So I tell my manufacturer that I need my suits in hand on December 15th.

Monday, January 2nd – Target “product in hand date”.

(Calculate your two week “OMG What Happened!” cushion)

Thursday, December 15th – Production Deadline. (This is the date that will be on my manufacturing contract with the factory)

My manufacturer is in New York so I don’t need to worry about added shipping times. I will rent a Zipcar and pick them up myself! The manufacturer will usually give you a window of time they think they can complete your production run. In our case we were told 6-8 weeks. Always, always, always factor in the longer time. That 8 weeks tells me I need to start production by October 20th.

Thursday, October 20th – Production begins.

LFA-20

Great! We now have a sourcing deadline as well. All materials need to arrive BEFORE the 20th. After checking my calendar I decide that I want my materials to all arrive no later than the Friday before. This way we can check in the week before production starts to confirm all materials have arrived.

Related Reading:  Turning Your Prototypes into Factory Samples

It is important to get all of your materials to the manufacturer before you begin so you’re not slowing down their process. Your pattern maker may sew your product one way but in a factory they have multiple people working on different parts of your design all at once. The sizing tags might be sewn in on day one! Help your factory stay on schedule by giving them all the materials up front.

Friday, October 14th – All materials accounted for at production facility.

This is where my timeline gets a little nuts! This production run is being funded by a Kickstarter Campaign . . . well, I am very hopeful that it will be. This means that all of my material orders need to be priced out and ready in advance but I can’t order them until the Kickstarter campaign is successfully funded. All of my fabrics, zippers, threads, and tags take 4-5 weeks to deliver. The order must be placed by Friday September 9th to stay on schedule.

Friday, September 9th – Place orders for zippers, fabric, thread, and tags.

It is a tight deadline because my Kickstarter is scheduled to end on Thursday August 25th. However all of my sourcing relationships are already in place so sending payment will be the last step and can easily be processed by Friday the 26th.

That leaves me with the most important date. The date that will start get this entire production run in motion. The Racysuits Kickstarter launches on Tuesday July 26th. We are excited to get the community involved on this production run because we have spent the last year testing our suits, making improvements and learning everything we can about production in the USA. Our Kickstarter backers will also help us understand our audience better. They will get to pick which print they want and we can order our size quantities more accurately since they will be pre-ordering their sizes.

Related Reading:  The Right Way To Check References

Tuesday, July 26th – Racysuits Kickstarter Launches!

Kickstarter_website_header

I’m much more confident about this production run because I did a small batch run this spring with a previous manufacturer. It is a tough road and there are definitely ways to make it more efficient.

10 tips and tricks that are helping me improve my production process.

  1. Always give your deadlines a cushion. Prepare for setbacks.
  2. Make sure a signed production contract is in place. Verbal agreements can get messy.
  3. Have a technical designer review your factory samples and triple check they have done everything you’ve asked in your tech pack.
  4. Give yourself some time to think before you sign off on anything. Tell your factory “I will need to review this with my business partner, I’ll get back to you on that.” Try not to make any decisions onsite or on the phone, you’ll want a written email version of all your communication!
  5. Ask the manufacturer if there are ways to lower the cost of production. Is there a design element that is hiking up the price? Is there a simple pattern tweak that will make production more efficient? They will always be looking for the fastest most efficient way to get each job done so they may have some great ideas.
  6. Do a quality check before you bring your product home. Before you send over the final production payment.
  7. Discuss the option of a chargeback for any defects or mistakes on each suit. This will help with quality control.
  8. Proximity! At least for your first few production runs try to select a factory that is close to you. I drove out to my factory a dozen times last spring and the 1:1 face time helped solve any problem that came up.
  9. Don’t let on that it’s your first production run. Do your homework and present yourself as a confident production manager.
  10. Schedule regular visits. It’s great if you get to see the product through every step of the way. I love that my new factory encourages me to come by!
Related Reading:  Sourcing 101: Where Do You Begin?

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