The traditional way of spreading and cutting is a thing of the past in most Western countries. Due to immense pressure in the apparel industry to improve productivity, Indian exporters have no choice but to follow the trend. It is one thing to have a good idea, but quite another to implement it. The problem is that not enough research and planning go into the projects while automating. The next phase of the article will discuss on production systems.
Imagine the following:
A Sales Executive walks into the Chief Executive Officer’s office, wanting to sell an automatic cutter. He quotes a price of $100 000 and guarantees an improvement of 100% against the current quantities achieved. He also charges an implementation cost of $30 000 for a two month training period. What does the CEO reply? “I can pay you $90 000 for the cutter and only $10 000 for the installation”. The salesman, not wanting to lose the sale, agrees because he gets his commission based on the sale of the cutter. The deal is signed; both parties are happy and three months later the cutter arrives.
Prior to the cutter arriving, the salesman gets in contact with the Technician and they agree to do the installation for $10 000, but for one month only. The Technician gets in contact with the factory’s head of projects and they discuss the preparation work via e-mail. Upon arrival of the cutter, it gets installed and the training gets under way. At the end of that month, the training is completed and this company is now the proud owner of an automated cutting machine.
The CEO now starts putting pressure on the production team to start delivering the 100% extra units originally promised by the salesman, but try as they might, they are not able to extract those extra units. Why?
The answer is simple: the implementation was not done properly. The Technician would have said one thing, and the trainee understood the concept differently. This is not necessarily due to incompetence of the trainer, but more likely than not, it is due to the low level of education of the person being trained.
For any automated system to work properly, it is of utmost importance to:
1) have the right infrastructure, i.e. layout, etc.
2) select the right people to be trained.
3) have a proper installation plan with target dates, etc.
Whilst doing a case study of one of the factories in India, certain observations were made on the activities of the cutting floor and, consequently, some interesting findings came to light:
1) The layout for the spreader was wrong. Even though the spreader can spread up to 570 metres per hour, but it was used for only one air flowtation table, which was 20 metres long. On top of this, the cutter head was only 2 inches, which meant that one could not spread more than 30 plies in one lay.
2) The past average output achieved per hour on the spreader was only 289 metres. The spreader was spreading for only 39% of the day and the percentage time spent on preparing the next lay was 45%. The cutter on the other hand was cutting for 63% of the day, but due to the spreading height constraints, it was not cutting the units required to feed the production floor.
3) One lay of 30 plies (and 20-mtr lengths) took approx. 44.4 minutes to spread. The calculation was done as follows: (30X20) / 13.5 = 44.4 minutes where 13.5 is the average spreading speed per minute.
4) As per the study done, the average time to cut small parts would be 0.35min, medium parts 0.52 min, and for large parts it would be 0.82min. Assuming that there were 10 garments in the above mentioned marker, with a consumption of 2 metres per garment, and each garment consisting of 4 small parts, 6 medium parts and 4 large parts, then the time it would take to calculate the cut of the lay would be [(4X0.35)+(6X0.52)+(4X0.82)] X 10=78 min or 1 hour and 18 min.
5) Accordingly, the cutting time was much more than the spreading time, and thus for that particular cutter, with a cutting head of only 1.25”, one needed 1.5 cutters.
As can be seen from this example, not enough research and planning had gone into this project when the company decided to automate.
Recommendations given to the company:
1) The company was asked to change the layout to ensure that the machinery was utilized to its full potential. Further they were asked to construct a track for the spreader to move between the three air flowtation tables as per the layout. Consequently the spreading capacity increased by 30% giving 815 metres per hour at a speed of 13.5 metres/min.
2) In the proposed layout, it was suggested that they utilize the spreader better by using it on another table. With the cutter that they had, they could not spread more than 30 pallas, causing the setup time for the spreader to be much higher because of all the preparation. By using another table they could increase the spreading capacity by 30%, as there were no palla height restrictions on the other table.
3) Also, the head cutter dictated what the spreading to cutting ratio was to be in the factory. If they had understood their need better, they could have taken a 5” or 7” cutting head. They could have then spread more pallas and increased the cutting time. In that case, the spreader to cutter ratio would have been 2 to 1 or more.
4) The company was asked to invest in some minor equipment like end cutters for the spreaders, one additional band knife, one additional air flowtation table, roll stands for manual spreading and end weights to ensure that the end bits are straight.
By effecting these minor changes, the study showed that the company could increase their current cutting capacity by minimum 50%, without any additional manpower!