When Salt Lake City’s Olympic Eyewear ships a bulk order of wholesale sunglasses to a customer, what goes on in the shipping department is the culmination of a lengthy process that turns raw materials into affordable designer-like sunglasses. Retail customers only see a pair of good-looking shades that fit well and protect the eyes. They do not see everything that goes on behind the scenes to get those sunglasses to store shelves.
Sunglasses appear as simple goods that do not seem to take a lot of effort to make. Yet their simplicity belies all of the effort that goes into their design and manufacture. Making a good pair of sunglasses is not as simple as loading plastic pellets into an injection mold machine.
It Starts with Research
Every pair of new sunglasses begins its journey with research. Designers spend hours upon hours researching current market trends. They research what people are wearing today, what they are likely to wear tomorrow, and more. The information gleaned from such in-depth research forms the foundation of design.
Designers take what they learn and use it to put new designs on paper. Initial designs often go through multiple redesigns until a final drawing is rendered. From there, the design goes to engineers tasked with creating the manufacturing processes and tools necessary to make the design a reality.
Deciding on Materials
Before engineers can get to work, they must decide on the materials to be used for the new sunglasses. The vast majority of modern sunglasses are made from an acetate material that may or may not be organically based. Acetates are mixed with plasticizers to create long-lasting but inexpensive plastics that can easily be fashioned into eyewear frames.
Metal and wood are also workable choices for sunglasses. However, they require more expensive manufacturing processes that ultimately adds to the price. As such, only the most costly sunglasses tend to be made with these materials.
Setting up the Manufacturing Process
Your typical eyewear manufacturer runs a brief prototype program to figure out the best way to manufacture a new model. Sometimes, new models are manufactured with traditional injection molding techniques. But more often than not, today’s eyewear frames are punched out of sheets of acetate using hydraulic dies that apply a tremendous amount of pressure.
Punching is more efficient and less wasteful. It is also faster than injection molding. A well-designed process can produce thousands of frames in mere minutes.
Once the manufacturing process has been designed and tested, it’s on to full production. Frames roll down the line where they are modified to accept lenses. Those lenses are often shipped in from other suppliers who specialize in lens manufacturing. Finished frames and lenses are married in the assembly department before sunglasses go on to finishing.
Warehousing and Shipping
A box of sunglasses coming off the production line still has an extensive route travel before it finally arrives at the retailer’s storeroom. Freshly packaged boxes are inventoried and put in warehouse storage for the time being. From there they travel to regional distributors who are tasked with supplying retailers.
All of the warehousing is controlled by computerized logistics that rely on technologies like RFID to track products as they move. Products are tracked within the warehouse, as they move to distributors, and even as they go on to retail outlets.
There is a lot that goes into transforming a pair of sunglasses from a concept into a retail consumer good. You see only a good-looking pair shades on department store racks. What you do not see is everything that goes on behind the scenes.