Key Aspects of Producing and Manufacturing Soft Goods

Product Development

Manufacturing a garment or another new consumer product using soft goods is a highly-technical process that can be quite overwhelming if it’s something you’ve never done before.

Manufacturing a garment or another new consumer product using soft goods is a highly-technical process that can be quite overwhelming if it’s something you’ve never done before. Tech packs, spec sheets, sampling – these terms can be confusing if you aren’t familiar with the process before you get started. Below, we’ve detailed each of these terms including what they mean, how they fit into the manufacturing process and what you need to keep in mind as you move into sourcing and manufacturing a new soft goods product.

Tech Packs for the Production and Manufacturing of Soft Goods

What is a tech pack?

Tech packs are crucial to the process of executing your product. It is the blueprint for your design that contains all of the directions and construction elements that the manufacturer needs to create the design; once you hand off your design and tech pack to the factory or pattern maker, the tech pack will serve as their guide to follow. The tech pack should contain all of the construction detail and include material qualities, trims, stitching and reference notes. This will help the factory determine what resources are needed to begin the sampling process, as well as what skill workers and machines are required. This information will also help the factory determine an estimated cost of the end product, as well as a timeline for target start and end dates.

When the final sample is approved, meaning all specifications have been agreed upon, your factory will get started on production. This final approval and last iteration of the tech pack will serve as your insurance policy; if anything unexpected happens to your production run, you can counter the factory with your documents that both parties agreed upon.

Who receives and uses the tech pack?

A tech pack will pass through the hands of industrial designers, tech designers, pattern makers, sample makers and contractors. All will be working together on the product, but not necessarily at the same time – keep in mind that everyone working with different methods will be handling your product at different stages. This is why including every detail in the tech pack and leaving no room for interpretation is so important. A thorough tech pack causes less confusion and more consistency from sampling through to production. This is especially important if you are working with factories overseas or in any distant location you can’t easily visit.

It’s also important to remember that the people creating your product will be simultaneously working on other client’s products as well, so the more clear and detailed your documents are, the more accurately and quickly your product can be sampled and sent to production. If all of the information in the tech pack can be easily and clearly communicated to the factory, this will help to decrease lead time, because it facilitates keeping the designer or developer and factory on the same page.

What should be included in a tech pack?

A tech pack should include all of the information, direction and construction elements needed for the factory to create the soft goods product you’ve designed. Additionally, the tech pack is a running history of your product, so tech packs are updated at sample fittings when any changes are made. Any comments and updates are added to keep a history of changes made to the documents.

A good tech pack should include:

  • A CAD or technical drawing with a front and back view created using Adobe Illustrator. Additional views or other detail should be included as needed.
  • Photographs of reference items if available, sent to the factory for sourcing and quality matching.
  • A colorway page to show fabric placement and color combinations.
  • Construction details such as stitch type, SPI (stitches per inch) and thread quality with color of thread included for the factory to reference.
  • Any branding details, graphics, print artwork or embellishments such as embroidery or appliques with a trim reference outlining quality and size to match.
  • Art for label and packaging details as well as care instructions and content, added to a separate page for the factory to reference.
  • Specific measurements, grading specifications and fit comments; these are typically created in Excel and the Illustrator construction pages are added to the document to reference.

Spec Sheet for the Production and Manufacturing of Soft Goods

A spec sheet is the document that contains all of the points of measurement that will be referenced for accurate fit, as well as target spec measurements and detailed sewing instructions. The factory will use your base size on the spec sheet according to the specs provided to make the first patterns. Tolerances for each POM (point of measure) should be included so that the sample can be checked against if it is over or under, affecting the fit due to pattern, cutting or sewing. Another column in the spec sheet will contain the grade rules for each POM. Most spec sheets are set up in Excel where a formula can easily be calculated and edited to meet the required grading for each size based on the sample size.

At each sample iteration, the spec sheet is updated and all POM specs are recorded. Fit comments are noted on the sheet to keep a history for the developer and factory to review for every change, rejection and approval made. Photos should be included for every fitting showing the garment on the fit model, as well as pinning or adjustments that need to be made or revised design lines.

Sampling for the Production and Manufacturing of Soft Goods

Sampling is one of the key elements of the production process. The sampling process follows a format that begins with using the tech pack information to create the first sample to submit for fit and construction. First samples are not typically made with the correct trims, embellishments, printing applications or in the correct color or fabric. They should, however, have trim substitutes and be made in a fabric that is very similar to the selected end fabrication. If there are issues with the first samples, they should either be made again, or approved to be corrected in the pre-production sample (PPS).

Pre-production samples are made as a representation of bulk production and are made before the bulk fabric is cut, and all necessary trims are in-house. This means that your PPS samples will be in the correct color and fabric and have all approved trims or embellishments and prints. The factory will keep a PPS for reference and send one to you for approval. A size set can also be requested at the PPS stage to ensure that the garments matches the specs across the given size range. Once the PPS is approved, the factory will start bulk production.

Salesman samples (SMS) are often placed prior to bulk orders, although not every project requires this step. If your company has a sales team you will most likely need SMS for them to show to buyers so they can book orders. They should be representative of the bulk production, and sometimes they are duly used as the PPS for approval.

Top of production samples, also known as TOP samples, are pulled from the first garments off of the production line that are finished and packed. These are compared to the PPS and reviewed to make sure that all is correct. If an issue is found, it is usually too late at this point – all panels will have most likely been cut. In the case of an issue in bulk production, the inspectors can be put on alert for what to look for. Negotiations for a re-work or discount can begin with the factory for any problems found prior to final inspection.

To learn more about product development, sampling, manufacturing and technical soft goods, get in touch today!

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