We built our company from zero to millions with Tukatech

tuka1When Robert Lohman, environmental studies degree in hand, decided to enter the apparel manufacturing business, he had two goals. “We wanted to come up with a basics brand that was all organic,” he says, “and we wanted it to be made in Los Angeles.” That was back in 2010, and conventional wisdom would have dictated that someone with no industry background or training, going 100 percent organic with recycled material, and locating his manufacturing base in the heart of the Los Angeles garment district, would likely be out of business by 2011.
tuka5Conventional wisdom, in this case, would be dead wrong. Today, Lohman is CEO of the Groceries brand of men’s and women’s organic and recycled material tops. It can be found in over 400 stores worldwide, including Kitson and Planet Blue in Los Angeles and Barney’s New York and Opening Ceremony in Tokyo.

Groceries boasts annual sales in the seven figures, a 33,000-square-foot manufacturing facility downtown at the corner of Alameda and 7th, and 64 full-time employees. In addition to its own label, Groceries also sells volume private-label blanks to big names such as Paul Mitchell and Pearl Jam. The company is doubling its size every nine months. In other words, Groceries is a rousing success.

What accounts for it? To begin with, a strong corporate vision combined with a healthy dose of stubbornness. “We’d rather go out of business than manufacture nonorganic shirts and manufacture overseas,” Lohman says. “We will not go against our DNA that way.” And Lohman credits one other key component for Groceries’ achievements. “We really wouldn’t be here without Tukatech,” he says.

“Tukatech’s staff members were very cooperative during the installation process, and provided overall guidance and suggestions for our cutting room,” said Dinesh Virwani, Group Managing Director. “While our installation process is still continuing, we have already seen our pattern makers more than double the number of patterns they can produce in one day.”

Tukatech, a name well known and respected throughout the apparel industry, is the leading provider of fashion software and hardware technology solutions. The 18-year-old company, headed by industry veteran Ram Sareen, has built a devoted following among designers, manufacturers, and distributors worldwide, having sold some 19,000 systems and replacing over 5,000 competing systems in the process. Its advanced TUKAcad software is arguably the most instinctive and ultra-efficient 3D and 2D patternmaking, marking, and grading software on the market, while its SMARTmark module maximizes marker placement with surgical precision to make use of every usable square inch of fabric. Its advantages over its “very expensive and rigid” competitors are many, Lohman says, but for him two qualities were critical: TUKAcad is instinctive and easy to use with built-in videos and self-training audio help and support for every function, and Tukatech’s prices are affordable and terms flexible. Tukatech “allowed me to rent for $200 a month, which made so much sense to me since we were getting started from nowhere,” he explains. “We didn’t purchase any hardware, like plotters or digitizers, because we could use TUKAcenters. Suddenly, we had the same powerful tools big apparel companies used. That was empowering.”

Those advantages were key, Lohman goes on, because of Groceries’ ambitious, locally based, vertical-integration business model. “A lot of brands outsource their manufacturing, especially overseas,” he says. “We think you can be more profitable manufacturing in the U.S., and it reduces your carbon footprint.”

Still, the challenges are many. “We take on all the headaches that come with manufacturing here because we gain speed, the ability to react to trends, and also to manufacture at a lower cost,” Lohman says. The company also takes a smaller margin to be able to compete with nonorganics. “We focused on price point because we want to compete not only with other organic companies but with nonorganics as well. Since there’s no middle man, we pass that savings on to the buyer. If we didn’t manufacture here, we wouldn’t be able to offer this kind of pricing and have the success we’ve had in the market.”

tuka3Renting TUKAcad “gave us an efficiency as far as saving fabric, but, more than anything, it allowed us to work on our own timeline, even all night if we wanted to,” Lohman says. He has since bought the software, and, three months ago, he added the SMARTmark module. “It’s been another transformation in our company,” Lohman continues. “SMARTmark is TUKAcad on steroids. It is really and truly amazing.” What used to take 30 to 40 hours per week now takes “less than two hours.” Expecting a 5 percent fabric savings, SMARTmark is realizing near 20 percent, which should save Groceries an estimated 100,000 yards of fabric next year. “Efficiency is a huge part of being an eco company,” Lohman says. “We save money, use fewer resources, and create more demand for organic fabrics.” And that fits Groceries’ corporate goals to a T.

Lohman also credits Groceries’ success to “immense help” from Sareen and Tukatech’s strong customer support. “We made good business decisions manufacturing here it’s not just a gimmick,” Lohman says. “But I’m not sure we’d be able to exist without Tukatech. We couldn’t compete with much larger companies, wouldn’t have the flexibility to produce and design. It’s very empowering for a small company to have that much strength in that type of software. Those are the words flexibility and empowerment that are the keys to our success.”

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EPIC GROUP to See Epic Growth in TUKATECH Partnership

Epic Group's headquarters in Hong Kong.

Ram Sareen, Founder and CEO, Tukatech, and Ranju Mahtani, CEO, Epic Group, pose with a rickshaw at Epic’s Central Hub in Hong Kong.

Los Angeles, CA- Tukatech is pleased to announce that the Epic Group, one of Asia’s most prominent garment manufacturers, has converted all of their CAD systems to Tukatech’s TUKAcad. The Epic Group has a reputation for utilizing advanced techniques and cutting edge technology to produce highly technical garments for a global customer base.
Based in Hong Kong, Epic was founded in 1971 and has manufacturing facilities in Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka. Epic Group produces over 4 million garments each month, many of which are treated at the company’s in-house facilities that specialize in wet and dry processing, embroidery, printing and wrinkle-free post-cure treatments. CEO Ranju Mahtani and his team have focused on developing and improving the science and technology of garment production, and believe that switching to TUKAcad was the next logical step in operating cutting edge production facilities.
The Epic Group is no stranger to CAD technology, and until recently, utilized garment production software from Lectra, Gerber, Assyst, Optitex, and Morgan. Ranju Mahtani, the CEO and founder, Managing Director, Dinesh Virwani, and the rest of the leaders at the Epic Group decided to convert all of their systems to Tukatech’s TUKAcad, the garment industry’s most powerful pattern making, grading, and marker making software.

Epic Group's factory in Bangladesh.

Dinesh Virwani, Group Managing Director, with Ram Sareen, Founder and CEO, Tukatech, at Epic CIPL, Epic Group’s flagship production facility in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The decision to switch was an easy one, as Tukatech’s software has improved efficiency and saved millions of dollars for garment manufacturers all over the world. TUKAcad’s 2012 edition will give Epic Group’s pattern makers the ability to quickly and easily build accurate patterns, calculate and make adjustments for shrinkage, easily verify grade on the blocks, verify measurements as per requirements, make corrections and alterations to existing patterns, and better utilize fabric during the marker making and cutting processes. TUKAcad 2012 is also fully integrated with TUKA3D, Tukatech’s standard setting three-dimensional garment designer and fit simulator. Epic Group has many facilities around the world, (CIPL, EGMCL, Epic Vietnam, and PGCL) and by replacing the multitude of CAD systems previously in place with TUKAcad, the company has instituted a standard software throughout their operation, improving both communication and compatibility between each unit.
“Tukatech’s staff members were very cooperative during the installation process, and provided overall guidance and suggestions for our cutting room,” said Dinesh Virwani, Group Managing Director. “While our installation process is still continuing, we have already seen our pattern makers more than double the number of patterns they can produce in one day.”
The Epic Group is always a step ahead of the trends in the garment production industry, and their implementation of Tukatech’s system is only the latest evidence of their forward thinking attitude. The Epic Group is a leader in providing fair and ethical treatment to their employees, and in 2006, the company’s flagship Bangladesh facility became the first in the nation to receive LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council and verified by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) for CIPL Project. LEED certification is awarded to manufacturing facilities that have been developed with and facilitate ecologically friendly production practices, and Epic Group’s Dhaka facility was certified in May of 2011.
“Tukatech is proud to work with the Epic Group, who are not only a leader in the garment industry but proponents of advanced manufacturing and processing technology,” said Tukatech Founder and CEO Ram Sareen. “Based on our experience in converting competing CAD systems to our TUKAcad software, we are confident that the Epic Group will see improved efficiency, enormous savings, and an even stronger output in a few short months. We have been working with Epic teams and implementing solutions for the last three months, and will continue to develop better solutions with them.”

About Epic

Established in 1971, Epic has successfully transitioned from being a buying agent to being a large multinational company with world class manufacturing facilities in Asia employing over 15,000 people.

About Tukatech
Tukatech is a Los Angeles-based company that provides 2D and 3D software solutions and manufacturing equipment to garment producers. It also provides web-based product development services and PDM/PLM systems, supported by brick and mortar centers strategically located in garment hubs worldwide. With over 12,000 systems sold and about 3,500 competitive systems replaced, Tukatech is the fastest growing garment CAD/CAM company in the world. Tukatech has been ranked by Apparel Magazine