A compliance-first strategy
Buffeted by social media friendly sweatshop scandals, factory fires, and ecological catastrophes, retail and fashion brands have become highly sophisticated at selecting new suppliers based on social and environmental risks.
But the most costly and least known risk new suppliers and manufacturers pose is this: a lack of technical ability or rather their inability meet the needs of an over-reliant customer demanding the minimum cost.
And with brands increasingly pushing the boundaries with their choice of materials, innovative mechanisms and surface finishes, welcoming a shipment of faulty, non-compliant, even unsaleable stock, is surprisingly common.
But finding a supplier in the first place, who then satisfies ethical and social audit requirements is another hurdle. I managed supplier social auditing for a number of years, so getting and interpreting those multi page reports is second nature.
Here are some ways I can help you turn that ship around:
Troubleshooting the design
Even if you pick a supplier or manufacturer with the technical skills needed, you need to make sure you supply them with a robust design specification (actually, this should be the case) - if the design is flawed or open to misinterpretation, your product is doomed from the beginning.
As an industrial designer with a track record of steering hardware, jewellery and accessory desing along a sound, achievable course for luxury brands, I’ll work with your design team to:
Assess the choice of materials and surface finishes
Model out any potential technical or engineering flaws
Fill any gaps that could lead to a misunderstanding
Ensure the final spec is a blueprint for creating products guaranteed to be fit-for-purpose and compliant
Your original design might be bullet-proof. But there are few experts out there who have had more experience troubleshooting problems before they show up – fewer still that have been called in more often to patch things up when it’s too late.
So even if it is a ‘simple’ product, there is no harm if I take a look. I’ve also been known to suggest alternative materials and finishes that save time and money.
Either way, if I understand the product in depth, I can find the new suppliers with the depth of skills and experience to keep your new product afloat a whole lot faster.
New suppliers – old friends
Over the course of twenty years, I led complex, multi-faceted projects that drew on the capabilities of hundreds of talented suppliers and manufactures in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Turkey Russia, Asia (inc China, Thailand, Korea, and Japan), and the Americas.
This heavyweight level of supply chain experience means that I know:
The range and quality of the facilities and equipment they use
The local and international regulations and standards they meet
Their typical turnaround speed and costs
The skills and talents of the individual experts who work there
Any past experience they have with products similar to yours
And any applicable innovations they are working on that might add value
Armed with an understanding of your design, drawing up a shortlist of suppliers with the capacity and technical skills your product requires is often just a case of making a few calls to some old and trusted friends.
But acting on your behalf, I’ll also ensure they truly understand the product, fielding any technical or engineering concerns or ideas they might have alongside your discussions relating to costs, timescales, and CSR standards.
If an aspect of your design calls for a supplier in a specialist area or location I’m unfamiliar with, I’ll draw on my extensive contacts to find one for you, vetting them and any samples they provide against the parameters of your design.
Auditing the technical skills of new suppliers starts at the design stage. Get the specification right, sourcing the right suppliers and manufacturers is not only easier, but by eliminating room for anything to be lost in translation both parties can be confident that the final product will sail past quality inspection and off the shelves.
To start finding the new suppliers your new product needs, please get in touch.