After determining what we need to charge by the hour (see ďPerfect Pricing,Ē D&WC, November 2003, page 72), we must next analyze what we can accomplish in an hour. We need to perform a time study. A time study is just what it sounds like. We actually are going to study our production to determine how long it takes us to make every treatment we offer.
In a factory, performing a time study can be a very simple task because each
workstation is doing the exact same thing hour after hour. For drapery workrooms,
it is much more difficult. Rather than creating the same widget hour after hour,
workrooms are constantly switching from one treatment style to another. But with
a little organization, patience and perseverance, time studies can be done without
too much trouble.
Iíve found two techniques to make this process much faster and easer. The
first one is using a stopwatch. Purchase the style that can be worn around your
neck on a cord. I recently purchased a very nice digital model at a local discount
store for under $7. Keeping the stopwatch literally at an armís length
allows you to keep accurate timings conveniently, without having to run back
over to a desk to activate a timer that must sit on a surface.
Just click a button on the stopwatch each time you start and stop working on
each treatment. If interrupted by the phone, kids, etc., you can stop the watch
easily. With another click of the button, it will continue timing right where
it left off. When the treatment is completed, the stopwatch can be cleared by
pushing another button.
The second technique uses a time study job ticket. I attach it onto one of the
cuts for the treatment so that it is always readily available. This keeps me
from running around the room wasting time looking for it. To help save time,
I used preprinted job tickets, having as much detailed information as possible
on each, and then just fill in the blanks.
For example, I start with the style of the treatment, its size, the date, and
the name of the person being timedóif more than one person works in the
workroom. I also list every fabrication step I can think of and place a line
beside it as a space to fill in the time. I include: planning/designing patterns,
cutting, serging, tabling, hemming, pleating, tacking, folding, pressing, pinning,
stapling, etc. Having all of these categories listed on the ticket reminds me
to time every step, and not forget any.
If you prefer, you can simply record the total time it takes to make the entire
treatment, without listing every single step. In my workroom I had to time each
step individually because we could have as many as 12 to 14 people working on
each treatment. Each person performed a different task rather than having one
person create the entire treatment from start to finish. In other words, one
person cut all day, another serged all day, etc.
I also preferred to list every step because I then could monitor how quickly
each person performed individual steps. By timing different people doing the
same task, I could determine who was the fastest. Usually, I would then assign
that person to that task most of the time. I also considered which tasks they
most liked to do in order to make sure they enjoyed what they were doing. More
often than not, the tasks they personally enjoyed the most were also the tasks
they performed the fastest. So, rarely were they assigned to tasks they didnít
If you have multiple employees, performing a time study can help in a multitude
of ways when it come to managing your workroom. If you are interested in knowing
what this valuable information can tell you and how to use it managerially, research
and purchase a good business book at a bookstore. Youíll be amazed at how
much decision-making information you can glean from an extensive time study.
HOW LONG IS LONG ENOUGH?
This brings me to the next point: How long must a time study be done for it to
be considered extensive and, more importantly, to be considered accurate? If
you have a large workroom with several employees, your workroom probably will
make most of all the treatments the company offers in a period of two weeks to
two months. If you are all by yourself or have only one or two employees, it
may take you six months to a year to create everything you offer.
Now hereís a second stipulation: Donít time yourself on just one
of each treatment you make. That will not give you accurate results. You must
time several of the same treatments and then determine the average. We all know
that there are fabrics that can be hard to work with that can greatly affect
your production time. Averaging several timings will provide the best results.
How many is enough? I personally feel it should be between six and 10. Wow! Thatís
a lot of sewing and a lot of timing! Yes, time studies can be a pain in the neck,
but they also can be worth every second of the effort to get a really detailed
look at your business.
Actually doing the time study will slow down your production somewhat, but you
will adjust very easily as it becomes a habit. I know of one workroom in California
that performs a perpetual time study. Yes, that means every minute of every day
is accounted for by all of the employees. At the end of each week, the results
are tallied and analyzed to keep a managerial finger on the very pulse of the
business. What a great way to keep a check on your most costly expense: labor.
DO THE MATH
Now that we know how much to charge by the hour and how long it takes to make
each treatment, we simply plug both answers into our original formula:
CHARGE = HOURLY CHARGE x TIME
This will determine the price for each individual treatment we make and will
establish our set price list. But, keep in mind that this is the minimum you
need to charge to meet your established goal.
You many charge more for any given treatment; the decision, of course, is up
to you. However, be careful that you donít charge so much more than others
in your area that you price yourself right out of business. If you have a particular
quality or service that you can offer that the others donít, then you have
something extra that you are providingóa lot of handwork, or special interlining,
for example. In that case, you very well may successfully charge more than other
workrooms in your area. You will need to promote your business by selling these
features rather than selling price alone. You may charge whatever the market
Now, you may be saying, ďWell, thatís all fine and dandy, Cheryl,
but Iím just starting out and I donít know what my expenses will
be for a year,Ē or ďIíve been in business for a while, but
Iíve never done a time study before. I donít know how long it takes
me to make every treatment.Ē So, how do you come up with a price list now,
while doing a time study and collecting information on your expenses for the
next six months to a year?
Those will be the options we discuss in the next article, along with how to price
one-of-a-kind treatments youíve never made before and what to do when you
discover through a time study that you arenít making money on a particular
Strickland is owner of Professional Drapery School, Swannanoa, NC,
and is an internationally acclaimed speaker with 20 years experience
in the window coverings industry. She is the publisher and editor
of Sew WHAT?, an international monthly newsletter for professional