Behind the Scenes: How Next Level Apparel Achieves Operational Success
Leading promo apparel supplier Next Level Apparel will be the first to tell you how much their success lies within the success of their factories. Unlike other suppliers who might outsource product manufacturing to whichever factories are the most affordable, Next Level instead prefers to invest in partners they can truly work beside, with the goal of improving both businesses to the best of their ability. Essentially, Next Level isn’t after transactional relationships – they want strategic business partnerships.
While this may be an ambitious goal, it’s one that’s already proven to work. Next Level currently works with over 20 factories all over the world, each of which are either completely owned or co-owned by Next Level, or exclusively producing products for them. The apparel giant is happy to cover all expenses beyond maintaining machines and managing employees, both tasks that would need to be done on-location. For everything else, Next Level is there to provide support wherever needed.
Of course, keeping tabs on twenty factories, ensuring they’re all running at peak efficiency and supporting them through their everyday challenges is no small task. That’s why Next Level hosts a semi-annual conference and strategy meeting with all of their factory heads to deliver business updates, do workshops together and determine solutions for any challenges the factories or Next Level might be facing.
Following his semi-annual trip to their factories in Central America, David Lin, Chief Operating Officer of Next Level Apparel, gave us the inside scoop on why these meetings are so important. Spending most of his time at the Nicaraguan factory, Lin’s focus was on connecting concerns and successes from both the factory and business sides to get all key decision makers on the same page for mutual success. Since all areas of production are faced with different challenges and triumphs, it’s crucial to get everyone to communicate and share knowledge and learnings.
One example of a factory challenge Lin observed was that their Nicaraguan factory had recently hired over 2,000 people. While certainly a good challenge to have, Lin was tasked with helping the factory figure out how to properly train all the new hires while also protecting their health and safety during an ongoing pandemic. By meeting with government and local officials, Lin was able to work alongside factory leaders to find solutions that kept everyone’s safety a top priority.
Another challenge many promo apparel suppliers are dealing with is the scarcity of raw materials. Next Level had to make sure their factories were equipped with enough thread and fabric to keep operations running, even if it meant paying a higher cost for it for the time-being. Next Level knows these investments are worth it for the long-term success of their business, as well as those of their factory partners. By always thinking ahead and considering the vantage point of those closest to the factory floor, Next Level can look toward the future for new investments, challenges and opportunities that ultimately provide better products and services for the end-buyer.
One major aspect where Next Level’s factories excel The quality of their people. Lin is proud to sing the praises of his business partners, who work hard, love what they do and are dedicated to the craft.
Last but not least, we asked Lin what he believes the cornerstone of Next Level’s operational success is. He says it’s simply taking the time to understand the voice of the customer, and then communicating those wants and desires all the way down the supply chain. The ultimate goal is for an aligned strategy at all points of production, to ensure everyone is working toward a common goal.
There you have it: That’s how Next Level is able to achieve their success – and hopefully, it’s how you can too.