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Copyright 2006
Cornell University.
All rights reserved.



New York City garment district (courtesy of Cornell University Photo)

After you have designed a product that is innovative and satisfies a market need, you will have to decide how to
produce it.

You will need to make samples to show prospective buyers and develop a plan to produce orders. You don’t want to
get an order for 20 dozen in six weeks and not have a production plan in place.

You need to consider

  • What production method is best for you and your product?
  • Will you produce it or contract with someone else to produce it?
  • What volume should you produce it in, what styles, colors, fabrics?
  • How will you assure the quality level you desire?

There are three main production methods used in apparel and sewn product manufacturing:

  • custom
  • mass production
  • mass customization.

Each has strengths and weaknesses. You need to choose one or several methods as the best choice for your innovative product. The production method will drive your design or service offerings. It will influence

  • who makes it
  • how long it will take
  • the level of inventory you will keep
  • where the production process will be located.

If you offer design services, such as pattern making or custom designs, your production process is the design itself. Your main job will be to clearly articulate the value and cost of the services to your customers. It is often difficult for a customer to imagine the process, time involved, and expertise that is required for services. Talking them through the process and pricing strategy is very helpful.

Earle photo
"When you provide a service, a creative service, it is much more difficult for people to quantify it in their minds."

Rhonda Gilmore recommends some specific strategies for entrepreneurs who offer services rather than products. She describes the importance of helping customers understand and put a price on the design value you are adding to the outcome of a project.


As we discuss production of products and services, keep in mind the entrepreneurial principles of

  • innovation
  • satisfying a market need
  • capitalizing on opportunity
  • creating value for individuals and society.

At the end of this lesson, you will be able to

  1. Describe the advantages and disadvantages of custom production, mass production, and mass customization.
  2. Based on your product or service and business concept, explain which production planning variables are most important to you and why.
  3. Identify and compare the choices for sourcing production of apparel and sewn products.
  4. Describe several technologies that can make production and production planning more efficient.
  5. List the human rights and fair labor practices that are concerns in the apparel and sewn products industry. Discuss some steps you can take to assure that the factory where your production takes place is in




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