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Manufacturing and the Pursuit of EVERGOODS' Quality Standards

September 01, 2017 0 Comments

Manufacturing and the Pursuit of EVERGOODS' Quality Standards

Here goes:

Our original intention was to build these packs in the USA using factories we have long standing relationships with.  There are only a handful of factories in the USA that check two critical boxes: quality and a price point that still allows a viable and sellable product. 

We reached out to these factories (aka our friends) last October to begin the on-boarding process.  If that sounds like a long time in advance you would be correct.  US factories are essentially small business and don't have the margin on their end to employ full sample and new client acquisition teams.  Often they have  sample room with one or two employees that has to service all new clients and existing clients concurrently.   Knowing this we gave ourselves some cushion and presented a calendar of deliverables to our two top choices in person early December 2016.  

After reaching out to 4 factories we engaged two (our top choices) factories so that we could "parallel path" our production in case the KS did so well we needed capacity from both.  Why not all four?  This would have required 4 samples of each bag, and full spec packages for all four facilities.  Not to mention the engagement and time associated.  Sen at my last gig we did not engage more than a couple factories at once and that was a much larger company.

Factory A wanted 125 bucks labour only for CPL and 155 labour only for MPL.  You read that correctly.  And this is before we add raw material costs, shipping, receipts of goods etc.  

Factory B came in at a lower cost.  So we decided we were only going to be able to pursue Factory B for the time being.  The good news was that this factory once up and running would have plenty of capacity to produce EVERGOODS product for some time.  But, in the back of my mind I always knew there would be limited options for EVERGOODS moving forward in the USA.  I figured we would punt that decision down the road a couple years.

Here is what our USA pricing model looks like: our cost of goods sold x 2 = retail price.  I could have charged more than that for the bags but really was hoping to avoid having 350 and 400 dollar retail product.   I chose lower margins in the hopes we would have a more accessible product.

Just after we launched our Kickstarter Factory B wrote Kevin and I saying he was not convinced he was going to be able to deliver the quality we were after.  Our hearts sank.   The quality we were after had been on the table in our full spec packages and the golden samples we had submitted previously.  There were no surprises.  My suspicion was that he had under quoted us on the job.

Quality:  We will not sell a product that is not to our standards, ever.  Let alone for 285 and 325 dollars respectively. 

When Factory B mentioned he could not hit our quality in mid July we still held out hope.  He had also asked us to re-pattern MPL30 to make it more manufacturable on his sewing line.  We told him his request would change the end product.  We did re-work the pattern within a small area that we felt might help him on the factory floor but would not compromise our vision for MPL.   

Beginning of August, Factory B pushed back and said again he might not be able to deliver our quality standards to scale given the limitations of his factory at present.    Here is the truth: USA manufacturers do not have even some very common machines that would allow for the execution of certain kinds of constructions quite easily.  When they are faced with a construction that goes beyond their capabilities they often ask the client to change their design.  This is backwards.  In the past I have worked for companies that would offer to buy the factory the required machine.  Often they are not open to this possibility.  It would require training their sewers and reorganizing their sewing lines.  An effort few wish to undertake given it would cause a shutting down of those lines while being set up.  Concerning the MPL construction in question, Kevin and Mary Jo (awesome sample sewer for hire) have built a dozen of these in our own facility.  It is doable but with the appropriate machinery. 

We immediately reached out to our friends at Patagonia, Yeti, designers and contractors who have worked for Black Diamond, The North Face, Mystery Ranch and others.  We created a short list of the top technical backpack facilities in Asia and we got introductions.  We sent samples.  The following week we applied applied for expedited visas.

You guessed it.  We are heading over-seas Saturday morning to meet with 4 facilities.  All four have already created samples which we will review in person.  These facilities make much of the best made and most technically complicated packs on the planet.  

For those of you who don't want to read the above here is a break down of our factory engagement over the last year:

  • October 2016 - engage 4 US Factories
  • December 2016 - visit top two choices in person.  Choose to engage both.
  • January 2017 - present EVERGOODS timelines to factories ( samples due, costing due, sign off on samples, KS dates, PO placement)
  • March-April 2017 - Samples to factories
  • May 2017 - costing on both products received from both factories(yes that a long time between sample receipt and costing receipt)
  • Early June 2017 - we decide only one factory's costs are doable
  • Late June 2017 - first samples from factory received
  • Late June 2017 - EVERGOODS submits full sample review back to factory
  • July 11th 2017 - Kickstarter Launches
  • Mid July 2017 - factory asks EVERGOODS to change MPL patterns ( in a major way) to facilitate ease of manufacture
  • Mid July 2017 - EVERGOODS determines this change would change the quality of our product 
  • Mid July 2017 - EVERGOODS does make a minor adjustment to pattern of MPL, that we believe maintains integrity of product,  and submits back to factory
  • August 1st 2017 - we engage factory top see if our minor adjustments will suffice
  • August 2nd 2017 - factory replies it has not checked but now believes it may not have the capabilities to deliver our quality standard
  • August 2nd 2017 - Kevin and I engage all friends in the industry for introductions to top over seas factories
  • Week of August 7th 2017 - we send samples to all engaged facilities
  • Week of August 7th 2017 - we send our passports to the Vietnam Consulate in Washington, DC for rush visa approval
  • August 14 2017 - US factory suggests they might be able to hit quality but it will be even more time intensive.  FYI our quality standards had been known since they received our full spec package and samples months prior.
  • August 14th 2017 - I ask factory if they need to resubmit costing before we proceed any further.
  • August 15th 2017 - EVERGOODS receives revised cost.  Nearly 15% increase in labour on both bags.
  • August 15th 2017 - Kevin and I look at numbers and firmly believe US build is not feasible for now.  Certainly not with the overall quality still in question.  US Factory will not even submit next round of samples until Early October.  
  • Week of August 30th - 2017 After weeks of trip planning we finally have all 4 facilities lined up and ready to host us and share first round of samples.  
  • Week of August 30th 2017 - We press go for our travel agent to book flights
  • August 30th 2017 - travel agent tells Kevin their is a problem with his Passport 
  • August 31st 2017 - Kevin flies to nearest passport office to apply for same day passport service
  • August 31st 2017 - Kevin gets back to town around midnight.  Also shaves his head to offset heat and humidity in Asia
  • September 2nd 2017 -  we leave for two weeks to find an incredible factory partner with all the technology and expertise to deliver EVERGOODS quality products.

This is NOT how we hoped it would all go down but Kevin and I are ready for this fight and we will deliver your product.  Because we ordered the main body fabrics in advance we still think on time delivery is quite possible.  Once we return we will fully update you and also set up a Kickstarter Live to field any and all questions.

Onwards,

Jack and Kevin



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