Production Diaries - learning our language
Last week we started something new - sharing a weekly digest of what we've learned starting and running our small apparel factory in Missoula Montana. What we discovered, when trying to source information about how to do this, is that this kind of stuff never gets shared with the public. So we decided to!
Here's what happened this week at the Youniverse (what we call our factory).
The longsleeve shirts of last week have been exactly that - longggggggg. But we've wrapped up and have moved onto bigger and better things - t-shirts! This month we have 2 colors of our Hustle tee + 2 colors of our Trailblazer tee - a sweet new loose cropped tee that's perfect with our Gains shorts.
Our new factory layout we set up last week seems to be working out pretty well but we still need to get some new chairs - we're using some crappy 80s kitchen table chairs from an underwhelming facebook marketplace purchase. But these ergonomic seat cushions have made them tolerable for now.
The big learning of the week was organization (this will be an ongoing learning for us). We don't have a factory manager - Sarah and Mallory have been sharing the role of organizing production and Nat and Vicky have been working really independently on creating product. The result of that is that not everyone on the team is empowered to be autonomous, nor do they have all the tools the need to keep moving along on their projects. It became challenging for us to walk into the empty factory and figure out who had done what without needing to ask a bunch of questions.
"We need a language", Sarah so perfectly put it. And we sure did - a language that everyone could understand.
After unsuccessfully looking around the internet, it became clear we would have to develop our own language. It's a work in progress, but so far what we've put together seems to be kind of working!
We have a rolling bin for each size we make and a clipboard lives on the outside of the hamper with something we've dubbed a 'Style Flow' - basically an accounting of the stage of production the pieces in the bin have gone through, and who has worked on them. A dry erase label on the outside, shows the size, production stage and where in that stage we are. These shirts have 8 different stages, so this gives us 8 different checkin points for inspection, quality and count.
Then we have our Map - a more detailed calendar analysis of our goal timing to complete each stage, and by what date we have to send production along to the next stage in order to stay on track. It's clearly posted on the wall so everyone knows what our goals are, when we've gotten off track and when we need to get back on track. We have no idea if this is how other factories do this, but we're gonna try it! We're also using Monday.com to lay out timing and projects and communicate internal notes.
We also picked up a couple simple white tables (we're working on our aesthetic) to turn the serger stations into L's. We have a serger on the end of each line which is where all assembly begins. So, it's been nice to have a larger surface to lay pieces out on that Nat and Vicky can spin around to access.
We rounded out the week with a spring photoshoot for the drop that's happening later this month so Sarah sewed a whole bunch of samples for us to shoot. It was freezing and snowing, but the folks over at Ace Fancy Plants graciously let us pop up in their greenhouse with Aleks Was for some epic photos. Here's a taste!
Well that's it for this week, gotta get back to work! Thanks for tuning in and checking out what we're doing.