Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has become synonymous with apparel product development; CAD and ERP has become the basic necessity rather than a state of art choice. Although use of ICT in production planning, product data management are yet to become a common use, connectivity is the prime concern among users while selecting, rather technology islands of solution.
I Want It Faster… I Want It Cheaper– I Want e-fitting Solutions (September 2008) by Ram Sareen, highlights the advantages of virtual fitting. Virtual garments not only showcase how the body size, fabric and garment fits on a virtual dummy while static, but also highlights the shortcomings in fit while the virtual dummy or avatar is in motion, such as walking, bending, etc. This motion can also be customized for a particular garment application. This solution makes ‘digital garment’ portable, so that retailers/buyers/manufacturers all over the world can view the garment and patternmakers of all levels could use it as part of the development process. While Timex and Fergasam group from Sri Lanka reported an impressive 66% reduction of sample approval time resulting in improved on-time delivery, Asmara International reported 50% reduction of fit approval time due to quick identification of problem areas.
Line balancing presents a huge problem in most apparel manufacturing factories. Even experienced line managers the world over who have achieved some success in increasing productivity will agree that a perfect balancing does not and cannot exist. The problem is compounded by the fact that in the apparel industry, most of the processes are highly labour-intensive and we are dealing with human element. Gescom Approach Productivity Increases on Dynamic Line Balancing (June 2009) by Gescom, implemented entirely new algorithms in an unusual balancing method to increase productivity. In a usual balancing method, the overall chain efficiency is generally conditioned by the weakest operator, but with Gescom each operator can work at his maximum efficiency without being slowed down by the bundle flow to give 10 to 20% more efficiency. The simulation programme simulates the minute by minute flow of material and moves operators from one operation to another, thus predicting multiple what-if scenarios to decide on optimum. The software helps scientific allocation of style to a line, predicting future need of machines and requirement of style-specific operator skill development.
Balancing Assembly Line – Dot Com Way (June 2008) by Prabir Jana, discusses how a web-based tool can help basic initial balancing and predicting different what-if conditions on the shop floor, which is otherwise impossible. Apart from balancing the line, this software also provides intangible benefits like maintaining updated operators skill inventory database, timely production records etc. The software can simultaneously optimize maximum number of garments per hour, maximizing operator utilization while minimizing labour cost per garment. The software delivers solutions with operator allocation for each operation, operation duration per hour, and machines to be used for each operation.
Time and again it has been emphasized that laying down Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) for every department before implementing an ERP solution can help in reducing costs, optimizes labour and improves quality, compliance, safety and operational efficiency. ERP Solutions for a Typical Garment Industry (June 2009) by Piyush R Vyas, discusses the important attributes to consider before going for any ERP implementation like if the vendor is in learning stage, whether the solution has balanced functional modules, whether there is any resistance to change within the organization, whether the organization has any paper based system in place already. Caffeine – The One Stop Solution for I.E. Department (January 2009), maps and also minimizes few of the I.E. department’s important activities. The software uses the production target to find out the number of operators which should be allocated to each operation in order to meet the same. In this process it balances the line and automatically generates operation bulletin. The software also calculates thread requirement and maintains a record of attachments and folders required for the order.
Often the easiest and most effective way to improve factory productivity is not to focus on sewing faster but to make sure that your operators spend more time sewing without wasting much time. Planning Principles – Productivity Improvement… Through Better Planning (July 2009), proves how production planning softwares can make the planning processes of production an effortless job thus increasing productivity. The article exemplifies that a 2% increase in productivity could be worth $ 80,000 to $ 1,60,000 per 1,000 sewing machines per year depending on the factory location. A production planning software also covers up for delays due to missing raw materials and style approvals, hold-ups due to WIP shortages through centralized planning, better communication and prioritizing. Users of production planning software from India and neighbouring countries reported benefits like improved on-time delivery performance, better load distribution and monitoring in departments, and even reduced stock holding of materials by 40-50% while improving the raw material availability.