Our offices here at Sew What? / Rent What? are neatly arranged one floor above the other – and while I envy those below who don’t have to navigate the stairs in their stilettoes, I do love my bird’s eye view of the production floor from my second floor office window. We refer to the upstairs offices as being in the “tree house” – yes – we’re productive like squirrels all day long up here.
One part of being successful in manufacturing is to always be looking for best practices and seeking improvements on the shop floor. Processes and product flow can make, or break, a profit margin………… So I try to take time each day while I work at my computer and on the phones to also observe the goings on as they “go on” out my window.
I see boxes enter via the back corner loading dock door – cloth inventories available on my computer screen promptly adjust – and suddenly the cutting table is buzzing with cloth and scissors as the materials hit the production flow. We’re a J.I.T manufacturer – that means that, by model, we purchase supplies “Just In Time” and “By The Order”. So accuracy of purchasing, timing of receiving, and swiftness to convert raw goods to finished product are where the magic is at.
Shift focus to the three sewing teams – each with their twin 40 foot pin-sew tables and sets of buzzing machines …… Cutting delivers precut cloth of all colors and fibers to the teams –who work diligently to sew, pin, match patterns and pleat as needed. It takes some mad skills to turn a pile of 170 yards of raw fabric into a single and stage ready drape. As you sew – it grows – and as it grows it gets, yes you said it – VERY heavy!. Slick tables, years of material manipulation and machine skills all come into play as each team puts all hand on deck to complete the orders gracefully – without having to call on any back injuries!
The teams proudly deliver their sewn goods over to the Quality Control staff… here in a 40′ x 60′ clear open space, our QC department goes to business. Checking all measurements, trimming missed or loose threads, adding chain weights to the bottoms of drapes, and then finally inserting the needed hardware, grommets and ties and s-hooks and such, into the drapes. Right down to hanging and photographing each piece for our QC archives.
And now to fold – hmmmmm – have you ever tried to fold a king size sheet on your own without it hitting the floor or getting dirty? Well, some of these drapes are 40 feet x 60 feet as a single piece, and often times bleached white! – so I honestly marvel at the staff’s oversized origami skills as they accordion, roll, wrap and fold these monster drapes and insert them with care into a fresh branded bag.
You probably have seen our drape bags around town (or in other countries for that matter). Our most famous branded bags keep the drapes clean and double as a laundry bag for our touring friends. Black bags for drapes sold and green bags for drapes rented. Yes – we take time to pay attention to the branding, too.
Watching the drapes evolve as the many and varied processes wrap around the shop floor is very exciting – and gives me opportunity to see room for improvement…. Not that long ago that I called out some suggestions to the staff to help store and stack the supplies that they were tripping over….
Thankful – the production floor has exceptionally skilled staff – I would like to think that they are in fact “twice-gifted” in their crafts. As firstly, when they joined us they were experts in the craft of sewing – but now they are experts in creating spectacular stage textiles…. It’s art! Big, Bold, beautiful, Backdrop ART!
And so now out my window, I see the roller doors closing, the work in progress being covered by moisture resistant blanket covers, the lights turning off and laughs as staff are leaving … heading home for the night.
There will be more drapes tomorrow!