Author Topic: Standard Operating Procedures  (Read 2450 times)

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BOgear

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Standard Operating Procedures
« on: March 16, 2015, 07:15:52 PM »
Okay mind-hive, hoping to get a discussion going for those that are wanting to take their business to the next level, and hopefully step back slightly from the manufacturing side of things.

Here is the back story:
I have been running BOgear since mid-2008. We have progressed from spare bedroom to small car garage, to double car garage, to taking up the entire downstairs of a house. We are now in commercial premises and employ 5 staff (including myself). I have always wanted to run a business, not be an employee in my own business, and so have been making moves to extract myself from the day-to-day manufacturing. I feel BOgear has come to a stage where for growth to happen I need to focus more on the business side of things, as well as the marketing side of things. I know a lot of other small business operators like myself who are in the same situation but having difficulty extracting themselves.

Conveniently my wife has snagged a job in Northern Territory of Australia and so I plan to move up there with her, away from the business. I plan to eventually roll into a FIFO (fly in, fly out) style arrangement where I spend 3 weeks in NT working on the business, and then drop back in to the studio for 1 week of catching up with the manufacturing side of things. This is the catalyst to make it happen; I cannot live away from her, nor do I wish to close BOgear. Hence I am "forced" to really make BOgear a business not a job. Blessing in disguise!

Here is where you all come in. What Standard Operating Procedures and so forth have you set up, and how do you operate your business??

For me, BOgear is very much a Custom Bag studio; 50% of what we make is custom colour choices (not custom patterns) while the rest of the bulk is contract manufacturing. A small extra percentage is "off the shelf" stock which is usually black. I have found that setting up procedures for batch or bulk manufacturing is easy, however setting up procedures and processes for Custom is a heck of a lot harder - mainly as it is essentially "sample work" with a start-to-finish style manufacture, rather than batch-manufacture.

Now I better show you mine before you show me yours  ;)

Here is what we currently do:
1. Receive an order via the website or email

2. An ORDER SHEET is filled out, covering all details (download a copy: http://www.bogear.com.au/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Order-Sheet_SPARE-CAMEL.pdf)
This sheet is split in half vertically, so we have two ORDER SHEETS per a4 page.
a. Top two "tags" above the photograph is filled out. This includes Order Number (so the entire order is trackable) as well as the Due Date (so everyone knows when things are due). The top "tag" which is encased in a box is later cut off and added to our Order Board (under the Make/machinist section) while the rest of the ORDER SHEET is left with the cut product.
b. Under the "cut" section, colours are entered
c. Under the "upgrades" section, standard upgrade options are ticked. If not required this is crossed out to reduce potential confusion.
More explanation of how to use this sheet below... (and if anything doesn't make sense, I can explain this sheet better!)

3. If extra notes/custom ability is required a SUPPLEMENT SHEET is filled out  (download a copy: http://www.bogear.com.au/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Supplement-Sheet_SPARE-CAMEL.pdf)
a. This has a tonne of writing room on the right, and then a 3d sketch of the product. There is also one blank section for hand drawn images, as well as two exterior pattern shapes for easier hand drawn notes (most of the modifications we do to the Spare Camel are to the front wall, so this was the obvious section to have pre-drawn).

4. Both ORDER SHEET and SUPPLEMENT SHEET are placed on the Cut/Table Hand's section of the Order Board.

5. On the required cutting-day, the Table Hand picks up the ORDER SHEET and cuts it according to specs shown
a. They also tick off the boxes as he/she does so (so if they only half do a job the next person can see where to pick up).
b. Sections such as "front/back/side" etc are individually bundled to reduce confusion. Often we have similar length pieces of webbing and so having them already bundled into their correct location solves this issue.
c. Once fully bundled (we roll to keep everything together) the ORDER SHEET is rubber banded to the order.



6. Once fully cut and prepared, the Table Hand puts the Cut Order on the PROCESSING shelf, and the top ORDER SHEET TAG on the Order Board. The ORDER SHEET TAG is the top boxed section of the ORDER SHEET. Just to confirm, one part of the sheet (the longer part) remains with the cut goods until postage, while the other tag or ticket is put on the Order Board.

7. Machinist sews
a. Machinist sews the bag section by section following a SOP if required.
b. I still have to do this, but Sample Products will be created so they can refer back to that if required.
c. Example of a step by step SOP can be found here: http://www.bogear.com.au/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/SOP-Shoulder_Straps.pdf
Missing at the moment in this SOP are a couple of sheets, but having a "cheat sheet" showing the finished item with annotations is usually all that is required to remind a machinist what to do next.
d. Once a section is sewn the machinist ticks it, and leaves their name beside it for QC trackability.

8. Once completed the Machinist puts the ORDER SHEET TAG on the "Trim/QC/Photography" side of the Order Board, and the completed item in the QC box. Larger section of the ORDER SHEET showing details of colours and who sewed what are left with the bag.

9. Order is trimmed, QC'd, Photographed, and then posted.
a. Any QC issues can easily be traced back to a machinist so we can work out what went wrong (was it cutting or sewing for example) and a better method discussed to reduce this issue in the future.
b. All our custom bags are photographed. This is really a marketing activity as every time we upload a cool bag photo we will see at least a single repeat order within the next month. I will have to upload my set up and SOP for that at a later date! ;)

Anyway, what are you all doing currently, and what procedures do you have in place. Can you share your documents to help in my and others quests to extract themselves from the business? Do you have a better or more simple way? Discuss!

Having just re-read my entire procedure it sounds complex but really it isn't. If you access the attached files it should make more sense; essentially everything is documented, then cut, then sewn, and then trimmed/qc'd/photographed... I just get a bit verbose when describing how and why we do things! ;)
BOgear: http://www.bogear.com.au   |   Blog: http://www.bogear.com.au/blog   |   Instagram/Facebook/Twitter: @bogear

essal

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Re: Standard Operating Procedures
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2015, 10:06:07 PM »
I know a lot of other small business operators like myself who are in the same situation but having difficulty extracting themselves.
I don't have any real input, but my dad is pretty much the worst dude when it comes to extracting him from the day to day business of his company. When he hired an Cheif Operating Officer things started to smooth out. He still wants to do everything, but his COO isn't allowing him to do as much as he would like. I think that would be one way to deal with it. The distance + an COO (that you trust) would probably be a good combo.

But then again, my grandfather is also at the office almost daily making sure that my dad isn't sending the company down the drain even though he is 90 years old in December :P I guess separating yourself from your "baby" is really hard.
Nora Tactical
Product Technician - Norrøna

@less@ndro

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Re: Standard Operating Procedures
« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2015, 01:55:52 AM »
i also can't give any input, just wanna say i love this type of post and i hope there will be more.  :)

Bootcat

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Re: Standard Operating Procedures
« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2015, 08:56:01 AM »
BOGear, I guess you are further up the experience ladder as most of us here  :).

I would suggest consulting Mrs Fasanella's book about the aspect of batching and optimizing the cutting layout, you didn't elaborate how the cutting job is organized so maybe there are some thoughts for you there.
For the custom jobs organisation, look up the Toyota Sewing System at FI: http://www.fashion-incubator.com/?s=toyota, this seems to be a good way to produce small batches or single items.

A more strategic view would be: what's the cost vs margin of doing custom jobs? If they make you 30% of your margin but take up 40% of your factory time (for example), you may want to have less of them. The easiest way to do that is raise their price. (I understand that you want to keep the custom orders going for marketing's sake). A sewing factory efficiency goes up as batches increase, up to a point - the Toyota system teaches that stocking too much (whether supplies or jobs-in-progress) is inefficient.

About getting your hands off the daily business, I completely agree and going physically away is a powerful way to do that. As a business owner you are responsible for writing procedures for the day-to-day operations of the company so it can run without you, and maybe get sold someday if you want to. You are replaceable in every business task except the creativity part, hence you want to delegate everything where you don't add value to other staff (hopefully cheaper /hour than you, as well). Set simple rules for the cases when initiative is needed (for example, allow staff to spend up to xxx AUD when necessary without asking for your permission, ditto for customer refunds and so on). There are lots of business books teaching that, but most owners fear to let the reins go - thus acting as the growth limiter for their company.

Alex

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Re: Standard Operating Procedures
« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2015, 06:54:29 PM »
BOGear,

I second taking a deep look at Kathleen's website on fashion incubator. If you haven't bought her book yet, it's a must buy in this business. The best info is now behind her paywall in the fashion incubator forum. It's worth every penny to access the forum. I think it's around $45 a year. Kathleen is always on the forum and I would post your question there.

Great book to buy:
http://www.amazon.com/Apparel-Manufacturing-Handbook-Analysis-Principles/dp/1879570009/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1426643546&sr=1-1

Explanation on why it's a great book:
http://www.fashion-incubator.com/archive/apparel_manufacturing_handbook/


At our factory, I believe they use a light ERP system called Wasp. So far, I am not a fan but that's because I can't access it unless i'm at the factory or remoted into a computer at the factory.

http://www.waspbarcode.com/inventory-control

 It lets us do barcode inventory, materials ordering, materials invoicing, and I think it may do the cut tickets but I could be wrong about that. I'm not located at the factory.

I think long term we may be going to a cloud erp system that's build more for apparel manufacturing. At another company I was with, that had several factories, they used Lawsons ERP. I do not recommend it because it takes an entire staff of IT people to support and it's super complex and expensive.

I have a post on fashion incubators website discussing cloud based ERPs for all this.
http://www.fashion-incubator.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?t=2730

The two ERP's I'm planning on looking at are:
http://apparelmagic.com/faq/

http://apparelbusiness.com/products/product-management/

(I think apparel magic may be the best for you and me based on the description of their manufacturing module on their website)
« Last Edit: March 17, 2015, 07:10:40 PM by Alex »

Bootcat

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Re: Standard Operating Procedures
« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2015, 02:54:49 AM »
(Bit of background: I used to run an IT outsourcing company before creating my current one).

There's also http://www.worldonahanger.com/.

Still, these are only tools not solutions, if you glue them on top of defective processes the fault is always going to be pointed to the software instead of people questioning their work habits.
Software adaptation is also much costlier/slower than printed sheet modification.
And last, factory people are rather physically oriented, i.e. if you give them paper forms and pens they'll do fine but computer software on the production floor would be a different work logic and they will resist the new tool (knowledge worker/manual worker difference).
"If" you need some IT solution better leave it until after making the business a hands-off operation.

SunriseTacticalGear

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Re: Standard Operating Procedures
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2015, 10:35:03 AM »
BOgear,
Thanks for sharing.
I normally build all the gear myself with the help of my kids for nipping and labeling.
I have a parts list for each piece of gear inside of a binder with a plastic sheet protector, I use a grease pencil to mark off the items as I cut them. I then use rubber bands and spring clips "Diz clips" to group like items together. I then place all items in a plastic tote with the customer's order sheet.
I'm kinda a Micro Manager and perfectionest so I have a real hard time letting go. I do realize than I need to make some changes in my attitude if I'm going to grow my business, because currently it is just a second Job.
Scott

BOgear

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Re: Standard Operating Procedures
« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2015, 01:29:24 AM »
Thank you everyone for your input, appreciated.   :)

I have a copy of The Entrepreneur's Guide To Sewn Product Manufacturing. I read it cover to cover multiple times when I first started out. Seems I need to reread sections again.

@Bootcat, your comment about batch sizes being more efficient to a point is totally correct. I have found that single bags are actually pretty efficient to sew; cutting and handling time however makes it not as efficient overall (automated cutting methods will reduce this time somewhat). Batch sizes of around 5-10 units, depending on product complexity seems to be our optimum at current business size. We did a batch of 100 around Christmas and I stupidly thought it would be more efficient. It ended up being less efficient than our regular batches; people get tired mid-batch, and the seemingly endless pile is highly demoralising. Working out our optimum size also helps with quoting...

As for your comment of cost versus margin, you are totally correct. I need to reanalyse everything from this perspective; sure we might be busy, but is it the most profitable way? Being busy for busy sake is not good business sense.

Oh, and rules & delegation - this is what I am working on right now! Teaching the "new guys" @WTF's pouch calculation method (X + Y - 25 / 2) for example takes a certain amount of custom work off my plate. I just need to sit down and work out exactly what I want to do, and then delegate the rest.

@Alex, thanks for your comments regarding Kathleen's forum. I considered joining when I first bought the book, but basically held off as I thought it was more fashion orientated. Is this not the case? Do you find it helpful being on there? Love to know more as I am dead keen to learn more (that old saying, I don't know what I don't know!).

Apparel Manufacturing Handbook sounds fantastic. Will have to hunt one down in Aus. Thanks for the recommendation.

@Sunrise, this is exactly what I do as well (parts list, bundled together, etc), except I don't mind passing the job to someone else as I know I can't do everything. This is exactly what I am looking for, or hoping we can share here... Basically what everyone does at the moment for their systems! Automation (through systems and procedures) is the only way I can see my business growing.

I'll have to share a cut list next, as well as a full SOP including "cheat sheet". Give me time to complete and I will upload!  :)
BOgear: http://www.bogear.com.au   |   Blog: http://www.bogear.com.au/blog   |   Instagram/Facebook/Twitter: @bogear

Alex

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Re: Standard Operating Procedures
« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2015, 01:13:02 PM »
Bogear, sign up for Kathleen's forum. You won't regret it. Kathleen bills out at $900+ a day for her consulting services. On her forum, she answers questions for the cost of you signing up for the one year forum membership fee. It's worth every penny. There are also several small to mid size apparel and gear manufacturers that have the same challenges you are going through on the forum. It's a solid place to talk to them and compare notes.


BOgear

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Re: Standard Operating Procedures
« Reply #9 on: April 28, 2015, 12:52:17 AM »
Just wanted to share a small win RE: SOPs! Proves to me how invaluable these items are in growing a business.

The Win:
1. I have trained up a new team member on some of our products. She is absolutely nailing them. The SOPs help everything make sense and she doesn't have to stop/start all the time, or wait for an appropriate moment to ask questions.
2. Today I decided to train her on a new product. She hasn't sewn it before, and I HAVEN'T built a SOP for it yet. I did break the product into sections (ie all the front pieces together, all the back pieces together, all the zip border sections together - which is part of my own SOP for sewing a product). Without me having to show her what to do, nor having a SOP to work from, she opened up the "back section" and could look at everything and knew how to sew it together. I have standardised the products to such a level that with no SOP present she can still know how to put it together.

Why this is a win:
1. I don't have to spend as much time training
2. Team member is up to speed faster
3. If we wanted to be truly custom and offer custom sized packs, it wouldn't matter as the size of a piece is irrelevant to the machinist; instead it is the process of putting it together which is important. Technically I could create a new 50L pack which was identical in construction to our 30L pack, and the machinist would know exactly how to put it together - no questions, no worries!

Just a small win, and I am stoked!  :)
BOgear: http://www.bogear.com.au   |   Blog: http://www.bogear.com.au/blog   |   Instagram/Facebook/Twitter: @bogear