In the early 1990s – when close to 85 percent of apparel was produced domestically – Standard Allowable Minutes (SAMs) was best practice in costing and construction of garments. SAMs established the time required to sew each part of a product, associate a difficulty rating with the process, and tie to a cost. By the late 1990s, when close to 85 percent of apparel production had moved overseas, the practice of SAMs all but disappeared.
Today, companies rely on past experience to determine price per piece. The method does not allow for refinement of individual parts or processes, which in turn limits the ability to precisely estimate costs for garments and other sewn goods. It also leaves room for errors, misinterpretations or misunderstandings with vendors as they strive to do their jobs as cost- and time-efficiently as possible.
Is it time to bring SAMs back? In today’s world of fast fashion, tight margins and omnichannel merchandising, could SAMs help make more intelligent design decisions?
The Case for SAMs
The key in using SAMs is creating a database of parts and processes for sewing each garment. Time-consuming? Yes, initially. Over the life of a product? No.
In effect, SAMs become part of the tech pack. While vendors often prefer shorter tech packs, the up-front detail pays off in the development process. Apparel and fashion companies can even use this more detailed information to help determine the factories that are best equipped to produce the products they need.
With SAMs, vendors receive specific and explicit directions on exactly how to sew each part of an item. With no questions or ambiguities, sample iteration decreases (often to the point of getting the correct sample the first time), sample material and production costs fall, cost precision increases, and the time it takes to get a garment into production and to market drop.
Today, advanced PLM software makes creating and maintaining the database of parts and processes for sewing garments easier. A PLM solution can house a standard database – such as the General Sewing Data (GSD) – as part of PLM’s “single version of the truth” about all products. It then serves as a foundation for reinstituting the use of SAMs in the manufacturing process.