Because, We Are Jewellers…
I’m going to give a lil’ summary right out of the gates, for those of you who want to quickly hit the key points and then boost. I understand. But for those of you who want to get a little deeper or need the rationale further unpackaged, then hang about.
Off the back of the initial beat-down of 2023, after the Friday the 13th and Nick Potts collaboration launch, we made a call that it was time to optimise our manufacturing and iron out two major issues.
We will be moving a portion of our manufacturing overseas, that will allow us to build inventory for our launches, which will mean orders will dispatch within 2-3 days.
The decision was made off the back of these two pain points;
First and easily the most pressing; handling volume. Jewellers are a rare breed and we’ve spent the last 2-3 years as a recruitment agency trying to get them into studio and trained up.
Production Lead Times. If you’ve been with Howlet for a while, you’ll know that this has always been our weakest area. A problem stemming from the first point above, we have always struggled to keep up with volume and the lead times have suffered.
It will approximately be about 50% of our production. Shared volume, shared designs, based on certain launch periods etc. They will act as an overflow team, as well as helping out build inventory for our big releases.
All gold pieces will still be done here, along with custom engravings.
Now, on to unpacking this model further…
Price always seems to be the determining factor for most businesses when considering a manufacturing shift overseas - however for us, it has never been a considerable savings worth entertaining without other factors being relevant. Specifically, these two pain points we addressed above.
We had created such a highly efficient production line here in Sydney with the jewellers that really no one could compete with us on price. The issue here is that it was very long and specific training in order to get the jewellers to this stage and often, they’d only hang around for 6-9 months.
The initial reaction is to always question the quality. This is coupled by most brands' reluctance to highlight their production being handled by an offshore team. Something that has always struck me as a strangely patronising statement on their manufacturing partners. It raises skepticism around their processes and therefore quality is rightfully questioned.
It’s as simple as this; quality is a function of a business culture in which all employees are committed to the continuous creation of superior quality in every area. There is no geographical relevance to this pursuit.
If you start making concessions on quality, that starts at the top. Not on the manufacturing floor.
We have always gone to non-scalable and highly cost-inefficient lengths to preserve quality. This trickles down through every process and it has been at the forefront of finding the right partner overseas and believe me, we’ve paid the premium for it. We’ve managed to infuse the same staunch lens at the Quality Assurance stages to focus on what points of value our customers cherish the most. Either way, and maybe I should have opened with this - every piece will still be QC’d right here in the studio in the Sydney HQ.
The team we are linking up with, is a very small production house, in which they have a dedicated team exclusively to Howlet. It will just be an extension of the team here and we’ve been onboarding each jeweller the same way we do here in Sydney. Same process. Same skillset. We’re jewellers and so are they.
It’ll be an additional crew of 6-8 jewellers as well as our team of 5-6 here in Australia. We’ll be introducing everyone to the team in the next few months.
I want to share this email with you, as I feel it best represents Howlet and our principles - carrying more weight than any formal document could. This was an email that I sent our new production manager, after a very long list of design corrections.
Also, let me recognise the fact that many of you will question the validity of this email. It seems a little ‘convenient’, or that it was just written as a phoney stunt? As true to my word as I will ever be, it’s authentic. I was half way through this blog and thought it would be cool to screenshot a list of quality corrections that we have sent them and I stumbled across this email, which I didn’t remember writing. (Any of you can come to the CHD HQ and make me bring up the email on my laptop. That’s my promise to you. Anytime).
I wouldn’t have been able to recreate that essence in this blog. It’s an honest interaction that permeates through everything we do. Hold us to it.