How fast is fast? That is the philosophy that has driven Mexican intimate clothing manufacturer Intimark in its pursuit of growth and instant client response. To be the producer of choice of close fitting products, the company invested in EDI, electronic data interchange, technology so that it can be close fitting to its clients. “We receive orders this way, which helps improve response times. We are the fastest company in the region,” says sales director Dennis Rockwell.
Intimark has a fleet of 1,200 sewing machines, but to achieve rapid order turnaround, the company invested in 30 automatic sewing machines that are specially adapted to achieve high throughput. “These are normal machines manufactured in three different phases with a company in Switzerland that adds an automatic system which is both pneumatic and electronic. This conversion adds up to $45,000 to the cost of each machine, making $135,000 in total. After this, the machine has the capacity to do all this work that a person does, but using exact measures,” he says.
Total investment is about $2 million including about 300 sewing machines, additional equipment and buildings. “There has been a strong investment in the latest version of the Lextra cutting machine that cost $300,000, an Alis plotter for marking out that cost $50,000 and is three times faster than the one we used to have, and $600,000 for 12 machines that produce a body style tubular cloth,” says Rockwell.
The company also bought a machine for making bras that molds cups to the desired shape that cost $50,000, and spent $100,000 for the heat print machines.
All this gives the company manufacturing capacity for between 24 and 26 million garments a year at its two factories that total 12,400 square meters, located near Oaxaca and Toluca. The facilities are close to an international airport, which is essentially for dispatch. “Our products are manufactured for the international market. Everything we do is for foreign companies, and our clients are located in markets all over the globe like Europe, USA or Canada,” he says.
In the 10 years since Intimark began producing intimate wear it has grown rapidly to become the number one international producer, as it follows a strategy that aims for double-digit growth. The year 2006 saw it post record growth of 19 percent. “We are proud to say that we are the number one company not only locally, but internationally. We see ourselves as the leader in a very diverse market, but we know that we have to work harder and constantly innovate and improve,” says Rockwell.
Intimark sees as its competitive advantage its technological infrastructure, its people and the constant commitment of its shareholders that provide investment funds when required.
The business was formed by three partners with $6 million in start-up capital to manufacture intimate apparel for Victoria’s Secret. “One partner knew about the market, one knew about production and one knew about raw materials,” he says. The company started with one plant and 1,000 employees and produced solely for Victoria’s Secret, and now has two plants and 1,500 employees and also produces underwear, sportswear and swimsuits that it supplies to Victoria’s Secret stores and catalogue, Express, Bravato Design, NY ‘n’ Company, Sears, CK, and Avenue.
The company is vertically integrated as it manufactures the cotton used in its products, and it also produces synthetic fabrics from fine gauge mesh to the thicker materials required for swimsuits. Raw material production is one of Intimark’s three strengths. Another is a lean manufacturing system whereby production begins immediately once an order is placed in its system by the client. “This means that there is no production waste and a lot of flexibility that forces us to be faster, to work at a faster pace,” he says.
All this is driven by the third pillar of having a global vision of the business. “We have developed new products and materials that not only fulfill the needs and expectations of our clients, but have surpassed them.
“We can produce anything they need, from the simplest material or product to the most elaborate. Our clients know they can count on us for anything. Sometimes we receive orders and designs. Sometimes they just have ideas and we help them realize these. We keep reinventing the market and its needs, as well as those of our clients,” he says.
Close working relationships with suppliers are also essential and Intimark has a joint venture with Stretch Line, a company with plants in Sri Lanka, China, Pakistan, the U.K., and the USA. “We fabricate elastics, labels and cotton, and we have joint ventures inside the supply chain that give us huge flexibility,” says Rockwell.
Adapting its work model and processes to be able to optimize its response times saw the company bring in consultants at a cost of $200,000 to help with personnel development, training and improving the work environment. “We care about our staff and employees and we are aware that behind every machine there is an employee. We are changing and evolving so we can be competitive, and this gives us great benefits such as greater efficiency and productivity,” he says.