From 'Let my people go surfing' by Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia
When I had my blacksmith shop, I contracted out the tooling of our climbing gear, and some of the production, to Harold Leffler's machine shop in Burbank. Leffler was a draftsman and tool and die maker with fifty years' hands-on experience. We called him the genius as often as we called him Harold. He was so good at his craft that he received requests from aircraft companies around the country to bid on their projects, even though he ran a small shop.
Harold used to joke about the blueprints he received from the engineers; they were so over-designed that the cost to produce them would be ten to twenty times higher than necessary, and in many cases, they would be impossible to make at all. Because I had no training in engineering but did know what I wanted a carabiner or ice screw to do, I would show up with a simple sketch or a carved wooden model, or just an idea in my head, and we would work together to come up with a design that would be feasible. Even after Tom Frost, a talented engineer and draftsman, became my partner, we consulted Harold Leffler at all stages in the design process.
My relationship with Leffler taught me all about how important it is for the designer to work with the producer up front. This applies to every product. Building a house proceeds more smoothly and less expensively if the architect and contractor work out the real-world problems of a blueprint before the cement truck rolls up to pour the foundation. Likewise a rain jacket is better made when the producer understands from the start what the product needs to achieve and, conversely, when the designer understands what processes have to be followed and, finally, when everyone stays on the team and works until it is done.
Michael Kant refers to this team approach as concurrent, as opposed to assembly-line manufacturing, in which responsibility for one part of the process is handed off in stages to the next in the line. A concurrent approach brings all participants together at the beginning of the design phase. As Dr Kami points out, only about 10 percent of the products costs are incurred during the design phase, but 90 percent of the costs are irrevocably committed. The ongoing relationship beyond the design phase is critical too. Builders have been known to make on-site changes without knowing the architect's intentions, and sewing contractors can easily compromise a rain jacket's performance by altering construction of a seam to fit their own work habits and practices.