A Mexican leader in the jeans industry has developed a strategy to maintain leadership and penetrate additional markets. Susana Baumann describes how Industrias Jobar has met the demands of foreign private labels by going beyond their quality standards.
INDUSTRIAS JOBAR S. DE R.L. de C.V. was established 40 years ago by Alfonso Barba Gonzalez with the support of his father, Jos‚ Barba Alonso. Only five years later, the company started exports to the United States and since then, never stopped growing.
Today, Industrias Jobar manufactures nine million pants and 150,000 jackets a year at its plant in Aguascalientes, state of M‚xico, for private labels such as Levi’s, Abercrombie, Fossil and J. Crew. “Levi’s was our first client in the United States, and chose our company as the first plant to manufacture its products outside America,” said Federico Llamas, plant manager. The company has been manufacturing Levi’s products for the last 32 years.
The maquila legislation favored Industrias Jobar, and the company obtained contracts with additional clients, dedicating 100 percent of its production to exports. In the last 10 years, a partnership with Greenwood Mills and a distributorship agreement with Single Source Apparel allowed the company to establish links with potential clients as well as negotiate with old ones. Industrias Jobar underwent institutional restructuring 10 years ago, and since then has grown 300 percent.
This growth came from providing clients with high quality garments at competitive costs, and on time delivery because of the company’s proximity to the United States. “We went from being a textile family business to a full-package service corporation, always looking to satisfy our clients with the best quality possible according to their specifications,” Llamas said.
THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION
Between 2000 and 2004, Mexican textile industries consolidated because of the American market recession. Many small companies closed their doors while only larger maquiladoras were able to capitalize by becoming even more competitive and offering value-added services. “While many companies are buying from factories in Asia, prime labels stayed with Mexican companies such as ours, which have the experience, the expertise and the resources to deliver quality pieces of clothing,” said Llamas.
He added that proximity to the American market offers geographical advantages with easy accessibility by land or by sea, compensating for the lower pricing that Asia might offer with shorter delivery times. For example, the company is right now working on Spring 2007 concepts.
Lowering costs has also helped the company because of the competitive jean textile industry. Simplifying processes, reducing labor and training personal have been some of the strategies the company pursued but overall, acquiring the latest technology was fundamental to reducing costs per minute and increasing volume.
Once the client sends specifications, its professional team and Industrias Jobar starts the design process, and different departments develop patterns, build samples and size test runs, which are sent back to the client for approval or modification. The client then places the orders to start production. Industrias Jobar does not itself manufacture denim but acquires its fabric supplies from its partner company Single Source Apparel.
The cutting process is performed at a 6,000-square-meter plant also located in Aguascalientes. Although the company has two laser cutting machines, most work is done manually as this process takes better advantage of the fabric and there is less waste, Llamas said. Cuts include shapes such as boot cut, classic, curvy boot cut, low waist, at waist, straight boot cut, slim straight, relaxed, low rise, slouch, skinny straight and more. There are also capris and crops in different styles such as cuffed, knee-knockers, low skinny, slouch crop and a number of style combinations.
The pieces then are moved through the three sewing plants that cover a total surface of 9,000 square meters. The company’s philosophy regarding technology has been to maintain the latest upgrades and most modern equipment in order to lower labor costs. However, clothing manufacture is a labor-intensive process, and Industrias Jobar employs over 2,000 operators in its four plants. The assembly lines have been designed to improve working conditions and adapt to the manufacturing process.
Once the garment is sewn, it is taken to the Laundry at Delicias Chihuahua, another of Jobar’s partner companies, to undergo the washing and finishing process. Prime labels require intensive finishes and trendy washing processes for garments that are sold at exclusive stores in the United States and at higher prices. The pieces are tested for fabric resistance, shrinkage, and color firmness. The latest fashion trends focus on processes such as sandblasting, sanding, resins, oven, tints, tears, rip ups, holes and dips in solutions of potassium permanganate, embroidery and printing. Special ironing also helps to garments achieve special looks.
Once the product is labeled and packed, it is distributed to cities in the United States, directly to the clients’ warehouses. “Our company has followed the latest trends in technology, with an automated process of merchandise follow up so we can stay competitive in the market. We have also placed ourselves at a higher production level, working for companies that do not sell basic jeans but rather sophisticated ones.
For that reason, our technology must be state-of-the-art. We have been certified by Levi’s and other clients, who perform regular audits to our production plants,” Llamas said.
COMPETITION AT ITS BEST
Fabric quality is important although it may vary depending on the client’s request. Working for premium labels allows the company higher margin profits but also enables the production of more value-added products to stay in the game. Because the industry is changing in the way products are offered, design and manufacturing processes take center stage to stay competitive.
In order to follow up with these trends, the company has raised training levels for its employees. In addition, strong investment in machinery is a continuous goal. According to Llamas, the company is working at full installed capacity while other maquiladoras are falling behind, which is a result of the company’s quick response to market demands.
“Overall, we are a company that offers quality product, with around 35 days of delivery time once the garments are in process (cutting, sewing and finish), with very competitive prices and low cost and highly trained personnel with a long history of expertise in the industry. We have placed our products at an international level and we plan to stay that way.”