A lot of dysfunction still exists in apparel production, especially if you ask an advocate of sustainable, or “on-demand” production models models whereby no minimum order quantity limits the access of customized products at scale.
Matthew Cochran, vice president of strategy and business development at OnPoint Manufacturing, wants to transform the conventional thinking in apparel “from design, produce and hope to sell” to “design, sell — produce.”
As an on-demand apparel manufacturing company focused on high-end women’s apparel, OnPoint is headquartered in Nashville, with its manufacturing facility in Florence, Ala., and operates with “highly automated” processes. Its manufacturing facility was recently recognized by the state — Business Council of Alabama and the Alabama Technology Network — as manufacturer of the year for its innovative technology. Proprietary software powers the on-demand production, with a customized conveyor system that laser-guides pattern pieces in “plastic totes” to sewing operators. The system is known as the RBT system.
Sewing operators are aided by the company’s VIS system, or “visual information system,” so that appropriate construction methods are available for each stockkeeping unit, helpful when different products — anything from formal gowns to medical uniforms — are moving through the belts. From there, designs are drop shipped in a few days. Limitations may still exist with some products, such as men’s shirting.
Just this March, OnPoint partnered with the Fashion Institute of Technology in launching online brand “Unique.Fashion,” a marketplace for lines to be “designed, marketed and retailed by students,” which will be produced by OnPoint’s computer-directed manufacturing system, as said in a press statement. Universities such as NC State, SCAD and Parsons are being considered for potential partnerships with the program. Other on-demand manufacturers partnering with new talent include Nineteenth Amendment, currently partnered with Bravo’s “Project Runway” series for season 17. Customers can now shop winning looks by episode, which include a plaid summer dress by participant Jamall Osterholm, among others.
When asked of the greatest challenges to on-demand production at scale, Cochran said “price” and “change management” were the top two obstacles. But the benefits of on-demand production elicit flexible risk management, eliminating the fear of sitting on excess inventory or losing money on markdowns.
Together, digitalization and automation of apparel production processes means strides toward sustainability, while mirroring the trend of personalization, existing across industries.