Spec Sheet Vs Tech Pack
Know How to Create Instructions for Cloth Manufacturers
You’ve designed some exciting new fashion attire and you’re itching to use your opportunity to put your brand on the map.
To do this, you’ll need to make your garments. And to do that you’re going to need a Tech Pack and a Spec Sheet.
What are these, you ask. The following few paragraphs will explain what they are and the role they play in bringing your design to life as a garment.
Spec Sheet VS Tech Pack
The Tech Pack
The Tech Pack, or Technical Pack, is a set of documents that provides the garment manufacturer with all the information that he needs to produce the garment. It contains, at the very least, drawings, measurements, and technical information regarding, amongst others, fabric, size charts, special finishes etcetera.
An important component, possibly the most important, of the Tech Pack is the Spec Sheet.
We’ll analyze the Tech Pack in more detail later and look at what makes a good or a bad pack.
The Spec Sheet
The Spec Sheet, or Specification Sheet, is the detailed set of instructions that the manufacturer needs to ensure that he produces the garment exactly as designed.
This will, typically, contain technical drawings, measurements, details of fabrics, colors, and special finishes, and may also include a comprehensive set of construction notes to allow a clear and unambiguous understanding of how the garment comes together.
The Spec Sheet is, essentially, the blueprint or plan for the construction of the garment. Just as you would not attempt to build a house with an incomplete plan, so you should not attempt to manufacture clothing without a good Spec Sheet.
The constituents of a good Spec Sheet will be discussed in further detail as part of the detailed Tech Pack analysis.
What makes a good Tech Pack?
As mentioned earlier, the Tech Pack has a few basic requirements without which it cannot serve its purpose.
However, several additional components can be incorporated into the Tech Pack which will provide more comprehensive guidelines, detailed processes and checklists, bills of materials, and so forth.
All of this additional information may be provided purely as checks and balances to ensure a smooth production process without unexpected process failures or an end-product that does not look or wear the way it should.
The Tech Pack can include any or all of the following components:
A cover page
This is where you provide drawings and a description of the garment. These drawings will usually be in full color and attempt to represent the finished product as closely as possible to real life. This page may also contain brand identity information such as the company logo, name of the designer, basic style information and color references, and so forth.
The Spec Sheet
This is the instruction manual and contains the technical drawings, measurements, details about fabrics, colors, machinery, special detailing, and so forth. This is the single most important component of the Tech Pack. Creating a good Spec Sheet requires training and experience. It also requires sticking to some basic rules, particularly concerning the drawings.
The drawings are referred to as Flat Drawings. They are a two-dimensional representation of the garment, much as if the garment was laid flat on a table. There are specific standards that apply to these drawings. For instance, the drawings should depict at least the front and back views of the item. Additional views may be required depending on the item’s shape.
The drawings are monochrome. Always. Attention must also be paid to the thickness of lines as these also convey information to the manufacturer.
Although the drawing should not depict any style effects or textures, it must show all the work that the machine operators must do, such as seams, pockets, darts and pleats, and so forth.
The measurements must be very clear. It bears noting that this is not a simple science. Measurements are influenced by several factors, not least of which is the fabric used or the demographics of the target market. There is no quick and easy template for sizing garments.
The third key component of the Spec Sheet is the technical information. This refers to fabric selection, colors, appropriate machinery, any special finishes or techniques, and the like. This is where the “science” of the design is mapped out. Creating clothing is not just about stitching a few pieces of cloth together. Once you delve into it, you begin to realize just how many factors can affect the success or failure of a finished garment.
Cotton and Spandex, for example, require different stitching methods and will behave very differently once assembled. Clothing designed as outerwear for wet weather should have plastic or nylon accessories rather than steel, which can rust.
The technical information should also have a Bill of Materials. This will serve as a checklist for the manufacturer to ensure that all the materials have been obtained and applied in the correct quantities. This is an important component. If the Bill of Materials is incorrect, the manufactured product will fail.
Once these three components have been put together, the designer has a workable Spec Sheet. A set of instructions for one garment; in one size, and one color scheme.
The Grading Sheet
To complete a basic Tech Pack, the measurements for different garment sizes must be provided. Of course, if the garment is to be produced in only one size, this page is not required.
The Grading Sheet is a matrix where each measurement is scaled mathematically upwards or downwards to achieve the different sizes of a garment. There are many different sets of rules that determine how sizes are graded.
The default size for the Spec Sheet is usually in the middle of the planned size range. The different sizes are then scaled from there through the application of a mathematical ratio. The ratios have been developed over centuries since the invention of the tape measure. Most grading is now automated and built into the design software.
Although a Tech Pack is functional with these components, it is common to include some optional pages as well. These pages provide supplemental information; some related to the characteristics of the garment and some related to the production processes and requirements.
Optional pages may include:
A Sampling page where all the samples that have been made are recorded together with measurements and notes. This page is useful for quality control and for verifying that the factory has the measurements in line with the Spec Sheet.
The Colorways show the garment in the various colors in which it will be made. This page records the specific Pantone codes alongside an image of the garment in each of the colors or color schemes.
Certain complex items may need additional drawings at various angles to more fully show the shape. This is particularly so for bags, shoes, and certain accessories.
There may be supplementary technical detail for printing, embroidery, or accessories that will be placed on the garment. The page will detail the materials, product codes, sizes, and placement of these embellishments.
In most cases, the garments will require labels and washing instructions.
A very important step in the process, and one that is often overlooked, is the tests that will be carried out on the manufactured garments. Textiles can be have very differently when they are modeled on a mannequin compared to when they are worn in real-life situations by real people. The way the fabric hangs can differ significantly between two people with different body shapes. The cut could create a spot that chafes. These issues will only be discovered during live testing and, if properly catered for, can avoid disaster.
A pattern. The pattern is the template from which the pieces of fabric will be cut and is a fundamental component in the “design and build” process. It is considered an optional component because, very often, the manufacturer can provide the pattern cutter. In this instance, it would not need to be included in the Tech Pack. Occasionally, though, the designer would need to contract a third party pattern cutter and then include the pattern in the Tech Pack.
Lastly, it is prudent to include packaging instructions. Consideration should be given to how the garment will be shipped, how it will be stored, and how it will be handled by the end customer. The instructions will specify whether or not each item is individually packed and the packaging material to be used. The shipping configuration is also specified, for example, 20 items per double-corrugated box with dimensions of 40 x 40 x 40 cm. This would limit the weight to avoid difficulties with the handling and shifting of the boxes and also optimize stacking in a warehouse.
Software for creating Tech Packs
There are several software solutions available that claim to produce a Tech Pack. There are divided schools of thought regarding how well these applications work and whether they do reduce the workload of the designer. Or, indeed, replace the knowledge and experience of the designer.
The creators of the applications market them as solutions that do all the work. Certainly, some of the applications appear to generate the Bill of Materials, Points of Measurement diagrams, Grading Sheets, and the technical drawings to scale. They also include the production of the drawings.
The designers also argue that the applications create too many pages and that this could be problematic as pages may be lost at any point between the design process and completion of the production.
Some traditional designers and fashion consultants, on the other hand, argue that all the application does, is organize information captured into the application by the designer into the component pages of the Tech Pack. There is little if any design intelligence built into the application. It is still incumbent on the designer to apply their knowledge and experience to the creation of the design. It is here where the designers may feel that the application is slower than creating a traditional Tech Pack manually. All the data must be captured and checked, sketches may need to be scanned and converted. And checked. All of this could end up taking longer to do. And, most importantly, these applications usually come at quite a significant cost.
Some organizations offer a practical guide to creating Tech Packs which are bundled with a set of templates. The templates may be useful in providing a consistent format and this may benefit less experienced designers. The guides may also contain useful tips and processes that less experienced users might find advantageous. A seasoned designer, however, would still rely on their skill and experience.
Microsoft Excel is another useful tool for organizing all the design data. For the technical drawings, Adobe Illustrator is the popular choice. These are tools that assist in organizing all the design data and that facilitate collaboration between team members. The output is stored electronically and is a lot more secure. Changes can be made and tracked quite easily. Using links or formulae in Excel also ensures that dependent data is automatically updated when changes are made. Despite all of the benefits, these applications are still just a means to an end. They do not carry out the creative part of the process. The design is still entirely a product of the skill and experience of the designer.
To recap, a complete and thorough set of instructions for a clothing manufacturer is a well constructed Tech Pack. This should consist of at least the following essential pages:
And any or all of the following optional pages:
Additional Technical Data
Additional Technical Drawings
Printing, Embroidery, and Accessories Data
Labeling and Washing Instructions
Packaging and Shipping Instructions.
By creating a Tech Pack that has taken into account all of these considerations, the designer should expect the first samples to be very close to the expectation and that only minor adjustments may be required. Ultimately, the effort expended in putting together a comprehensive Tech Pack will save production time and will avoid the unnecessary cost of reworking faults.