Brief Overview of the Sewn Products Industry and Contract Sewing
Posted by Cutting Sewing Room Equipment Staff on 1/23/2020 to
Can you imagine how many of our customers ask us for recommendations for contract sewers? It’s constant. They could just go to China, but then again who would they talk to there? They would still need a recommendation. Of course, there are limited resources in the United States for contract sewers. This is good for Contract Sewing Companies, but not so good for all the companies looking to contract.
Why Industrial Sewing Still Exists in Our Country
Most of us in the business realize that most of the industrial sewing left America for overseas back in the nineteen nineties and we survived. Still, some product developers may not realize this, nor do many care about the major relocation of the industry. Some things are still cheaper or just more effective to produce in the U.S.A. Then there are quite a handful of brands who only sell goods manufactured here for reasons of quality control, tax breaks, or just pride. In the United States, the array of commercial sewing services in demand is broad and has little to do with big apparel runs anymore. The reasons for domestic production include:
- Quality Control
- Fast Turnaround Times
- Small Runs
- Oversized items
- Specialty Products
Products that are still just ideas are one of the biggest reasons to contract sewing here within the nation. Product designers are important to save time and money developing ideas into prototypes. Those initial designs will have to be re-engineered after problems occur during short-run production. This is where necessary seams, structural components, and further insurances for functionality will be enforced. Once refinements have been made, a process is developed that can execute the desired product. Most of this must be done before production can be moved to a cheap factory in Asia or a closer American factory. Sewing operations are in business from Atlanta to Los Angeles and everywhere in-between, and emerging companies are searching for them right now. Pattern designers are a good place for producers to find these resources.
Many companies still produce on domestic soil because it’s the most cost-effective way. In some cases, the size of the product makes overseas shipping more difficult. Furniture manufacturing stayed this way just until recently with the new trends of internet retailers selling millions of couches, chairs and even rugs that were manufactured in East Asia and sold online for cheap prices. Still, many furniture makers continue to rely on production lines here to fulfill their needs. Bedding companies, pillow makers and other soft home brands keep their manufacturing within the continental 48. They still count on their makers for sewing and material sourcing. Many hire out for the white label production runs. Things have changed, but all the work hasn’t disappeared. As we have seen a decline in skilled craftsmen, we have also realized a new sales force for sewn products. This leaves room for more sewing automation and more custom products in furniture and other markets.
Another domestic production need that remains strong is that of Uniforms and Job-related Garments. Think about the millions of hourly employees who wear a company uniform that is usually laundered by the clothing rental company. Most of these garments are made on-demand and repaired when necessary. The turnaround times must be fast, so they can’t get farmed out too far away.
There is also the need for quality control that is easier to do here. High-end brands and innovative companies keep the sewn products industry thriving here too. Try walking into an R.E.I. and not picking up products that were made in the United States. You can’t. For those of you not familiar, R.E.I. is an outdoorsy store that carries high-end outdoor gear and clothing. Think rock climbing or kayaking like a millionaire. Being that they cater to a smaller facet of the population, they can afford to buy local and charge higher prices for their goods. A store like this can showcase the latest innovations in their market space. Many of their garments are technical in their applications and must meet high-quality standards. The manufacturers who provide to high-end stores can more easily meet high-quality standards with their producers just down the road instead of across the world. Engineers who find themselves in the sewn products industry also enjoy the ability to control the quality when the production is local. High quality and distance are not the only considerations, however.
There is the demand for equipment that is needed in short bursts, so “small runs” are necessary. One arena where this happens is the medical industry. Medical product demand has been on the rise for a little while now with an array of special product needs. Sewn products and Radio Frequency Welding have their place in this market. These non-apparel needs stretch from simple surgical masks to special containment requirements. We’ve spoken with our customers who sew the surgical masks, medical therapy sleeves and wraps, and related items. They are some busy people. We have also heard that there is a demand for heat seals for containment bladders, thermoplastic cushions, and underwater liners. These and many more products fall into the “short-run” category and need to be produced domestically.
We have seen a spike in other markets as well. Government contracts for sewn military operations usually stay on American soil, but what about domestic sewing for those who are not qualified to execute government contracts. There are plenty of other markets in both apparel and non-apparel products.
Thriving Domestic Apparel Industry Needs Include:
• Pattern Development
• Prototyping and Re-Engineering
• White Label Production Sewing
• Uniforms & Aprons
• Outerwear & Sportswear
• Adaptive & Special Needs Clothing
• Costume Work
Non-Apparel Markets and Products in demand are:
• Cargo Nets
• Restraint Belts
• Sporting Goods
• Firearms and artillery cases
• Luggage, Handbags & Backpacks
• Weatherproof Covers and Cases
• Airline Approved Cases
• Pet Products
• Fabric Filters and Fabric Filter Chutes
• Healthcare & Medical Goods
• Surgery equipment cases
• Industrial Curtain Walls
• Powersport Equipment Covers
• Mattress Covers
• Pillow Inserts
• Banners & Displays
• Protective Covers & Pouches
• Sales, Marketing & Promotional Materials
• Home Interior Sewing
These markets are demanding the following sewing & attachment capabilities:
• Programmable Sewing
• Post-Bed Lockstitching
• Cylinder Bed Lockstitching
• Bar Tacking
• Zig Zag sewing
• Serger sewing
• Straight Stitch Sewing
• Blind Stitch Sewing
• Walking Foot Sewing
• Double-Needle Sewing
• Work with fabrics, vinyl, felt, nylon, webbing, plastic, foam, and leather
• Radio Frequency Welding
• Short Production Runs to High Volume Jobs
• Heat Sealing
• Hot Air Sealing
• Hot Wedge Welding
• Solvent Bonding
So, from this snapshot, we hope you can imagine the current demand in the industry. Maybe you even got a few new ideas about where you can further develop your business. This industry has been slow to adapt to the internet and social media. A lot of business is still done face to face and over the phone. The emerging companies, however, just like with everything else in their daily lives, are turning to the web for Online Industrial Sewing Resources. We are attempting to embrace the change and are keeping our social media pages alive and our blog here.