Friday, February 27, 2009

Quality Auditing Plans- Acceptable Quality Level or AQL

Quality Auditing Plans – Acceptable Quality Level or AQL

It’s common for sewing factories to use the Military Standard 105-E sampling plan to determine if the quality of the garments meets the specifications.
1. You need to determine your Acceptable Quality Level or AQL. This basically means what percent of the total products DO NOT MEET Acceptable Quality Levels. So an AQL of 2.5% means that up to 2.5% may be something less than first quality.
2. What is the total number of garments or Batch Size?
3. For our purposes, lets go with Normal Inspection Level II. (If there’s a failure, it’s common to apply a tightened inspection on the supplier until the quality is back in line.)

Go to this link and plug in the numbers
For example, 2000 pieces and AQL of 2.5%
i. Randomly pull and inspect 125 pieces
ii. If 7 or less pieces fail, ACCEPT the entire lot
iii. If 8 or more fail, REJECT the lot

Note: If you’re sampling for 2.5% AQL and you do not find any defects, you can’t claim that the entire batch has no defects. You’d need to tightened your AQL and inspect more garments.

More Later, Please let me know if you have questions!


The Underwear Maven

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Finished Garment Measurements

Finished Garment Measurements

I know it seems like measuring and recording different parts of a garment would be easy. Please learn from my mistakes and

1. Expect that any person doing measurements will measure differently from you.
2. Therefore, You MUST have a “How to Measure Manual” and it must be clear with a picture or sketch of the garment showing each measurement.

For fit garments or anytime we have a measurement to discuss, we take a digital photo. The photo shows the garment with a tape measure and a sticker with numeric number displayed. The brain remembers pictures and in the digital world, pictures are fast and cheap to send.

And while we’re on measurements, Women’s sizing in the US drives me crazy! It’s all over the board. Men’s has stayed relatively consistent. Maybe we should learn from Europe and force compliance on garment size.

You gotta love wikipedia. I think this is a good link for various sizes and the measurements in the US.

All for today,

The Underwear Maven

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Quality Control, Quality Assurance, Fitness for Use

Quality Control, Quality Assurance, Fitness for Use or however you want to define “good” apparel. I tend to divide the Quality functions and measurements into 4 groups.

1. Physical measurements of the garment and how these meet the standards
2. Fabric performance. Criteria such as garment shrinkage, color fastness and pilling.
3. Defects in the garment such as holes, open seams, color machining, etc.
4. Quality audits on the garments and work in process. AOQL or AQL.

In the following posts, I’ll invite you to links where you can find free information and learn more if you wish.


The Underwear Maven

Friday, February 20, 2009

Preferential Trade Programs for Apparel Part 2

Using Free Trade Programs like CAFTA, NAFTA, ATPDEA, HAITI HOPE, AGOA and others, apparel can be imported to the USA with no duty. Most of these programs have a requirement that the yarn and fabric be produced in the USA or within the region. (And you better follow the program rules and have your approved and active certificates or origin or you will be in BIG trouble.) The requirement for regional or US yarns and fabrics can be a problem for many of the countries. (Read more about all of these and more at this link
1. Using USA materials can make the end garment too expensive to attract the volume mass garments sold by discount retailers like Wal-Mart
2. Producing the yarn or fabric in the region is usually not an immediate option because the manufacturing equipment is so expensive. In addition, the infrastructure needed to support these manufacturing operations like cheap reliable electricity and water treatment facilities are also expensive to set up.

In principle, the goal of these trade agreements is to generate employment for the people in these countries. Setting up a sewing factory and employing sewing machine operators matches up perfectly with this goal.
1. Sewing machines are relatively inexpensive and can be easily set up in a simple structure.
2. Operators can usually be trained in 6 weeks to efficiently sew garments

So if the US really wanted to quickly provide employment through apparel jobs, they would permit duty free garments sewn in these countries with fabric from anywhere. Indeed, in the programs for some of the poorest countries like Haiti and the sub-Saharan countries of AOGA there is a limited quantity of apparel granted duty free treatment with fabrics sourced outside of the region. But there id not enough of this free quota and there's no guarantee that it will be available when your garments need it. So the big volume players usually elect to pay the higher duty and source from a country that already has the infrastructure and technology in place to produce garments. ` `

I do think that garments labeled Made in the USA have an advantage over garments made in other countries. It’s just that today most US consumers will not pay a premium for a garment just because it’s Made in the USA.

Most EU countries don’t even require country of origin on their garments.

And then there is Jordan and the Qualifying Industrial Zone or QIZ that allows foreign fabrics if the garment uses 8% Israeli input. But the QIZ factories I’ve visited in Jordan usually have a lot of imported sewing machine operators hired from countries like Bangladesh. These workers are recruited, shipped, and housed by the factories. So, maybe the goal here is Peace in the Middle East and not employment.

Let me know if you have any specific questions and I’ll be glad to track it down! There’s even a presentation on the Haiti 3x1 – DR 2x1.

The end of Trade Programs!


The Underwear Maven

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Preferential Trade Programs for Apparel Part 1

Preferential Trade Programs for Apparel- Getting access to the US market and reducing or eliminating duties

President John F Kennedy established restraint quotas on textiles and apparel to protect our domestic mills. This became to Multi-Fiber Agreement (MFA). Years later it was agreed that developed countries like the USA should not be allowed to stop foreign apparel imports from our "friendly" countries. So the MFA was integrated into the World Trade Organization (WTO). The latest talks are called the Doha Round. (Doha’s the capital city of the county of Qatar.) (And the talks started back on Feb. 12 and centered again on Farm and the “Trade Distorting domestic subsidies” of the developed countries. Like the HUGE United States COTTON subsidies.)
1. Point from this paragraph is that apparel and textile imports have historically been protected in the USA.

Off Shore Assembly of USA components has been around for a long time. It basically states that if you use components made in the USA and send them off shore for assembly, you only pay duty on the “value added” or assembly. But with apparel, it didn’t help much because of the quota restraints. Then in the late 1980’s, a new type of quota was introduced to Caribbean countries called Guaranteed Access Level or GALs. This opened up new quota limits for apparel if the apparel was assembled from USA components or cut parts. (There are qualification rules for qualifying cut parts such as “fiber forward” meaning the cotton, polyester, or fiber must be made in the USA and all processes of yarn formation, fabric production, cutting, must be performed in the USA.) Still had to pay duty on the value added but that was soon wiped out with CAFTA, NAFTA, and other programs.
2. Point from this paragraph, the domestic brands that owned textile factories shut down their US sewing operations and moved sewing to the Caribbean and Central America countries.

With the elimination of restraint quota in 2005 from most WTO countries and the elimination (for now) of safe guard restrictions from China in 2009, countries with textiles can sew and ship apparel from their own country to the US. Now the US companies are shutting down their US yarn and textile factories and going to Asia - unless there are competitive textiles operations in the CAFTA/NAFTA countries to consume the textiles from the closed US factories.
3. Point from this paragraph, barriers are removed and gates are opened and smaller guys can competitively play in the apparel game.

But there are still many games that the big guys play and win to stop foreign imports. These games aren’t available to us smaller players. The Socks saga is a great example and I'll go into some of the details in my next post.

I welcome comments!
The Underwear Maven

Friday, February 13, 2009

Standard Allowed Minutes or SAMs

Standard Allowed Minutes or SAMs

Once the garment is defined, it is sent to engineers where they determine the best way to sew or stitch the garment. This is usually documented on paper and reviewed with the sewing instructors in a factory. The engineer will also use a stop watch or some other method and determine how long each step should take. This becomes the Standard Allowed Minutes or SAMs. The SAMs will determine how many operators need to be sewing to make the required inventory. Efficiency factors and graphs are sometimes maintained by factory managements in order to track the performance and estimate the required volume.

1. Body Sized tee shirts, ladies panties, men’s briefs, all fall around 20-25 minutes to sew a dozen garments.
2. In this hemisphere, it’s common to pay a sewing contractor based on a fee per minute which could be .05 per minute up to even .10 per minute. So if it takes 20 minutes to sew a dozen tee shirts, the contractor would make $1.00 to $2.00 dollars for the cost to sew and pack.

All for now!

The Underwear Maven

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sew Sequence and Stitch Number

Sew Sequence and Stitch number

Here’s an example of a Sew Sequence document for a body sized tee shirt.

1. Seam Shoulders 504 stitch
2. Seam Collar 504 stitch
3. Attach Collar 504 stitch
4. Bind Shoulder seam and back neck opening 301 stitch
5. Hem Sleeves 406 stitch
6. Close Sleeves with thread tie-back at sleeve opening 504 stitch
7. Hem Bottom 406 stitch

If you want to know what the stitch numbers mean and look like - here's a link for Stitch Matrix from the big thread company American and Efrid. There's lots of other information on their site if your interested in learning more.

More to come!

The Underwear Maven

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Care Instructions on the Label

Care Instructions

These guys tend to get serious and yes, it’s still the FTC. Here’s the link for almost everything you need to know about writing a care label.
Some clothes must be dry cleaned so there’s some room for pointing blame if the care instructions arent’ clear and correct. Funny, you also can’t make the instructions too safe. Here’s a link to an article that shows a penalty given to Jones New York During my Corporate America days in the Quality Control department we were educated to put the “harshest” care instruction that the garment could repeatedly handle. It's not OK to play it safe and recommend all be hand washed and line dried, or dry clean only.
1. The care instructions should be able to remain on the garment for the life time of the garment. (Tag free labels can be a challenge for life time compliance.)
2. It’s OK to use only care symbols, only written instructions or both.
3. Here’s a link for what those symbols mean.

All for now,
The Underwear Maven

Monday, February 2, 2009

RN number on your Label

Registered Identification Number (RN)

Did you ever wonder about the RN followed by numbers on your garment labels? It’s called a Registered Identification Number. It is free to get and not required on a label. However, if there’s not an RN then the business name of the company should be on the label. This is so someone can be located that’s responsible for the product. For more details, check out the free government link compliments of the Federal Trade Commission at

Canada has their own system and they use a CA number.

The Underwear Maven