Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Manufacturing: Do-it-yourself vs. outsourcing

Tracey sent this question recently:

Why did you decide to hire seamstresses and manufacture Robeez yourself rather than look for a shoe/leather apparel manufacturer and have them made?

Good question! When I first started Robeez, the reason I decided to coordinate manufacturing myself was to save money. There were initial start-up costs and higher price per item associated with manufacturing companies. I knew that in order to make my home business profitable, I needed to operate on a lean budget. So I purchased a leather cutting machine and cut the leather pieces in my garage. I then compiled all the notions needed to make a pair of Robeez and sent the items to home-based seamstresses. I received the sewn shoes and I would then flip the shoes, clip the threads, and package them in bags. This process was certainly labour intensive but it was far more cost-effective.

As time went on, we chose to keep the Robeez manufacturing operation in Vancouver. There were a number of reasons that guided this decision: 1) Quality. In-house production means we can keep tabs on the quality of the product distributed. 2) Turnaround time. Shoes can quickly be produced as needs, within a matter of days if necessary. 3) Lead time. When production is outsourced there are often long leads times between order and delivery.4) New designs can be introduced to the market with very short lead times.

Tracey also had a few more questions: Also, did you have to patent the design? I am being told that patenting a design in the fashion business is not possible. Nor will a NDA hold water when looking for a manufacturer and presenting them with samples. Was this your experience? I received the same advice when I explored the subject with a patent lawyer.

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