Russ: Coming to you today from Downtown Nashville, Tennessee and I’m very pleased to have as my guest Kirby Best, Founder and Chairman of OnPoint Manufacturing; Kirby, welcome to the show.
Kirby: Russ, thank you very much for having me.
Russ: You bet. Tell us about OnPoint Manufacturing.
Kirby: OnPoint is a new type of business model that helps brands in the garment world broaden their market base so that they can go after many different sizes, many different shapes, many different colors without the risk of putting a lot of money into inventory.
Russ: And historically that’s been a huge challenge in that industry, right?
Kirby: Yes. The waste in the industry is absolutely astronomical and there are rumors that as much as 90% of the garments that are made actually end up in landfills.
Russ: And then nowadays it seems like a whole lot of them that make it over here end up in the resale shop or the Last Call shop or whatever.
Kirby: Exactly, right.
Russ: Wow, so this sounds like magic, how are you going to do this?
Kirby: So what we’ve done is we’ve created a system that allows manufacturing to take place in a fraction of the time. We manufacture on demand so that means that the brand will place an order through our web portal and we start to manufacture right off the bat. We will customize the patterns into the system and it gets cut and flows through the system. We are capable of producing about 2.3 dresses a minute.
Russ: Wow, cool.
Kirby: The system is very, very flexible; you can have a women’s dress, a woman’s skirt, a bridesmaid’s dress, a t shirt, a medical scrub, a formal tux jacket – all following each other.
Russ: My goodness. Up front you use this word custom.
Russ: So how custom?
Kirby: This all depends on how the product is set up. If the brand wants to set it up they can offer almost any configuration possible and we can accommodate a wide range of sizes, colors, shapes; everything else. Plus we can do all the alterations in the manufacturing rather than making the customer do it afterwards.
Russ: So are we talking about an automated robotics system?
Kirby: What we do is we’ve looked at Henry Ford who gets attributed with the inline system; most efficient way to manufacture. The issue is the car companies that use the inline system, it takes them 2 months to change over. We’ve set up our inline system that we can reconfigure it every 1.5 seconds so that every taut that holds the garment that’s being sewn can go a totally different path. So every 1.5 seconds that a taut goes by it says go a different route.
Russ: Wow that sounds very sophisticated, do you have this process patented?
Kirby: We’re in a patent pending status right now. It’s changing so quickly that we’re not as worried about the patent side of it and it’s very exciting. The factories that we’ve built today are the most modern in the world, and that’s a Generation 4. I just approved the Generation 5 plans this morning and Generation 6 won’t look anything like it and it’s already on the drawing board.
Russ: You said factory, you said factories; are we talking about China and India and the Philippines?
Kirby: We plan to build – the goal is about 42 factories around the United States, then go worldwide.
Russ: So I want to go deeper into your history but before I do, you keep talking about fashion and high fashion – it sounds to me like you’re leaving our gender out of this right now. Is it just women’s clothing?
Kirby: Yes, we focus on women’s clothing because when we analyzed how this system works – we looked at every piece of clothing we could get our hands on and we said does it need this factor? Does it have this sort of margins? Does it need speed? And what came out was really high end, women’s business wear and the funny part is bridesmaid’s dresses.
Russ: Wow, interesting. So I must confess that preparing for the interview led me down several very interesting paths that I think connect at some point. You’ve mentioned books but before we go to books you mentioned scrubs, so in addition to high fashion you’re doing medical scrubs. And if I read it correctly there was this story about and experience in your family with your wife that you said the only solution is for you to improve the pajamas that she wears. Did I get that right?
Kirby: You did, yeah.
Russ: You don’t have to tell us anything you don’t want to tell us, but tell us what you can.
Kirby: Sure. My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer – and this is really her story and she’s fine now – but it was a horrible couple of years. A lot of the treatment for breast cancer is chemotherapy and that will put a lot of people into early menopause and that will sometimes bring on the night sweats and the hot flashes.
Kirby: She was suffering from this horribly and if you go back a couple of stories I was very involved in the sports world and was privileged to see the early material that would wick away moisture.
Russ: You must tell the audience what you were involved in – you were a bobsled driver with the Canadian team?
Russ: I didn’t ask you how far – were you in the Olympics?
Kirby: I was named to the Olympics. I was the first man named to two sports in the same Olympics and then I got into a fight with our government and I wasn’t allowed to go. But I went to many, many world championships for both bobsledding – well for many sports.
Russ: But mostly winter.
Kirby: All winter, all winter.
Russ: And so you go into the uniforms that winter sports participants wear.
Kirby: Yeah, so when you’re competing in sports often it gets a pretty low temperature so the wicking away of moisture off your body to keep you dry and warm is very important so we were involved with the early technology. So here’s the horrible story; when my wife was going through these horrible hot flashes I brought out a pair of 30 year old cross country ski underwear and said why don’t you try that on? Well it didn’t go very well but she did try it eventually and it made all the difference; she could sleep through the night. Now it doesn’t solve the hot flash, what it solves is she doesn’t wake up wet and cold. So we said where’s the material gone today?
This material was like a screen door, it was awful to wear, so we looked at the fabric and it’s soft and silky and it’s wonderful to wear. You would know some of the fabric that Under Armour makes and Nike DryFit and stuff. So we contracted with one of the mills to make it, an American mill, and so they started making products and we started making sleepwear. We were doing this just for fun and we were trying to donate all the money to breast cancer research; not as easy as you think to donate money. That started to go and then I left my job in the book industry and my partner said to me we make really good pajamas, we’ve been building factories all over the world, why don’t we figure out how to make clothing better and more efficiently and faster; that’s what kind of brought this together.
So then we needed another product and funny enough one of the local hospital presidents came to us and said my wife loves the pajamas, why aren’t we making medical scrubs out of high tech material? It stops the growth of germs and bacteria, it wicks away, it keeps you cool. So we designed a whole line of medical scrubs and today we have 50 schools around the United States that use it. And our thought is kind of the Apple approach, that if we can get it in the schools it will rise through the rest.
Russ: Very interesting. Well Kirby I really appreciate such a fascinating story and I’m convinced that there’s going to be some cool chapters that follow.
Kirby: Thank you Russ.
Russ: You bet. And that wraps up my discussion with Kirby Best, the Founder and Chairman of OnPoint Manufacturing
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