The Backorder: May 29, 2024

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Welcome back! We hope your week has been full of nothin’ but on-time deliveries, accurate stock levels, and generous supplier pricing. 💸 In today’s edition of The Backorder:

  • The latest stats and insights from the Manufacturing Health Index
  • Tech Packs Co’s purpose-driven approach to product development
  • 5 ways to cut costs and grow revenue with smarter packaging
  • Job opportunities from Tennis Australia, Penguin Books, and more

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Manufacturers marching on

This week we published our quarterly Manufacturer’s Health Index.

Here are some of the biggest insights from Q1 2024:

  • Sales stumble. Manufacturing sales revenues dropped in Q1 across the UK, Australia & NZ – but a handful of sectors did well.
  • B2B goes digital. Manufacturers using digital sales tools sold 20% more (than those without), while 28% of small manufacturers have now digitised their B2B sales.
  • Lead-time reprieve. Supply chains are finally outperforming pre-pandemic levels, despite Red Sea perils.

Product design with a purpose – meet Belinda Jacobs

We recently chatted with Belinda Jacobs, CEO & Co-founder of Tech Packs Co. Belinda is a technical designer from London, now based in Los Angeles. She had her first job in fashion at the age of 15, fixing swatch cards together. Since then, she’s been designing and creating tech packs for more than a decade. We asked her about some of the challenges and trends she’s seeing across the industry in 2024.

Firstly, tell us about the Tech Packs Co mission.

“We help brands design and develop new apparel or textile productions with intention and purpose. [We’re especially proud of] our method for Purpose-Driven Product Development. The three main pillars of the framework are design, blueprints, and process. Following our methodology takes our clients from back-of-the-napkin idea to successful production run. We help them get there with ease and speed, while navigating around and over the most common pitfalls brands face – low margins and high return rates.”

That’s awesome. Have you faced any major challenges since launching your business?

“Consumer goods have been facing a downward pricing spiral for decades. We’re now at the point where the price that consumers want to pay for things is historically low, whereas materials and labour costs are constantly rising and higher than they’re ever been. This leaves the people who do the cutting and sewing of clothes, and the farmers who plant the crops getting squeezed tighter and tighter.”

Why do you think this is happening?

“Big brands have all the power and can negotiate, drop orders, or withhold payment as they wish. It creates a one-sided environment leaving lots of room for abuse, child labour, and sliding safety standards. As brands grapple with sustainability issues, small steps have been taken in the right direction. But, industry-wide, change hasn’t yet happened. There’s been a lot more greenwashing than actual needle-moving. Lots of small solutions that haven’t been commercially scaled yet, like take-back programs [and] recycling.”

Do you see any better solutions to some of these issues?

“Digital passports will go a long way to providing transparency to professionals and consumers alike. These are online records of a product’s supply chain history that you can access via a QR code on a label. The rest, I think, will need more legislative help. Until we tax unsustainable, unethical, and exploitative methods and products – these will always be the short-term cheapest option. We won’t get systematic change until the economics add up.”

Can you recommend any great resources for industry advice?

“For industry insights, I like David Birnbaum’s substack (check out his books as well). The podcasts Clotheshorse and Manufactured are also excellent and provide deeper, more nuanced conversations than anything else I’ve come across.”

Thanks for your time, Belinda. Before you go – can we get your predictions for the future of product design?

“I’m excited to see where digital product creation will take us. The tools currently in the market are a great start, but still need some refinement. Once we’re able to design products using a 3D-first approach, we can truly speed up and simplify development. More accurate and better AI is [also] something to look forward to. Smarter tools for the complex process of design and manufacturing would really help with some of the big issues faced by brands and manufacturers.”

How to optimise your packaging to save money and lift sales

Packaging matters – whether it’s protecting your goods, the environment, or your brand’s reputation. Here are 5 tips for best-practice packaging.

1. Brand-ify your packaging design. Is your beautifully designed product packaging getting covered by garish courier bags? If so, it may be time to design some custom packaging. First impressions count – help your customers experience your brand the moment they receive their goods.

2. Don’t neglect branding in B2B. Your reputation matters just as much within the supply chain as it does outside of it. Make like Amazon – even if it’s just a smart logo on a brown box – and ensure your B2B customers know your brand.

3. Plan for pallets. If you design your packaging sizes as multiples of your most popular bulk transport options – whether that’s pallets or sea containers – you’ll reduce your per-unit shipping costs.

4. Close the loop. Packaging is expensive. Take inspiration from coffee company Kua who use serial number tracking to check bulk containers in and out of their business, ensuring packaging costs are as low as environmental impact.

5. Ask your freight forwarder. Before you brief your packaging designer, it’s a good idea to speak with your freight forwarder or 3PL provider – they’ll have valuable input on what makes packaging good or bad, from reducing damage to cutting weight.

On the lighter side…

warehouse memes

Who’s hiring?

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Oliver Munro - Unleashed Software
Oliver Munro

Article by Oliver Munro in collaboration with our team of specialists. Oliver's background is in inventory management and content marketing. He's visited over 50 countries, lived aboard a circus ship, and once completed a Sudoku in under 3 minutes (allegedly).

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