Business To Business (B2B) Manufacturing
An exciting new venture for us, we are now opening our (fully insured) doors to help other businesses with their product manufacture. Eqco has been making customised horse, human and dog products to order for customers for over six years and now has two wonderful machinists with a combined sewing experience of more than 60 years who can turn their hands to pretty much any sewing job there is.
We have 12 industrial machines and can offer in-house embroidery and heat transfer vinyl personalisation plus still, cut-out and even lifestyle photography.
Manufacturing is a bit of a behemoth so the below information is something of an opening gambit. We'd love to talk to you on the phone about your ideas and to see how we can help. We're on 01442 842305 if you're so inclined (you might need to leave a message letting us know when's a good time to ring back if the machines are in full swing).
How Much Does It Cost?
Manufacturing requires a lot of investment (financial and non-financial) - we're not going to lie or try to mislead you (it's not in our interests to do that since our goal is long and mutually-beneficial working relationships).
Costs are estimated or confirmed once we have full details from you about what you're looking to have made and which of the stages you would like our involvement in. There's potential for costs to be reduced by you doing some of the background work yourselves. LOTS of googling, picking up the phone and requesting samples, costs, and timings (and then requesting them again and again when they don't turn up or the right ones aren't sent - yes this is the way it goes unfortunately). This is one of the lengthy early stage processes and explains the costs we have to charge if this is part of our remit in the project.
Unfortunately you do have to speculate to accumulate in this business so make sure you really really want to press the go button before spending thousands of your hard-earned pounds. The more of something you order, the better the unit cost will be due to the inevitable economies of scale having been achieved.
You may be able to find cheaper manufacturers elsewhere but they will likely require enormous minimum order quantities in order to achieve these prices. We would also always recommend that you check your suppliers' corporate social responsibility credentials (environmental damage they're causing, how much they pay their staff and how they treat them and so on). You've likely heard how diabolically staff in countries like Bangladesh, India and China are often treated and many big name manufacturers will have their own factories in these countries allowing them to get away with charging rock bottom prices for their products.
Our staff are paid above living wage, work in the same conditions we are happy to work in and we are passionate about protecting the environment and reducing the footprint we leave behind. We are constantly looking for ways to improve and work as greenly and kindly as possible.
Quality can often be a problem with manufacturing outside the UK/Europe. Using a UK supplier allows you to visit the factory (hello marketing photos - customers LOVE seeing how their items are made!), speak to somebody in the same language in the same time zone and affords significantly greater legal protection should anything go wrong.
What's The Point In Pursuing 'Made in Britain' Status?
For a long time now, there has been a simmering interest in products make in the UK. Our experience is that this has picked up hugely recently.
Being able to mark your items and business as Made In Britain undoubtedly gives you an edge over your competitors who can't provide the same assurances to their customers. Yes it comes at a cost, but the marketing levers this gives you to pull are extremely advantageous.
We're still finding our feet as we go (which is actually an advantage for other small businesses since - as this side of our business grows - it's inevitable that our minimum order quantities will increase).
Is It Worth It?
Lots of businesses will fall at the first hurdle when they realise the costs and timescales involved with having their own products manufactured from scratch. Many of these will decide to buy 'off the shelf' products from known wholesalers and perhaps personalise them with their branding to sell on to their customers and prospects. It may well be that this will be the start of their manufacturing journey and they come back to pursuing having their own items made once they've got their foot in the door a bit more and built up some budget and experience.
For others (like us here at Eqco), nothing else will compare with unexpectedly seeing somebody you don't know wearing or using a product you designed, developed and had made for you - it truly is one of the best feelings ever in our opinion.
How Long Does It Take?
That's a hard one to answer but it's not going to be that quick unless it's a simple product and you've already done a lot of the leg work yourself beforehand or are perhaps moving from a different manufacturer.
There are lots of stages if you're an absolute beginner. See below to learn more...
So How Does It Work?
As a brief overview, here are some of the stages involved in the process. We can potentially help you with some or all of these, depending on where you are in your manufacturing journey.
We work with an exceptionally talented and skilled pattern designer who has designed and developed patterns for many high street, designer and bespoke fashion labels. She has also designed and made clothes for a certain member of the royal family, not to mention hundreds of breathtaking wedding dresses.
We will communicate with the pattern designer on your behalf so as to keep the process as quick and straight forward as possible.
The first stage of your manufacturing journey will be to prepare a pattern for each item (including size variations).
If you have no idea where to start, the best thing to do is to begin by gathering samples, images and details for products which are similar to the ones you have in mind. Make lists of the features you like and dislike about these garments and how you want your product(s) to be different/what job they need to do. Undertake research amongst your existing customer base and/or friends and family to see what they think of your idea and what they can add. It would also be prudent to research protecting your ideas to try and reduce the chance of somebody else swiping them.
Think about which fabrics and materials you want to use for your garment. Ensure you include trimmings and extras such as bindings, zips, buttons, labels, any elastic, pockets and so on. Decide where you want these to be placed and what size and style they need to be to work for your customers and the job your garment needs to do.
The pattern design process will comprise a few stages depending on how many amendments are made to the pattern.
Costs start from £250 depending on the complexity of your garment, its materials, how many amendments you make during the process and how many sizes you want to end up with. You will receive your finished pattern(s) and a toile sample (a basic fabric version not made from the end materials). At this point you will of course be free to work with other manufacturing set-ups if this is your preference, or we can use these elements to progress to the next stage.
Fabric and Materials/Trimming Sourcing
We can help you source fabrics for your garments if you don't already have these decided upon. This stage will sometimes need to run alongside the pattern design depending on the garment since the fabric and trimmings selected can have an impact on the pattern and garment construction.
Again depending on the complexity and type of garment you are looking to manufacture, the fabric and materials sourcing and sampling stage can be quite lengthy. Samples coming in from abroad and then needing to be re-sent in another colour or weight can need a lot of chasing and add weeks to the schedule.
Having been in the textile trade for a number of years now, we have a pretty chunky little black book of trusted textile suppliers we can talk to on your behalf and will always seek to work with other UK companies wherever possible.
We would advise against going down the route of having fabrics printed or dyed unless you have very deep pockets and are looking for thousands of units of each item to be made since the set-up costs and minimum order requirements can be gargantuan (I would need to have 6,000m of one of my bindings produced if I wanted it in a certain colour, for example).
The starting cost for fabric and materials sourcing is £250.
Once your pattern is ready to go and you have all the fabrics and trimmings selected, you can progress to the sampling stage. We will make you one or more samples of your product in a pre-agreed size and colour and send this to you for wear and wash trials. We can arrange photography at this stage too.
As you can anticipate, there may be additional changes which need to be made to the pattern and materials following this stage.
The sampling cost will be quoted once we have more details about your item.
Please be aware that the sampling cost will be quite a lot higher than the unit cost of manufacturing your finished items due to the absence of economies of scale. It takes a lot longer per unit to make a one-off product than it does to have, say, 100 to make back to back for obvious reasons.
Depending on the size of your subsequent order, the sampling cost can potentially be deducted from your manufacturing cost.
We will time how long it takes to make each element of your sample in order to work out the labour cost and produce your quotation.
Manufacturing Your Items
Once we have agreed how many of your styles we will be making for you in each colour and size, we can put together a timing plan (including a buffer) so you have full visibility of what will be happening when.
If you are supplying materials to us, we will need all of them to be delivered and checked prior to commencing manufacturing. We will need a pre-agreed overage to be included in the materials to account for faults, squiffy machine moments and the like.
If we are ordering the materials for you, we will ensure that these are all with us and quality checked beforehand. Likewise we will need you to tell us how you would like the garments labelled, folded and packaged before we despatch and these materials will need to be with us at the start of the work.
We will likely outsource some or all of the fabric cutting depending on the fabric, number of garments and the design. Wastage will be kept to a minimum and our supplier uses state-of-the-art technology to lay pattern pieces out on the fabric before cutting takes place in order to ensure this.
Depending on the fabrics being used, how many garments we are making for you and in what time frame, we may need to hire or buy new or different machines in order to achieve the desired finish (industrial sewing machines are ridiculously specialised and typically will do just one job for each weight of fabric). We will cover these costs and will have built them in to your quotation.
We will work on your garments in the most efficient working order so as to maximise economies of scale and keep timescales to a minimum.