Apparel Manufacturing in the US
‘MADE IN AMERICA’ BRINGS BACK CHEERS TO THE LOCAL MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY
Hardly a few would know that USA does US $ 13.6 billion of shipments annually in apparels, which is almost half of what Bangladesh does or 76% of what India exports. Though the move towards local manufacturing started long time back with concepts like ‘ Inshoring’, ‘ Reshoring’ and ‘ Nearshoring’, it actually caught speed when the initiative was taken up by Donald Trump, the 45th and current President of the USA, who announced to bring in ‘Made in America’ policy in January 2017 in order to promote manufacturing within the US. Ever since the announcement came into existence, the apparel manufacturers in the country have started strengthening their already operational business as well as many start-ups which saw the light of day. The establishment of these factories opened the doors of employment for thousands of local workforce.
The Government intervention was actually required seeing the fact that since year 2000, the US has lost more than 5.1 million jobs due to factories’ closure and the term ‘Made in America’ gradually lost its credibility. But, as the apparel industry in the US is in the growing phase again, the local manufacturers are taking up the advantage of the ‘ Trump Trust’ for local manufacturing and sending a strong message to the rest of the world that the US apparel manufacturing is doing better than expected. According to a report published by Reshoring Initiative in 2017, the apparel and textile industry ranks third among all the industries that have reshored 48,525 jobs by 952 companies since 2010.
Why are manufacturing jobs coming back, and where are they landing?
In the 19th century, Fall River was an important garment manufacturing hub in Massachusetts (United States) in terms of production. Similarly, Garment District in New York had the best concentration of sewers in 1931 in the world, but today the number of sewers have been reduced drastically; the reason being that, over the last few decades, the majority of factories in these hubs have been shuttered as manufacturing has moved offshore to places such as China and Vietnam.
However, a ray of hope could be seen back in 2014 when 95% of Americans said in a survey conducted by Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) that they have a favourable view of American-made products. Changing consumer preference is not the only reason for jobs getting back to the country. The cost difference between domestically-produced garments and exported garments has also shrunk. According to Reshoring Initiative, the cost of exported garments is a full 95% of the cost of US-produced garments. This has encouraged more entrepreneurs to start manufacturing in the country itself. Further, proximity to customers and short lead time remained the vital factors driving
During mid ’ 90s when job loss in USA apparel manufacturing was at peak and South Asian apparel manufacturing was growing by leaps and bounds, there was a silent movement among US manufacturers and garments used to be labelled as ‘ Crafted with pride in USA’. It is radically transforming the future of American apparel manufacturing with intelligent integration of technology, automation and humans. Reshoring followed by the ability to brand products as ‘Made in USA’.
Besides, the contribution of financial aid from the Government and supplychain synergies in Reshoring can’t be underrated by any means. The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), in collaboration with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and the Garment District Alliance, announced in March 2017 that it is set to invest a package worth US $ 51.3 million to help stabilise and strengthen the garment manufacturing industry in New York City.
As per the collaboration, the investment will cover technology, business assistance and workforce development that will be made available to factories in the five boroughs of New York. Additionally, relocation and expansion support will also be available for companies interested in moving out of the Garment District.
On the FDI side, it’s pertinent to mention that the Chinese bigwig Tianyuan Garments has invested millions of dollars to set up garment factories in the US which, once operational, will surely make a big difference.
As for where the reshored jobs are showing up in the US, the south-east and Texas remain the top regions for the same with the Midwest gaining ground due to its strong industrial base apart from Los Angeles which is undoubtedly considered the topmost place for garment manufacturing with the existence of reputed names such as LA Apparel, 9B Apparels and Indie Source.
Though most manufacturers in the US have small units with 25-100 machines, the promising apparel market within the country will surely help them get bigger in size in near future. Of all these start-ups, Team StitchWorld unfolds the journey of two companies, Suuchi Inc. and Detriot Sewn, which have successfully established themselves in the local market. A New Jersey-based apparel manufacturing start-up, Suuchi Inc. has one core goal: keep all of the manufacturing in-house, within the United States and make production processes faster and smarter. Run by an Indian born woman Suuchi Ramesh, a Computer Science degree holder as well as an MBA, the company manufactures knits and woven clothes as well as accessories for women, men, kids and even pets. “Outsourcing has never been a part of our business model,” avers Suuchi Ramesh who had never been in the apparel industry before starting her own company.
Launched in early 2015, Suuchi Inc. is catching up with the lost opportunities in apparel manufacturing in the US with its state-of-the-art, vertically integrated supply chain that delivers the product as quickly as possible in five days. To fulfil the commitment, Suuchi Inc. works on a simple but effective method, Hyper-Speed to the market. Explaining the same, Suuchi says, “Speed to market is all about KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid… It means our clients can design their garments in our unit, produce here and ship from our unit to their customers.”
There has always been a tussle over the use of human versus the use of automation in the manufacturing industry. When it comes to USA, the debate becomes even more significant as high labour cost is something the local manufacturing units are surely not looking at. But, Suuchi Inc. is radically transforming the future of American apparel manufacturing with intelligent integration of technology, automation and humans. On the technological side, the company currently uses over 100 different machines which have automated almost 40 per cent of the production in the factory and the machines are operated by skilled operators.
Further, the company currently employs around 85 workers, 80 per cent of them being women. There’s a heavy focus on job training to spur job creation, and Suuchi Inc. takes a lot of pride in imparting skills to the employable and ready workers. The company does so through its ‘Suuchi University’, where it trains prospective employees in the required manufacturing skills, offering employment at the end of the
Suuchi Inc., revolutionising apparel manufacturing by bringing in technology and human beings together
three-month training period. “We have 18 graduates from the university already in our unit,” comments Suuchi.
Though the company is providing jobs to people, it’s mainly the heavy investment from the beginning in technology which is responsible for the company’s rapid growth. Month-onMonth, Suuchi Inc. grows 15-25 per cent on an average, according to Suuchi Ramesh, who claimed the growth in an interview conducted by BBC News.
As far as technology is concerned, the company uses CNC fabric cutters instead of straight knife cutters which, for obvious reasons, cut fabric more precisely and, thereby, help sewing operations take place quickly. The company has also automated the process of buttonholes which has reduced time significantly and has made the process faster by 40 per cent.
Eventually, the company is moving towards making the aforementioned processes robotic (reprogrammable) in the upcoming months. However, according to Suuchi, it’s important to consider that reprogrammable robots and machines will make seamstresses smarter and not replace them. “We have come up with an idea of bringing manufacturing jobs to the country, thereby, we can’t think of replacing humans with robots,” boasts Suuchi as she is devoted to using technology to increase efficiency; it certainly hasn’t impacted her ability to create jobs.
Moreover, being a technologist herself, Suuchi Suuchi has created a software to reduce the design time and to create a garment sample from a 3D concept within 48 hours. has created a software to reduce the design time and to create a garment sample from a 3D concept within 48 hours. “Due to this, our clients are now able to see real time information of their orders,” she confirms proudly.
However, manufacturing garments domestically poses its own challenges and the biggest of them all is high price. But Suuchi says that getting the products manufactured within the country is faster and quality can be monitored and, therefore, cost is something the clients should not run away from. “What we offer to the market is better and different. It’s about speed, quality, and innovation and this is why our cost is 20 per cent more than the cost which India or China offer to the US customers,” asserts Suuchi.
The company currently operates in 10,000 square foot facility and provides services to designers who launch their own fashion labels; retailers who want to make privatelabel clothing in America and large firms supplying uniforms to the casino and hospitality industries. With all these investment and expansions, Suuchi Inc. is aiming to clock US $ 7.5 million in turnover by the end of 2018. Manufacturing garments in Detroit (a city of the US state Michigan) which is known as the ‘Motor City’ is surely not an easy task. But, Detroit Sewn – Founded by Karen Buscemi in 2015, came into existence with a determination to utilise the city’s manufacturing capacity and turn it in favour of the garment sector. Started with just one sewing operator and one client, Detroit Sewn has steadily grown to currently having more than 100 clients (including big names such as Tierra Reign; Crypton; Third Man Records and Lauren Gabrielson) in last three years. “I wanted to be able to prove that manufacturing apparel can work in Michigan and, I am proud to claim that I have done that,” says Buscemi, Founder and President of Detroit Sewn.
Detroit Sewn, a small-scale garment manufacturer, specialises in knitwear such as T-shirts, hoodies, baby items and home goods like pillows, tablecloths and napkins. It has also ventured into other industries, making kayak covers and sail prototypes.
Working on the principle of ‘Make, Manufacture, Matter’, Detroit Sewn offers services right from pattern making, sampling, sourcing to digitising, grading, cutting and sewing. Karen says that mostly buyers give complete orders that need pattern making to get dispatched from Detroit’s end only but sometimes it happens that they ask for only a specific service, i.e., pattern making and Detroit Sewn does that too. “They even want their patterns tweaked to make for more efficient sewing, and we never say no’ to them. And then, once everything is ready to go, we can cut and sew to the quantities our clients need and in the timeframe they need,” explains Karen. Simply put, with some clients, Detroit Sewn makes a pattern or a sample. But for others, it does everything from conception to production.
The production floor of the company is equipped with about two dozen sewing stations. The company is using sewing machines of Juki and Singer to accomplish manufacturing of the garments.
Detroit Sewn is a part of Detroit Garment Group (DGG) and the Group was founded by Karen herself in 2012.
Detroit Sewn endeavours to make Michigan a garment manufacturing powerhouse
The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), in collaboration with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and the Garment District Alliance, announced in March 2017 that it is set to invest a package worth US $ 51.3 million to help stabilise and strengthen the garment manufacturing industry in New York City.
Suuchi Ramesh, Founder, Suchhi Inc.
Karen Buscemi, Founder and President, Detroit Sewn