Manufacturing garments is built around hardware technology and management. The hardware technology constitutes sewing, pressing, finishing with or without software intervention and management which is either the production management or efficient and effective management of human capital. Be it hardware or management, technological advancement and innovation in hardware technology plays a pivotal role in improving any organization’s efficiency and product and process consistency. The range of technology reviewed over the period is wide but below are some that are a must know…
Ecology Meets Economy in Fabric Dyeing – Airflow Technology Far Superior (May 2009) by Kurt Müller, elaborates how a breathtakingly simple ‘airflow’ principle of dyeing can be economical as well as sustainable. In traditional hydraulic dyeing machines (euphemistically called “softflow” in many markets), copious amounts of dye liquor are used for transporting the fabric instead of dyeing it. The machines with “airflow” technology uses liquor only for the actual core process: dyeing. To transport the fabric through the machine, air is used. Dyeing takes place only in the nozzle, through which fabric is moved by an air stream. This is met by liquor injected by spray jets, and the combination of the air stream and liquor immediately forms an aerosol mist that penetrates the fabric rope both uniformly and deeply. After the nozzle, the fabric automatically balloons – thus avoiding crease marks and streakiness – before being plated onto a PTFE-rack. Apart from liquor ratio, the cycle times are also reduced by an average of 25% even if the machines are underloaded by 50% leading to improved productivity as well.
A new trend is emerging among machinery manufacturers to offer flexibility in the automated workstations, which can handle a wide range of specifications. Generally as the operation becomes more and more specialized, the solution becomes more specific thus reducing flexibility. In Flexible Automation from Vibemac (June 2009), automated yet flexible machines from Vibemac like Automatic Pocket Hemming Unit (007V-006VLS), Automatic Double Colour Embroidery, Labelling Unit (1010V4) and Pocket Pressing Unit for Curved Pocket (001V) were discussed which deskill the respective operations, thus increasing product consistency and productivity. Above all, these machines don’t strangle the flexibility in the operations due to the presence of a wide number of options to the user in terms of fabric and stitch type (in 007V-006VLS), versatile stitching head (in 1010V4) and customized jig designing based on the fabric weight (in 001V). Most of the machines have one or more patented technologies which make the offerings unique.
Zipper Attaching Technology from Duerkopp Adler — Automated Technology Scores Over Conventional Method (July 2009), emphasizes that using automated zipper attaching machines make the operation simple for the operators, reducing their skill requirements and saving up to 50% of personnel costs. Zippers are manufactured as a continuous roll of tape with teeth on one side. However depending on use, zippers are cut to the required length, stoppers are fixed and sliders are inserted to make them ready for use. As the zipper length required for trouser fly is more or less fixed, conventionally cut-to-length zippers are used while attaching in trousers. In the alternate method, continuous zippers are first attached separately with left and right fly pieces and then cut to finish. This production method guarantees quality improvement combined with cost reduction. Other advantages of the automated process are less labour cost and reduced SAM, leading to more and better quality production that too by using lesser number of machines requiring comparatively lesser floor area. The ROI for the automated technology is almost double than the conventional method.
Although automation in trouser manufacturing is common, shirt making is still largely a low automated affair. In sewing section the article Intelligent Automation in Shirt Making (January 2009) by Roberto Inglesi, discussed various automated machinery options for the garment industry which could be deployed in shirt manufacturing sleeve creasing machines, front sewing and automated device for button holing, automatic pocket setter, automatic run stitch machine, fusing machine, cuff form and shirt front trimming machine. It was found that when automation was implemented an overall reduction of 29 people was possible in various operations. Further, the skill level requirements of the operators were also reduced.
Claudia Ollenhauer-Ries in her article Ultrasonic Welding Can Replace Sewing – In Some Cases (July 2009), analyses advantages of ultrasonic welding machines over sewing and also, the hot bonding machines. Various existing manufacturers in the market were discussed and their products were analysed including that of Schips (Switzerland); Nucleus (Germany); Evergreen Ultrasonic (Taiwan) and Sonic (Italy).
All steaming, ironing and pressing machines use enormous amount of energy to produce the steam and the heat required to perform the operation and in turn posing a threat to the environment. In Pressing and Finishing Technologies – Highly Versatile, Flexible, Productive, and Eco-friendly (January 2009), Niki Tait reviews how eco-friendliness, ergonomic design, low power consumption, low noise emissions, etc. are determining the selection of technology apart from critical considerations like versatility, flexibility, productivity, and quality when it comes to pressing and finishing of any garment. With style runs becoming shorter, design and styling more varied and fibres, fabrics, special dyes and finishes becoming more specialized, very tightly controlled pressing and finishing parameters are required to ensure a quality finish. Air blowing feature for garments with frills and gathers, special padding for uniform pressure over differential thickness, inflatable bust for female dress forms, microprocessor controlled top and bottom heating with aluminum moulds, enhanced vacuum chambers for efficient drying and cooling, adjustable steam tensioning for minimal puckering are some of the advanced features being discussed for improved flexibility, productivity and quality.
Over and above several functional benefits, The Power of Steam – A New Era Begins at Veit (May 2009) by Veit Group, re-emphasizes the importance of energy consumption in the finishing department of an apparel producer. For example Teflon resin coated walls, innovative spray nozzles and new blower technology can result in 30% less steam consumption in tunnel finishing, linear motion in legger press can offer better finishes, and carousel pressing can realize space savings to the manufacturer. On average these newly designed equipment can result in over 40% energy savings.
Most garments are made by manufacturers and shipped by sea freight from the country of production. However before shipping they are packed into boxes to ensure that they remain clean and protected during the transportation. In doing so, garments get wrinkled so much that they need to be re-pressed before being displayed. Tunnel Finishers – Making the Garments Wrinkle Free (December 2009), reviewed various tunnel finishing technologies available in the market. Preconditioning module becomes important especially while dealing with difficult fabrics made up of natural fibres such as cotton, linen, etc. While, quality in the ironing module depends on two factors – right quality and application of steam; and optimum heated air circulation. Post finishing, garments are needed to be smoothened and completely dried, which is done by blowing air through nozzles from the bottom to give the garments the corresponding volume before leaving the Tunnel Finisher.
The nature and usage of steam also depends on the fabric composition. Dry steam should be used with artificial fibres whose moisture regain is less while moist steam is preferred for natural fibres such as cotton which has a high moisture regain property. Different shapes of tunnel cabinet, i.e. Straight Line, U-shaped and S-shaped cabinets were discussed focusing on where they should be installed and why.