Garment manufacturing lead time starts when the deposit for the fabric is made. The lead-time ends when the goods are delivered to the port in Vietnam and turned over to the freight forwarding company. Typically it is 60 days. In this post I discuss all the steps in between. Lead-time obviously depends on the quantity of garments being produced. In my explanations below, let’s assume a quantity of 5,000 pieces for one style. The three basic steps are:
There are 5 steps to manufacture fabric. The first step of making fabric is buying the yarn. Second, is knitting. Third, is dyeing and finishing. The fourth step is checking. And the last step is relaxing the fabric. This process is managed in many different ways and there are too many variables to describe here. Either the factory buys the finished fabric or the factory manages each step in-house or using different sub contractors. If you are buying on FOB terms you don’t have to get involved. It is the factory’s responsibility. What you need to know, is that it takes at least two weeks to make fabric from scratch.
Fabric checking is important for you to understand and clarify with the factory. The last thing you want is faulty fabric. The first problem is that faulty fabric delays your production and the second problem is that it is hard to get replacement fabric or get your money back. A good factory has a four-point fabric checking system. As soon as your sewing factory informs you that the fabric arrived, ask them for the fabric checking report. Understanding fabric production is key to shortening garment manufacturing lead time. Here is a great blog post that goes into more detail about fabric checking calculations.
When fabric arrives at the factory it arrives in rolls. When the fabric is “rolled up” it stretches beyond its normal dimensions. This is more applicable to knit fabric than woven fabric. To remedy this, a factory must relax knit fabric for at least 24 hours before cutting. Relaxing means they unroll it and set it out on a crate bunched up loosely. To check their competency level, ask them, “do you relax the fabric for 48 hours?” A good factory will answer confidently, “no, we only relax the fabric for 24 hours.” Remember, for woven fabric, relaxing is not an issue.
For 5,000 pieces, you would need approximately 6,000 meters of fabric, which would take 16 days to produce.
Once the fabric is in house, the factory can make a pre-production sample. The sample is usually size medium. This should take a maximum of three days. They will send you the sample and you need to either approve it or ask for alterations. Sending the samples via DHL takes at least 2 days each way. Assume you turn around the comments in a day. You are looking at a week for fit samples to be processed.
The basic steps of production are:
Fabric Cutting – 2 Days; 2,500 pieces per day
Sewing – 6 Days; Average 900 pieces per day
QC – On going
Ironing – 2 Days; 2,500 pieces per day
Folding – 3 Days; 1,666 pieces per day
Packing – 1 Day
First the fabric is laid out on the table and the marker is laid on top of the fabric. Cutter staff cut along the marker lines. The result is stacks of panels. A panel might be the right sleeve or front chest, for example. The panel stacks are bundled together and sent to the sewing lines.
Often printing and/or embroidery needs to be done before sewing. So, special care is taken to separate the sleeve, for example, to be sent away to the embroidery supplier. Hopefully the embroidery sub-contractor is not backlogged or else the embroidery step could take a week when in fact the job is finished in one day.
Once the line is ready, the line leader will assign sewing operations and the first couple of garments are made. It takes the line 2 – 3 days to reach maximum capacity and ensure the quality control. This is called “setting up the line”. After that, it’s all about improving the line efficiency and constantly checking quality. Generally speaking, one sewing line can produce 900 garments per day.
Quality control is done in line and there is a separate quality control section between the lines and ironing. Any defective garments are either fixed or removed from production.
Ironing happens after the final QC and before folding.
Folding includes adding accessories like tissue, silica gel bags, and hang tags before the folded garment is inserted into poly-bags and put into the carton box. Garment manufacturing lead time includes many small steps. The more you understand the more you can find ways to speed things up.
In Summary: The whole process of garment manufacturing lead time in Vietnam takes anywhere from 60 to 120 days depending on the complexity of the garment AND other orders the factory is doing. The step that takes the longest is fabric production. The second most time consuming step is printing or embroidery because usually the factory has to send the panels out for printing and embroidery. What you need to keep in mind is that the TOTAL time it takes to get your garments to YOUR warehouse is production lead-time PLUS shipping time. Best-case scenario is 60 days production time and 30 days shipping. Producing in Vietnam means that you won’t see your garments for at least 90 days.