How to Manage Garment Quality in Manufacturing Units

Author: Emily Newton

Garment quality control is crucial to ensuring a consistently positive customer experience and building loyalty. However, it can be challenging to manage — especially for those who may be new to the industry or have large product lines to track. Luckily, tried-and-tested methods can make this process much easier.

Managing garment quality

Benefits of Good Garment Quality Control

Surveys show that product quality is the top factor that drives customer loyalty to specific brands. Clothing retailers, manufacturers and designers that want to build an audience must ensure their products are consistently high quality and provide shoppers with ongoing value.

A reputation of consistently high quality can go a long way in today’s apparel industry. Subscription boxes have become extremely popular, from the women’s lifestyle bestseller Fab Fit Fun to the men’s and women’s Stitch Fix personalized clothing subscription.

Experts note that noticeable sales increases are a top benefit of kitting, bundling and subscription packages. These services are a key way to establish brand loyalty and a consistent flow of customers every month. However, they are highly curated, so quality will be the top determining factor in whether or not a company’s clothing is selected.

Establish Standards and Tolerances

One of the first things apparel businesses can do to ensure their garments are consistently high quality is to establish clear standards and tolerances. These should be shared in-house and with any manufacturers or suppliers.

Quality standards set straightforward guidelines for what is expected of each product. They might include types of stitches and seams that should be used or standard sizing measurements. This is sometimes referred to as a “tech pack,” a package of garment specifications used by designers, suppliers or manufacturers, and quality testing personnel.

Tolerances give manufacturers and suppliers a clear margin of error acceptable for garments. This part of a company’s standards defines how much measurements on individual pieces can deviate from what was intended. The nature of clothing makes it difficult for each piece to be exactly the same down to the millimeter, so manufacturers or suppliers need to have a clear range to aim for.

Conduct Product Testing

Standards and tolerance specifications establish quality goals and benchmarks for manufacturers and suppliers. Product testing ensures these benchmarks are consistently met. Many different product testing procedures are used for garment quality control, and each is meant to test the various aspects of each piece.

Conducting these tests is an important part of managing garment quality control because it gives an honest assessment of the quality of the manufacturing and design processes.

1. Color Transfer

This test ensures that the dyes used on garments are fit to sell to customers. It involves rubbing random samples of a piece against white fabric multiple times, both dry and wet, to see if any color transfers. This process is also known as dry and wet crocking. Ideally, the white fabric comes away clean for both tests.

2. Seam Strength

These tests ensure that seams are up to durability quality standards. Once again, random sample garments are selected from those produced by a manufacturer or supplier. A garment is pulled or stretched along the seams, which are then analyzed for any holes or tearing. Ideally, they hold up against normal force.

3. Fastener Fatigue

Fasteners like snaps, buttons and zippers experience some of the heaviest stress and strain on an entire garment. If these parts break easily, customers will quickly point to poor quality as the cause. Tests include using the fasteners on random sample pieces numerous times to see how they perform under normal usage. Experts note that fasteners that fail these tests may indicate a low-quality supplier, so apparel companies should keep track of their sources.

4. Stitches Per Inch

Stitches per inch (SPI) test is mainly for ensuring garment strength and aesthetics. Stitches that are unevenly spaced or too few in number can make an item look bad and reduce durability. This test involves carefully measuring the stitches per inch on random sample pieces to check for consistency.

5. Stretch Testing

Stretch testing is fairly straightforward. Testing personnel applies normal amounts of stretch pressure on garments to see how they would hold up to normal wear and usage. It is particularly important for components that are designed to be stretched, such as straps, elastic bands and high-elasticity garments, such as leggings. Tears and broken stitches are indicators of a failed elasticity test.

6. Fit Testing

Fit testing involves bringing in models or mannequins to see how different garment sizes fit on actual people. Do they all have the same appearance? Do they work as intended on different body types? A fit test will reveal any manufacturing issues specifically related to sizing. Multiple sample garments from each size should be used to test fit consistency.

Consider Lab Testing Services

Effectively managing garment quality control may require some extra measures in addition to standards and product testing. Many apparel companies use lab testing services to get a detailed, in-depth analysis of their products’ quality. This may include composition, performance, safety and environmental testing. For example, a company may want official lab test results to prove its fabrics are made with renewable materials, such as hemp.

One common lab test is flammability testing. Some nations require this for certain consumer clothing products, such as children’s items. Labs can also provide in-depth durability testing, using simulated light exposure, washing, and abrasion to test performance under various conditions.
Managing Garment Quality Control

Good garment quality control is all about using the right standards and processes to verify clothing is being produced responsibly. Taking the time to establish standards and conduct product testing can pay off significantly in the long run. Customers will likely be impressed with the items they purchase and more likely to buy from that brand again, building loyalty. Garment quality control may be the most important factor in ensuring customer satisfaction.

About the Author: Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, an online magazine that explores innovations in science and technology. She loves seeing the impact technology can have on every industry.

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