October 7 marked MFG Day 2015, and ABS was honored to help give students from Philadelphia University a firsthand look at a successful apparel manufacturer right in their backyard. A Wish Come True, one of the few manufacturers of dance and performance clothing in the US, graciously allowed students from Assistant Professor Nioka Wyatt’s Apparel Technology class to take a tour of their production facility. ABS joined A Wish Come True to show where software and technology come into the fold.

Group photo outside of A wish come true with ABS and students and Assistant Proessor Wyatt

The tour group started the day outside of A Wish Come True’s Bristol, PA facility, where everyone got to know each other a little better. Professor Wyatt’s class met the staff from A Wish Come True, including VP of Finance Mark Gidjunis, Senior Pattern Maker Eileen Sheehan and Product Development Manager Erika Duszny. After a photo, the group embarked on the tour with Erika in the lead.

Apparel Manufacturing Stop #1: Customer Service

Philadelphia University students touring the A Wish Come True office

The tour began with a look at A Wish Come True’s customer service department. One of the major selling points of A Wish Come True is their fantastic customer service — customers can call or email during business hours and receive personal attention to their query. Managing custom apparel for an entire dance team can be a complicated process, with many moving parts, from different fabric types to varying sizes. It was inspiring to see their team in action, fastidiously checking every detail to ensure that items would arrive on time to the satisfaction of their customers.

Apparel Manufacturing Stop #2: The Perfect Fit

The Fit Room

Next, the tour group moved on to the fit area. The room was packed with custom-made mannequins and body forms of all shapes and sizes. An important part of their manufacturing process is testing each style to adhere to size chart specifications. This way, a customer can order a piece without worrying about whether it will fit true to size. Taking the time to fit-test each style requires attention to detail, but this quality assurance is worth it to ensure customer expectations are not only met, but exceeded.

Apparel Manufacturing Stop #3: Matching Patterns to Designs

From there, the students headed to a busy room filled with swatches of fabric and textiles — the pattern area. The pattern area is where A Wish Comes True determines which fabrics will work with which designs. A Wish Come True prides themselves on creating costumes and dance apparel to “flatter a full range of figures,” and it’s here that staff figures out how to make costumes that not only look fantastic, but make dancers, color guard and other performers feel comfortable and confident.

The Main Event: The Apparel Manufacturing Production Floor

The production floor at A Wish Come True

The group then moved to what was, for most of the students, the most exciting part of the day: a tour of the production floor. The first thing you see as you step onto the production floor is a massive Gerber cutting machine, used to cut all the fabric for use in garments down to the appropriate size. The whole floor hummed with activity. The students even got a quick peek at the sewers hard at work as they walked along the long, tall shelves filled with glitter, sparkle trim and other accents that make A Wish Come True’s products so special.

Assistant Professor Wyatt in front of a wall of finishing trim at A Wish Come True

While the group walked along the production floor, Erika explained some of the challenges presented by the shortage of skilled workers in the US. While Philadelphia used to be a center for garment manufacturing, there are very few companies still making clothes in the region, which can make it hard to find the skilled workers needed to produce top-quality garments. She also demonstrated how domestic manufacturing delivers some great perks — since A Wish Come True executes their sample and pre-production process under one roof, it takes just days instead of weeks to fix problems. The streamlined process is what allows A Wish Come True to add an average of over 1,000 new styles to their catalogs every year.

Erika showing Philadelphia University Students around A Wish Come True

Leaving the production floor, the tour group headed to a conference room to hear presentations from Apparel Business Systems staff. President Jean Kopan walked the students through the process of making a simple order, and explained how software and technology keep production running smoothly. ABS Project Manager Jessica Schirmer then opened up the ABS apparel ERP and showed the students what apparel software looks like in action. She went over the software’s dashboards, the bill of material and piecework routing process, available-to-promise displays and the style spec sheet.

ABS President Jean Kopan presents to Philadelphia University students

The Impact of MFG Day: Learning About American Manufacturing

Once the floor was opened to comments from the students, it was clear that the tour had made a big impression on them. One student was surprised “that all of this can be done in one building,” but that’s to be expected — so few people in America see the manufacturing process up-close that it can seem like magic when they finally witness it in action.

Students listening attentively during Q&A

And that’s what MFG Day is all about — opening students’ eyes to the fact that manufacturing is an exciting, dynamic process that they can be a part of right here in America. With the right staff and software, the next generation of apparel and footwear manufacturers can continue to break new barriers in design.

Our first MFG Day was a great success, and we are so grateful to A Wish Come True and Philadelphia University for helping make it a reality. Are you planning a MFG Day at your company? Tell us about it with the form below, or tweet us @ApparelBusiness!