Who Says US Apparel Manufacturing is Dead?

 

Suuchi, Inc., a vertically integrated supply chain in New Jersey, is led by immigrant and entrepreneur Suuchi Ramesh. In a country where apparel manufacturing is on the decline, almost to a waning extinction, Suuchi, Inc. doesn’t think it’s dead. In fact, with the use of up-and-coming fashion manufacturing technology and a one-stop-stop business model, this company is growing exponentially and bringing jobs back to the economy—all in a day’s work.

Blush Magazine: You manufacture a lot of up-and-coming young designers and private label brands, which I’m sure a lot of FIT’s fashion design students would be interested to know. What would you like them to know about working with Suuchi, Inc.?

Suuchi Ramesh: It’s definitely fun! And I would say it’s not for everyone, in a good way. We work hard, challenge one another and are very transparent. We want to change the world, which also means if you’re not working hard or you don’t have the right attitude, we fire people fast. But the ones that are good, we take care of them, and it’s a family atmosphere. So working at Suuchi, Inc. is a lot about hard work, but it’s also about happiness. I think we want to drive people towards finding their purpose and being honest and transparent with one another. I think you also have to be courageous and brave, because we’ll tell you to your face if you’re doing well, but we’ll also tell you to your face if things aren’t working out.

B: How would you say your technology has impacted fashion manufacturing?

SR: The technology out there is all design software. Our technology is very different because it’s a very simple, easy, intuitive product life-cycle management system which includes information about the part of the supply chain that is not connected today, which is the manufacturing shop floor. It’s inexpensive, and I think anyone can use it and understand it whether or not they have a fashion background. It allows you to communicate effortlessly and incorporate features of Skype and Slack. It’s not just a fashion management tool, it’s also a communication tool, which I think makes it awesome. The technology allows us to connect, collect data and monetize that data, as well.

Suuchi Ramesh, Founder & CEO of Suuchi, Inc.
Suuchi Ramesh, Founder & CEO of Suuchi, Inc.

B: There are so few remaining clothing manufacturers in the US. What’s your opinion on this decline, and what made you want to fight against it?

SR: I think the main reason we have so few clothing manufacturers left is because there’s been no new, young leadership that’s tech-savvy that’ve come in to change the industry. I think that’s the biggest reason it’s declined, because no one has invested in tech or training. That said, while there is a challenge, the wider the opportunity to create million-dollar payoff, the more we’re willing to finance it. The more difficult it is, the more value you can create by revolutionizing the industry. I think it’s also very heartening for us to be able to add jobs—with a new change in the industry, you have the ability to add hundreds or thousands of jobs.

B: How many workers do you employ? I’ve read that 80% of them are women, and from at least 27 nationalities.

SR: We currently employ 130 people!

B: How much of your production process is manual labor, and how much is robotic mechanization?

SR: I’d say about half and half. Robotic evolution and animation is a step-by-step process; it’s not going to happen overnight. There are different levels of robotic evolution and we are very encouraged by the progress we’re making. Right now, it’s 50-50, and we’ll continue to upgrade our process to make it more mechanized.

B: Technology and manufacturing are almost synonymous today. Where do you think tech in this field is heading?

SR: I agree, I think technology is going to completely transform manufacturing. The way the industry is going, it’s going to be about connective-ness, it’s going to be about using technology to drive sustainability and transparency, it’s going to be about collecting data and then using that data to drive predictive insights in machine-learning. We can predict what trends are going to do well and forecast to our brands how many units they should be making rather than them making large amounts of inventory and having them end up in landfills. We can do machine-learning cases like posting hashtags on Instagram and Twitter to see which styles are doing well in the next season. It’s also able to collect real-time data on the supply chain on our shop floor and then we’re able to say, “Okay, this product took five days to make versus eight days to make three weeks from now, so what was it, sole level productivity or was it the use of robotics?” So, you know, analyzing not just trends of the markets, but ensuring the success of our customers and improving productivity by tracking data on the shop floor.

B: What do you think is the future of fashion in design?

SR: I think it’s very important we talk about this, not just because it sounds glamorous. We’re saying, “Okay, how can we make 3D printing, AR, VR—how can we make these concepts so they are usable for everyone versus just being for the elite that understand it.?” It’s about understanding the future, but it’s also about translating it into usable ways for our customers.

But some of the really cool things are body-scanning, which is taking measurements from individual people and customizing clothing. This is becoming much more mainstream. There’s also, in the design process, moving from 2D to 3D pattern-making; that’s a big change that I think will reduce time and effort. Also, the made-to-order supply chain; once VR becomes a reality, we’ll have virtual malls where we can go in and try things on with our avatars, so we’re not actually trying things on, but rather we’re trying on a virtual image on a virtual body. So, let’s say someone picks something in the virtual reality; that gets transferred to our system manufacturer because they just ordered it. So there’s some really cool new cases that’ll happen sooner than we think.

B: How do you see your company growing in the short term? In the long run?

SR: As we continue to grow, I hope to stay true to our culture and not lose the essence of it. It’s really important to us that we maintain our excellence and passion to bring back jobs. So in the short term, it’s about expanding to our new space and really making sure we create a work floor that really encourages sustainability and transparency. In the long run, we really want to bring manufacturing back to the USA so we want to replicate the models we’ve created in the northeast across the country.

B: What inspires you?

SR: Meeting and working with entrepreneurs every day is always inspiring. And I think bringing back jobs is inspiring; just to see around us the jobs we’ve created creates a positive cycle where you want to create more jobs. It is very heartening to see a lot of employees and especially stores that didn’t have stable jobs before, and to see how strong these women are. They’re awesome.

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