Raw materials make up about 50% of the overhead cost for the made-in-the-USA clothing industry. These include fabrics, sewing thread, trims, and accessories like buttons, zippers, bidding, and labels. Out of these costs, fabric is the majority at about 80%. There are other profit-eaters as well, such as direct and indirect labor charges and American clothing factory overheads, but the largest cost driver and savings opportunity is fabric loss.
Fabric Losses Include:
- Edge Loss
- End Loss
- Fabric Joint Loss
- Remnant Loss
- Splicing Overlap Loss
- Stickering Loss
- Ticket Length Loss
The most commonly discussed reduction measure for American-made clothing is the improvement of marker efficiency. This directly relates to waste in the fabric-cutting process. It’s defined by pattern area in relation to total percentage of the marker plan. The higher the efficiency, the less wastage.
Marker Efficiency Factors:
- Marker planner: this is a thin, long piece of paper that holds the patterns of varying sizes for a particular garment style. Anything outside of the template pieces is considered waste. The ultimate goal is to have as little waste as possible, so most custom clothing manufacturers in the USA use computer-aided design (CAD) programs to generate their markers. This allows them to easily manipulate individual pieces to get the best fit, with the least wastage, sort of like putting together a puzzle. Space maximization is key to high efficiency.
- Garment size: these are standard in the US clothing industry and have variations for youth, men and women’s clothing – i.e., small, medium, large, or 4, 5, 6, etc.
- Marker width and length: the width of the fabric planner will vary, but they’re mostly broken into the following: tubular-knitted fabric, narrow open-width fabric, and wide open-width fabric. The length is usually determined by the number of garment patterns and changes with the design. If the marker is wider than the fabric width, it results in incomplete pieces to work with, as the machine will chop through the piece at the wrong point. However, if it’s too narrow, there’s more wastage at the edges, which means revenue lost to unusable scraps.
- Pattern engineering: this refers to a 2D medium (paper or fabric) to develop workable blocks. Th ey can be created using either garment or body measurements. They’re draped over a 3D body by the best clothing pattern makers in the USA to get the desired fit while using the least amount of resources.
- Fabric characteristics: these basic properties include breathability, weight, drape, durability, softness, constructions, and whether the material is water-repellant. Construction properties are usually either woven or knitted.
- Marker-making method: during the garment manufacturing process, the method allows for pattern pieces to be drawn over marker paper, which is then placed on the fabric lay to reduce wastage.
- Garment style: this refers to the general clothing design, i.e., vintage, bohemian, chic, artsy, casual, and business, to name a few.
Fabric characteristics, shapes of pattern pieces, fabric utilization, and marker quality can negatively impact efficiency. You can reduce some of the loss by using mathematical predictions to determine a viable estimate for how much material you’re going to lose in the cutting process, but it’s not really an exact science, even when the cutting is done by machines, and the calculations are done by advanced CAD software.
You can’t entirely eliminate loss in an American clothing factory, but those proficient in garment manufacturing like Apparel Production Incorporated come pretty close to optimal waste reduction. Call today to experience an efficient spreading process, handled in a controlled manner with flawless fabric.