SW: In the present scenario of shrinking profit margins, where is the Indian manufacturer going wrong?
Harvey: India follows a very traditional way of garment manufacturing. Technology is not easily adopted by manufacturers, especially in all departments. Those that have the technology do not use the right process to utilize the same efficiently. Realizing this problem, we at Lectra want to encourage a balance between technology and its correct management.
The Indian manufacturer needs to realize that with shrinking profit margins the traditional way of making profits by manufacturing more quantities will not work. Therefore, he has to look for ways to cut down on costs. The key factors that contribute to the cost of a garment include fabric – 60%, trims – 5%, labour – 10%, overheads – 15% and production profit – 10%. Therefore, fabric is the single most expensive input while manufacturing a garment.
Still, the cutting room is where most problems lie: Pattern development is slow and sample yardage calculation is not accurate resulting in wrong purchasing. In addition, cutting quantity does not co-relate to the order quantity. Marker efficiency is also determined manually by the operator. Another big problem is of leftover fabric at warehouse due to poor planning and miscalculation of requirement. Therefore, a manufacturer needs to realize that a mere 5% saving in material actually increases 30% profitability, i.e. 5% of 60% fabric is a total of 3% that can be added to the profit of 10%.
SW: Automised spreader utilization in some factories is very low. Consequently, the cutting room’s productivity suffers. What are the factors that act as a deterrent and where can the improvement be made?
Harvey: First thing to address is the ‘job arrangement’ planned for the spreader. For example, if a spreader can lay 20 to 30 lays of fabric in an hour, then it is important to see if this is compatible with the job fed into the spreader. For this, one needs to first calculate how long it takes to spread 1 layer of fabric. Next, one has to see the time difference between the first and the second spread. So, control is required throughout. Accordingly, the computer of the spreader should be programmed to control the efficiency of the machine.
But, who performs these functions? Such a critical job cannot be done by an operator. Therefore, the role of the management is pivotal. Management efficiency and planning can increase productivity of these machines. Another factor that needs to be looked into is how well the operator controls the spreading. This, in fact, is more critical than speed.
SW: Can the productivity of a CAD/CAM operator be measured?
Harvey: There is no way of determining the productivity of a CAD operator. It is all about time management. It is initially critical to understand and calculate how much time it takes in each operation and subsequently in making a pattern. A target must also be set on how many patterns are needed in a day. Even in operations such as spreading the same rules apply. This information can then be utilized for planning work.
The next factor to concentrate upon is correct management by the department Head of the work in hand. One needs to realize that an operator does not have time management skills. Operator skills take time to grow. Therefore, it is all about management: How it can capably still take out required work from such operators till they become fully skilled on their work.
Also, marker making is a highly advanced function which can give up to 20 marker options. Computer generated markers offer much better efficiency in comparison to manual markers. Of the multiple options generated, one can make choice to best suit the needs and then rerun it again to recheck the result. Another advantage of this is that these different options can still be useful as they might represent different percentage of production as per the characteristics of the fabric received.
SW: For a manufacturer who wants to upgrade his cutting room from manual to automised, what should be the first investment?
Harvey: Investing in more advanced equipment such as spreader or cutter will cost more money. So the first step has to be to invest in software for pattern making, grading and marker making. If the pattern is correct the first time and optimum fabric consumption is calculated to avoid wastage, half the battle is won. Next step would be to focus on cutting room management where the Department Head has to know the correct way of handling the operator and managing the planning. The last investment should be in cutters and spreaders.
SW: Even today in most companies the base pattern is still made by hand by the pattern maker and then the same is digitized and grading is done in the computer…
Harvey: The urgent need is to train pattern makers to use the computer to create patterns efficiently and up to quality standards. Indian manufacturers find it difficult to accept that this operation is best performed on computer. They need to realize that it is not the process which is difficult but the mindset. All that is needed is basic knowledge of pattern making. A fully Automised CAD can tremendously increase efficiency when compared to the manual system.
Traditionally, a pattern maker can make an average of 3 patterns a day. Comparatively, the same person can make from 6 to 10 patterns on the computer in the same time period. This is because the work of a manual pattern maker is usually 80% of labour. In contrast, generating more patterns directly on screen, use of process-oriented embedded facilities in pattern making solutions such as Modaris – the benchmark pattern making solution for the apparel industry – make secure and faster altering facilities, automatically grades the garment in just a few clicks, enable precise quality control and integrate all information required for production at creation stage itself.
SW: Traditionally, a manufacturer with multiple units have also a cutting room for each unit. Would it not be more economical and a technically correct decision to have a centralized system?
Harvey: Both have their advantages and disadvantages. In a centralized setup, it is not about having more spreading or cutting machines. As per capacity, requirement can also be calculated, keeping in mind the capability of these machines to run 24 hours. Consequently, this can be cost-effective for the cutting room. But now logistics become more important.
Now, if you have five units with 10 lines each, it means that you need to feed 50 different lines. So tight control on planning becomes essential. Multiple cutting rooms, even though require more investment and more operators, can result in better co-ordination between the cutting room and the stitching floor in case of a problem. This is a very big advantage! I have seen factories that tried centralized cutting but there was too much of back and forth and subsequently they had to de-centralize again, keeping efficiency and transport in mind.
Another scenario is when you have smaller orders of multiple styles – a fast catching trend internationally. Then individual cutting rooms for a unit are more feasible. These orders usually have less production lead time and need quick response. Centralized cutting is good for only basic styles and in large orders.