Corporate Uniform and Workwear: The Complete Guide
Whether you are looking to improve your uniform procurement process, or you are new to uniform ordering, you can find something useful in our handy guide. We'll take you through the entire process from start to finish. From sourcing to delivery, we'll cover all you need to know about ordering corporate uniform and workwear.
We'll guide you on critical decision making and help you plan out the process. Divided useful sections, we'll outline key criteria in choosing the best corporate uniform suppliers in Singapore. We've also indicated expected lead times along the way, for you to plan effectively. We'll also highlight essential factors you should consider each step of the way, from preparation, vendor sourcing, vendor selection, uniform design, sampling, production to shipping.
Before you Start
- Prepare your Constraints
- Create Moodboards
Choosing a Uniform Vendor
- Finding Uniform Vendors
- Criteria for Vendor Selection
- Vendor Bidding
Starting the Project and Finalising the Design
- Finalising the Design
- Collection of Size Data
Production and Delivery
- What Happens during Production
- What to Know about Delivery
Before you Start
Before you start sourcing or procuring corporate uniform or workwear, it's important to know what you want and what constraints you are working with. It helps vendors to meet your needs, while reducing lead time throughout the process. Having a clear idea from the start is important, and we'll go through how:
Prepare your constraints
To locate your uniform needs, identify the following:
Determine your allocated budget for corporate uniform and workwear, and work out the price per piece you are looking at. You can use the prices you've paid previously as a reference. Do factor in additional costs such as like delivery fee and custom finishings. Some vendors might charge for sampling and design if you require it.
You may also want to factor in:
- Staff turnover rate
- Expected life span of uniform, interval of replacement
- Frequency of uniform order required
For example, if your business hires many part-timers, you would need new uniform on a regular basis. You would either be aiming to place bulk orders to keep stock, or order uniform on a frequent basis.
Consider the number of staff you are ordering for, and how many sets of uniform per staff you require. Knowing your order quantity will help you set a realistic budget, negotiate prices and manage costs. Order quantity also determines if you meet the minimum order quantity (MOQ) for customisations, if required.
The usual lead time from start to delivery is 3-4 months for custom uniform. If you are using ready-made products, the lead time will be shorter at around 1-2 months. This varies according to order size and location of production add to the lead time. Factor in delivery time and manufacturing lead time with sufficient buffer.
If you require the uniforms urgently, then it's important to flag this up when approaching vendors as not all vendors are able to fulfil urgent orders.
Consider whether you are using an existing uniform style, or if you want to change it. You should be able to provide these basic information about the uniform style or design you want:
- 1 piece or 2 piece uniform
- casual, smart casual or formal
- unisex or male and female
- uniform colour
- uniform dress code
- any logo or customisation
If you are looking to update your current uniform, decide on a style and direction. We will be address how you can consolidate uniform ideas through moodboards further in this section.
If your uniform require highly-specific requirements, such as ESD garments, fire-retardant fabric or other custom add-on, it narrows down the uniform vendors you can work with. This becomes a selection criteria for uniform vendors.
Create a moodboard
If you are using a new uniform style, start by putting together using a moodboard.
Creating a moodboard is a good way to consolidate your ideas visually. Using a series of images makes it easy for others to understand what you want for the uniform.
It gives a clear idea of the corporate uniform design you want, and a stylistic direction in terms of how your staff should look.
We recommend using Pinterest, which allows you to work collaboratively. It also suggests related pins to make it easy to find similar images. You can also use things like Powerpoint slides, or even consolidating images within a Google Drive folder.
Take note of these when you ideate for a new uniform design:
- Type of uniform (polo tee, blazer, tunic, dress, etc)
- Style (collared or without collar, long sleeve or short sleeve, etc)
Choosing a Uniform Vendor
The next step is finding and selecting a suitable uniform vendor to work with. This stage can be greatly shortened if you know exactly what you want from the vendor. Preparation is important, so is knowing what to look out for in vendors.
Finding Uniform Vendors
To start, you would need to find uniform vendors in Singapore to work with. There are a few ways you can go about doing so:
It's a no-brainer to use search engines such as Google to look up possible uniform vendors in Singapore. As much as it is easy to just go for the first few uniform suppliers on the list, we advice that you do your some research when approaching possible vendors. You would also want to make sure that the uniform vendor you found supply the type of uniform you require. This is especially so for specialised workwear requiring specified requirements. We've covered in the next section what you can look out for when shortlisting uniform vendors.
Word of mouth
Another option is going by word of mouth, or asking around. You can try talking to colleagues, business associates, or others who have worked with uniform vendors before. Having recommendations from those you know can be a reliable way to find uniform suppliers. It will also allow you to understand the vendors a bit better before you approach them.
Other avenues of sourcing for vendor suppliers include using directories, online directories, and even social media channels like Facebook and Instagram.
Criteria for Vendor Selection
With things like Google, you easily end up with several uniform vendor options. Quite often, you have more than enough to choose from.
You would want to be strategic. You don't want to end up wasting time approaching vendor after vendor. We will be discussing below some of the criteria you can consider. To help you shortlist potential vendors, we'll go through why these criteria are important, and what indicators you can use to gauge them.
Competitive Price and MOQ
It goes without saying that you want to get the most competitive price for your uniform order. Some vendors might be able to match your prices, whilst other vendors require a MOQ. This is especially for things like custom uniform and special finishings. You can ask for quotations, get a price estimate or directly enquire vendors about prices.
It's important not only to look at the price offered, but what is included in the price.
- Scope of uniform offerings
- Custom finishings and decorations
- Additional services
One key consideration is the vendor's uniform offering. This entails the scope of products that they are able to offer and produce with confidence. It goes without saying that the uniform vendor should have the uniform item you are looking for. Depending on the type of uniform you need, you would choose uniform vendors accordingly.
For bigger companies, a vendor who has a wide scope in uniform offering is especially important if:
- You are ordering uniform for various departments
- You require different uniform according to department
- You want consistent uniform across the company or organisation
Your ideal uniform supplier in this case would have experience in handling such diversity of uniform. This would be a vendor who can procure driver uniform as well as food processing uniform, or can cover things from technician uniform to customer service uniform, for instance. Such uniform supplier would be well versed with a range of uniform types. This way, you can keep uniform standards consistent as the same uniform vendors can fulfil varied uniform needs.
Another factor to consider is whether vendors are able to provide custom finishings and decorations. This will save you considerable time as your uniforms can be completed within a single ordering process. You would want your uniform to come complete with the required finishing, such as custom name tags, custom logo print and custom brand embroidery. This eliminates the hassle of needing to source for another vendor for uniform decoration and finishing.
In addition to custom finishings and decorations, you can also look out for other additional services. Vendors who provide services such as delivery and cleaning can make your uniform procurement process a whole lot smoother and easier.
- Production and delivery schedule
- Expertise in uniform manufacturing
- Production network and ability
Another important factor is the reliability of the uniform supplier or vendor. Are they able to deliver according to schedule? Can they be trusted to produce uniforms according to your requirements? Are they resourceful enough to meet your project needs?
Client reviews and testimonials can be a good gauge for vendor reliability. Personal recommendations would be even better, if you manage to speak with someone who has worked with the said vendor before.
In terms of expertise, you would want to work with uniform suppliers who have vast and deep experience. A good mark of this would be exploring their client portfolio. You can look out for similar brands as your own. For example, other food and beverage brands if you are also a F&B company. This is a good indicator that the vendor has had experience working with the type and quantity of uniform you require.
Meanwhile, if you require specialised uniform with certain properties, then it's better to use specialised uniform suppliers. Such vendors would have deep experience and expertise in working with the uniform you require. Compared to a general uniform supplier, they can meet specifications with greater accuracy and efficiency. This is especially for things like fire-retardant uniform, fluid-resistant lab coats, ESD cleanroom uniform and other specialised protective uniform and safety wear.
On the other hand, if you are looking to order different types of uniform, you should work with a uniform partner who is widely experienced. As mentioned before, they would be better geared to fulfil your uniform needs.
The vendor's production network also plays a significant role in vendor reliability. Having an extensive and reliable list of partners means they can work for reliable and prompt delivery. In case there's hiccups with one of their partners, factory or manufacturer, they would have other partner and alternative options to solve the issue. We will cover this in more detail below.
- Uniform order quantity and order interval
- Production network and supply chain
- Offshore or onshore production
A vendor's production capacity is particularly important if you require large quantities of uniform. Or, if you require uniform on a recurring basis. In order to maintain consistent uniform standards and quality from one order to another, you would want to work with a uniform vendor with sufficient capacity.
In such case, it is useful to look into the production capacity of potential uniform vendors. For example, a uniform supplier with a wider production network and supply chain would be more withstanding of disruption. They would also have a bigger capacity to divert resources and reroute manufacturing in case of unexpected delays.
Similarly, a uniform vendor who has both offshore and onshore production might be able to offer more competitive pricing for the quantity you require.
- Ease of communication
- Support throughout order process
- Longevity of vendor relationship
Vendor support is another criteria that sets suitable vendors apart. You would want to work with a vendor who will provide consistent and valuable support throughout uniform ordering. This entails a vendor who is easy to communicate with, responsive to your queries and helpful with any issues you have. You may get a good sense of this when you reach out to potential vendors, and gauge it based on your initial interaction with them.
Here we emphasise on the importance of consistent vendor support. This means a steady support system throughout the ordering process – before you place the uniform order, during order processing and production, and after order fulfilment and delivery. For which, you may want to look into a potential vendor's portfolio of past and existing clients and client reviews or testimonials. If other companies and brands have worked with them and continued working with them, there must be a good reason why.
At the initial ordering stage, vendor support is essential especially if you are new to uniform procurement, or if you are changing to a new design. You want a vendor who can provide you with an accurate quote and design consultancy.
Once you've placed the order, vendor service is valuable in case anything goes wrong during production, or if you need to make sudden changes to your order. You would want a vendor who is readily available to assist you.
After order fulfilment, vendor support would come in the form of excellent after care. This would be effective coordination of shipping and delivery, for example.
You should be aiming to work with uniform vendors who you can form a long-lasting working relationship with. This is especially important in the long run, if you require frequent uniform re-orders.
After you have shortlisted a few uniform vendors, you would take the next step in finalising your choice. For big uniform purchases, vendor bidding a crucial process in kick starting the project.
In addition to browsing for client portfolio, client review and testimonials, you can approach potential vendors to make in-depth enquiry. You can do the following:
Request for Price Quotation
Ask for a price quotation for the quantity and type of uniform you require, including any additional print and embroidery. Be specific with what you need. Make sure you get a quote that is as accurate as possible.
You may consider consulting the uniform vendor on pricing at this point, or adjusting your requirements according. For example, if it is more cost-effective to produce unisex uniform rather than uniform divided by male and female.
Request for Sample
It is a good idea to request for sample to get a real feel of product quality and fabric comfort. You would want an actual touch and feel of the uniform your vendors offer, uniforms are to be worn after all.
The sample does not necessarily have to be the custom uniform you want at this point, something close to it will do. For example, the uniform vendor may provide you with a polo tee made from a similar fabric as the one you intend to order. Alternatively, you may request for fabric sample. This would be useful to determine the fabric weight, fabric quality and fabric handle or texture.
With the uniform sample, you can determine the vendor's product quality and expertise. Look out for good fabric quality (something that feels substantial enough to touch), well-stitched garment (stitches don't come off easily) and check zippers and fastenings if theres any (zip runs smoothly, snap buttons don't feel like it will come off easily).
State Timeline or Delivery Schedule
Inform your potential vendors of expected delivery dates, especially if you require it urgently. Know their standard lead time and delivery time, and discuss whether they are able to meet your project timeline.
The confidence and readiness in their response is a good indicator of the vendor's reliability.
Starting the Project and Finalising the Design
Once you've chosen a uniform vendor, you are ready to kick start the project. This is also where you finalise the design of your uniform. The sooner you are able to confirm the uniform design, the sooner you can proceed into production.
Below are the steps involved, from the start of the project up to production. The order of which may vary from vendor to vendor.
The price should correlate to what you were quoted in the price quotation. You should also iron out things like delivery, taxes and any additional charges.
You would normally be provide with:
- Design quotation: quoted prices based on initial uniform requirements
- Production quotation: quoted prices for actual production, according to sampled design
Finalising the Design
As part of designing your staff uniform with the vendor, you would go through the stages below. The faster you can finalise the design, the quicker you can start on production. Being direct with the corporate uniform design you want can help your vendor draw up the final design quickly. It is essential to come prepared with moodboards and examples so you can provide a clear idea.
2 x 1 hour session
This is the part where all stakeholders come together to decide on the uniform design. During which, the uniform vendor will provide professional feedback and advice changes to design if required.
As mentioned earlier, if you have moodboards prepared beforehand, it will speed things up here. The vendor will be able to pin point what you want easily and accurately.
This is a decision making stage that will help optimise design ideas for the company as well as for production.
Vendors will provide 1-3 moodboards to verify chosen uniform design and style. Based on prior discussions, the vendor will propose suitable uniform styles. Upon reviewing the moodboards together, the vendor may change the moodboard or prepare another one, until you reach an agreeable uniform style and design direction.
Based on the moodboards, the uniform vendor will prepare design sketches, typically 1-3 per uniform design. This is where you review the uniform design with the vendor and discuss any changes needed.
The vendor will then make the approciate adjustments and go through another round of review with you. Typically, it takes 1-2 rounds of review and adjustment to fine tune the design. The uniform design is then finalised at this point, where it will proceed to be sampled.
The sample you requested previously should give a good indication of the fabric you want to use. There might be a change in fabric choice subject to the confirmed uniform design. Discuss with the vendor about fabric options.
Be mindful that changing the fabric affects costing. You can learn more about choosing fabric for corporate uniform and workwear here.
Sampling of Design
For custom uniform design, a sample order would be made. This gives a physical sample made according to the agreed design.
A sampling fee will be charged. Usually a portion of it (about 60%) will be refunded if you go ahead with the order.
Designs are normally finalised by this point. It's important to have a confirmed design at the design stage, as you want to avoid making changes once a sample is made.
Upon approval of the sample, actual production will run based on the sample.
Collecting Size Data
You should have your size breakdown ready before you start production. This entails the quantity per size you require.
The vendor will provide you with a size chart or size set to determine the sizes your employees need. A size set comes with a sample uniform of each size, for the full size range. Your staff can try it on and see which one fits best.
You can speed up the process by using smarter tools to collect size data from employees. We recommend the use of Google Forms.
Consider how you can collect size data in a way that is efficient for the long run. For example, using a system that allows you to update employee's uniform size along the way. You may also consider integrating size collection as part of the recruitment process.
Production and Delivery
Lead Time Varies
Once you confirm the sample and size breakdown, the uniform will go into production.
What Happens during Production
Production Lead Time
While lead times vary according to uniform vendor and manufacturer, you can expect approximate lead times as below.
Local production (usually small-scale orders, up to 100pcs): 2-3 weeks
Overseas production (usually big-scale orders above 500pcs): 3-5 weeks
The production lead time for your uniform vary based on a range of factors:
- Order quantity
- Custom uniform or ready-made products
- Complexity of design
- Local or overseas production
Quality Control (QC)
Of every batch of custom uniforms produced, around 3-5% will run through quality control. This ensures that the uniform produced are of acceptable quality in terms of sewing, parts such as zippers and snap buttons, dye colour and so on.
You can decide how you want your uniforms packed. For example, you can have it packed in 3s, individually packed, or simply packed in bulk into boxes.
For custom uniform, you can normally expect slightly more than the ordered quantity. Due to the manufacturing process, it is not possible to produce the exact number of uniform you've ordered. Up to 15% variation in actual quantity can be expected, and it's usually more than it is less.
For example, if you've placed an order for 700 custom uniform shirts, the exact quantity produced can be somewhere between 700-800.
What to Know about Delivery
Delivery Lead Time
The lead time for delivery depends on the mode of delivery you have chosen, and where your uniform is coming from. As a point of reference, estimated delivery lead time is as below:
Sea freight (from China): 10-14 business days
Air freight (from China): 4-7 business days
Urgent (from overseas): 1-2 business days
Local transit (by courier): Same day
Local transit (by delivery service provider): 1-3 business days
Be mindful that if your uniform is produced overseas, you should accommodate for transit time locally as well.
The shipping options available depends on where you are shipping from, budget and time constraints.
A faster shipping option will be more expensive, and a slower one more affordable. In terms of order quantity, its effect on shipping costs is negligible unless you're talking about thousands of pieces in difference. The vendor will normally have delivery partners they work with, so consult the vendor for options.
The packing list includes information such as number of boxes being delivered and size and weight of each box. It is used for shipping clearance.
Some packing lists may come detailed with the contents of each box. For example, box 11 of 25 contains: 20 size S, 40 size M and 20 size L uniform tops. Alternatively, for custom uniform with names, the packing list will state which employees' uniforms are included in the shipment. This makes it easier to distribute uniform to departments or employees, as well as to check that you have received a correct order.
If your custom uniform is produced overseas, import duties would be imposed. This varies according to country, among other factors. Do be mindful of this and check beforehand.