This report reviews how Milk & Soda, an Australian apparel company, produces their wares in a global environment and ensure that the quality of the product is in line with what the consumer requires. The report also reviews best practices for global apparel production processes and how these best practices can be challenging in today’s marketplace.
Milk & Soda, an Australian apparel company, uses quality control processes in their manufacturing processes in order to verify that their products are made to their standards and are all the same. There are many different quality control practices used worldwide and in Australia in order to produce the best quality product that is consistent on a regular basis. Milk & Soda uses many of the common production strategies and quality control and assurance goals.
2. Global Apparel Production
2.1 Quality Control and Assurance
Quality control is the systems that are needed to program and coordinate the efforts of different teams within an organization with the goal of maintaining quality. Quality control is an agent of quality assurance. Every business needs to be concerned about quality. Customers expect and demand to get value for the money they are spending. Alagulakshmi, Subhathra, Vanitha note “As producers of apparel there must be a constant endeavor to produce work of good quality.” Quality in the garment industry begins before even sourcing the raw materials and continues through until the sale of the finished garment. Textile and apparel industries calculate product quality regarding standards of fibres, fabric construction, yarns, colour fastness, design of the surface, and the finished garment. Expectations of quality for export products are related to the customer segments and store outlets in the prospective country. “Quality control and standards are one of the most important aspects of the content of any job and therefore a major factor in training.” Quality control ensures that the customer is satisfied. It is a necessary evil as it can be expensive (Alagulaskshmi, et al., 2015).
Fashion labels should approach quality assurance and control by itemizing the variables that can occur within the fabric and garment production line. This will offer a complete specification of potential issues. With this information, a specification in the numbers or types of parts or section to verify that all staff has a clear understanding of what is needed. Appropriate working tolerances should be determined for each portion of the manufacturing process. Recording fault rates can help to establish if changes are needed. A technical understanding of the product should include fabric geometry, yarn count interrelationship, loop length, relaxation, pick count, and fabric properties. Sewing problems should be address in quality control as well as the causes and prevention of seam breakdown. There are various factors which can affect the shade of goods which will cause problems in shade matching. These are all factors which should be addressed for quality control in the garment industry (Alagulaskshmi, et al., 2015).
After the garment is completed, tests for the physical properties of the item should be conducted. The dimensions and weight of the garment should be noted upon completion. Washing and during the garment should be followed by rechecking the dimension and weight Once all of the information regarding the garment, fabric, and yarn has been fully gathered it should be given to the cost department. After cost analysis any changes required by the firm or its buyers should be made and these changes should be noted as well (Alagulaskshmi, et al., 2015).
Quality control efforts allow for results to be analyzed in order to make necessary changes. This allows for assurance and implementation. Current results should be compared against those from earlier tests. Other comparisons to make are results from different materials on the same machines with the same operators, different machines using the same materials with same operatives, and different operatives using the same type of machine and the same materials. The internal results should even be compared against similar studies from outside sources. This confirms or suggests the need to modify standards (Alagulaskshmi, et al., 2015).
Production of any garment is an eighteen step process. The entire production process starts with the sketch of the garment and ends with the final dispatching of the garment when it is ready for export. After the garment is sketched a basic block is made which is the garment in its most basic form without seam allowances, style, or design. A working pattern, a basic block with allowances, is made next. From this pattern, the factory will develop a sample which is sent back to the buyer for changes. When the sample is reviewed by the purchaser, faults are found and changes made. A final sample is made based on the changes requested, and the approved sample is then sent to the buyer again. This is the design phase of the production process (Textile Learner, 2014).
After the final product is designed, administration of the product is needed. Fabric costing, making charged, trimmings and profits are all calculated. At the same time, the factory is developing the production pattern which includes allowances and net dimension needed for bulk production. Grading is done to allow for different sizes of the garment. The marker is made. The marker is a thin paper pattern with all the necessary components. The garment is ready to be made (Textile Learner, 2014).
At this point, the fabric is spread on the table appropriately for cutting and is then cut based on the marker. The cut fabric pieces are bundled together based on garment size. The sewing phase of garment production is when the bundled pieces of fabric are sewn together. The completed garment is ironed and finished. It is at this point when the garment is inspected to ensure it matches the approved sample. The approved garment is packed in polyethylene bags when are ten gathered into a carton. The garment in the bag, in the carton, is ready for export and is dispatched for the buyer to receive, ending the production process (Textile Learner, 2014).
For any quality control system to be effective, it must be reviewed on a set time basis by senior management to verify that it is working appropriately. Internal audits should be completed on a regular basis and not just as a result of a problem. These reviews are required so that the product item meets all internal standards as well as Quality Standards (Mehta, 1998).
Quality Standards are the levels at which a defect becomes inappropriate. In other words, how broken does something have to be before it is considered not acceptable for sale. Standards can be internally set, or controlled by a governing agency. The American Society for Testing and Materials and the International Organization for Standardization are just two of the more common international standard makers (Mehta, 1998).
3. Local Apparel Production
Leah Nelson and Dully Lee are co-founders and creative directors of Milk & Soda. They work together to oversee all brand and creative decisions for the company to make sure that visual communication is consistent and within the vision of the company and that is translated into the product they produce. They also decide on which brands Milk & Soda can collaborate with. In other words, they are deeply involved in the product development and quality control process (Nelson & Lee, ?).
3.2 Quality Assurance
In order to keep the customer satisfied, the product must be of quality and if the level of quality is not standardized the product line, or business can fail, but it costs money to assure quality. The entire process from start to finish will require a quality assurance, from product design all the way through to the final sale. There are many aspects of quality in a garment and the aspects which can determine the budget and how much the company is willing to spend. Performance, durability, reliability, visual, and perceived quality of the garment are all aspects of quality assurance (Chuter, 2002).
3.3 Production and Quality Control
Milk & Soda’s customers expect quality when they purchase hair accessories, hats and caps, neckties, belts, and braces, as well as eyewear. Nelson and Lee describe their business “This is our 4th year being on the ethical handmade quest. Our hair accessories, jewelry, and neckties are handmade by a team of women in South Korea who are passionate about their work. Once we approve samples, production is outsourced to various groups who work from home, enabling them to work around their children and supportive families. A balanced woman makes the best mother.” The pair makes a point to travel to the locations of production in order to build open, fair, and consistent relationships based on respect and trust with the manufacturing teams. They note that transparency is essential (Nelson & Lee, ?).
Milk & Soda is a small team of 12 people focusing on design, production, sales and marketing as well as accounts receivable and payable. The quality control process starts and ends with the team but is equally important in the manufacturing. Manufacturing is done offshore in South Korea and China for cost savings. The South Korea construction is managed by Milk & Soda. Seven independently owned and managed factories are used in China. Production is controlled using an excel spreadsheet. Nelson and Lee rely on their facilities to ensure quality control. “Before shipment is released, a quality control manager from each company ensures that the quality standards are being met according to Australian standards and international requirements” (Nelson & Lee, ?). Outsourcing product production is very frequent in the Australian fashion industry. Only 5% of apparel is actually produced in the country simply due to cost (English, 2010).
The firm experiences the same challenges that many smaller apparel companies face. The biggest is being able to trust the quality control and assurance which is taking place in the factories which they use to outsource production. Since there is no one from the company there onsite verifying the the clothing is being manufactured up to their standards, it is important for the company to have open communication with their managerial teams in the outsourced firm. They must continuously speak with them in order to make sure the quality is to the standards of Milk & Soda.
Milk & Soda is a small design label working in typical ways to design, develop, manufacture, and sell clothing and accessories for kids and teens. They use quality control to produce products which are made successfully and to reduce the number of seconds or products which cannot be sold at all. Quality control managers in the factors ensure that products are of good enough quality to be sold. The firm follows many of the standard best practises for global production and verifies that the products are made up to the standards that the company has set for quality.
- Alagulaskshmi, V., Subhathra, K. & Vanitha, S., 2015. Quality systems for garment manufacture. Fibre 2 Fashions, pp. 1-5.
- Chuter, A., 2002. Quality management in the clothing and textile industries. Manchester, UK: Textile Institute.
- English, B., 2010. Australian Fashion Unstitched: The Last 60 Years. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
- Mehta, P., 1998. Managing Quality in the Apparel Industry. New Delhi: New Age International.
Nelson, L. & Lee, D., ?. Milk & Soda [Interview] (? ? ?).