Human is the biggest resource for the apparel industry, where the majority of work is entirely dependent on them and their productivity. We are in an era where we are talking about smart factories, using high tech machines for better productivity. The term is quite reliable in factories where human intervention is less, e.g. automobile, but what about the apparel industry? Will just the introduction of these machines bring transformation to the factories?
For the apparel industry, it’s important to train the workforce for Change Management. These machines should be utilised in a manner to extract maximum productivity. Preparing your workforce for this transformation is the need of the hour. In a conversation with Apparel Resources, Anand Deshpande, Founder & CEO, Admaa Consulting, expresses his views on how the vision of Industry 4.0 can be achieved through Lean implementation.
“As per the Singapore Smart Readiness Index, to assess the readiness for Industry 4.0, there are eight pillars of focus including Process – Operations, Supply-chain, Product Life Cycle; Technology – Automation, Connectivity, Intelligence; and Organisation – Talent Readiness and Structure & Management,” commented Anand.
Integration is key for the first pillar – process, as apparel manufacturing involves many different processes. Vertical integration of operations can help better communication, transparency and real-time insights of the operations. The organisations should look at tools and software available like cloud-based PLM and other forms of modes to start communication. Using traditional forms of tools like excel sheets, WhatsApp, etc. to process information can lead to delay, and at times, be extremely data-incoherent.
Moreover, within the supply chain, the organisations should work on maintaining horizontal integration creating transparency across suppliers, stakeholders, and factories in the supply chain. Integrated product life cycle means integration of processes, people and systems across the entire product life cycle that involve stages like product design, development, customer service, etc. “Digitisation is the key to implement this initiative, and in today’s garment factories, we are at a very primitive level,” maintained Anand.
The second pillar, technology, can assist the manufacturers with greater automation, connectivity and intelligence. The right kind of technology implementation can help organisations automate facilities, plants, and enterprise across all levels and hierarchies. “Presently, only machines are automated in an isolated manner,” shared Anand. Moreover, this will further aid in bringing connectivity, helping the team to continuously communicate with each other. The connectivity should be maintained across the entire plant, enterprise, and facility with real-time data insights making constraints and responses more visible. Business intelligence across the plant, enterprise, and facility improve the ability to detect abnormalities, and as a consequence, the decision-making ability.
Thirdly, the organization trains its workforce in leadership competency and encourage continuous learning, and develop leaders who are in synchronisation with digitisation and anticipated challenges. An Inter- and Intra-company collaboration, strategy and governance are vital for structure and management.
The focus dimensions of building blocks are surmised into ten aggregated KPIs. These are Asset Efficiency, Inventory Efficiency, Planning and Scheduling Efficiency, Process Stability, Product Quality, and Product Flexibility.
To achieve Industry 4.0, the following guiding principles could be implemented –
Principles guiding Lean implementation
1. Visual Management
Visual management promotes the principle of Visual Displays and Visual Controls that enable the employees to recognise the standard and deviation from that standard.
Visual management serves the following purposes –
- Make problems visible i.e. detect abnormalities so that employees can take corrective action at once
- Stay in touch with reality. Visual management is a method for determining whether everything is under control and for sending a warning the moment an abnormality arises
- Setting targets for improvement
The foundation of visual management is 5S. This workplace organisation technique is the most fundamental element of production management. Without workplace organisation, we would be at a loss in identifying abnormalities and would result in a loss of process efficiency and quality.
On the garment production shop floor, Team Visual Dashboards emphasise data collection by team leaders with reviews conducted by leadership (plant manager, supervisors, etc.). These huddles are held by the leadership team to discuss any discernible data pattern. Decision-making is hourly occurring on the production line resulting in hourly feedback on constraints and progression of the order fulfillment process.
In the absence of connectivity of machines, time is wasted on debating the accuracy of data, thereby diluting the determination and elimination of constraints. With greater machine connectivity and real-time data analysis, we can detect abnormalities and prevent colossal losses.
“Visual management and huddles will ensure that data is collated even in the most basic form on pen and paper and that employees are comfortable in making decisions with data. Connectivity of machines will only facilitate speedy constraint identification and resolution,” highlighted Anand.
2. Process Standardisation
A standard process establishes a benchmark from where one can improve continuously.
The three elements of process standardisation are –
- Cycle time (time it takes an operation to make one good unit)
- Sequence of work (the activities are supposed to be conducted in a sequence)
- Standard inventory (establishing inventory at every step of the process)
All operators operating in a synchronised manner encourage and sustain team work. Some common tools used to standardise processes are Process Sheets, SWCT (Standardised Work Combination Tool), Capacity Analysis, etc.
Process Standardisation facilitates consistent product quality by reducing process variability. Standard operations follow an agreed and best work method. Any observed deviation from standard is corrected. The Line staff is required to correct deviations almost as soon as they are noticed. This culture needs to be instilled in the workforce.
“One must remember that an automated process only follows a standard process. Therefore, for automation to unfold successfully as a labor replacing force and a scalable one, processes must be standardized,” informed Anand.
3. Production Levelling
Levelling is about balancing the load and capacity. Load levelling is achieved in two ways – levelling by volume and levelling by mix. Let us suppose that in a car manufacturing plant, the overall demand per month is 10,000 cars, divided between 5000 A, 2500 B, and 2500 C cars. The plant works for 20 days in a month. This monthly demand is translated into daily demand of 500, which is then further divided into 250 A, 125 B and 125 C cars. The daily sequence of production could be 2 As, one B and one C car to meet the daily customer demand of 500 cars. In this way, one could reduce the requirement of inventory and cater to a diversified product mix. Since the demand is never stable, inventory is usually kept in the finished goods store to absorb fluctuations in the customer demand
Levelling facilitates resource planning. In turn, it leads to the computation of takt time, which in turn, leads to establishing the upper limit of cycle time on each workstation. Now, fixing the upper limit of cycle time provides a time reference to methodise a process cycle. Thus, automation becomes easy and establishing inventory limits becomes more scientific.
4. JIT (Just in Time)
Takt time is the time it should take to produce one piece of the product based on the customer demand. It sets the pace for the manufacturing plant.
Takt time = Available work time for the day / customer demand per day
While the concept of takt time is used in many ways, it is commonly used to balance the line and identify operator cycle time slack with respect to the takt time. With confluence of data analytics, automation and machine connectivity, we could complete the manning of the line during the start of the shift quite quickly, thereby reducing first hour production losses.
Flow Manufacturing (single piece flow): It aims to attain single-piece flow production systems. A single-piece flow reduces Process delays and Lot delays. Process delays are caused by surplus capacity or scheduling, whereas Lot delays occur when one piece is processed, the remaining unprocessed pieces in the lot have to wait. In reputed garment factories after cutting, the process operates in a one-piece flow (make one and move one). Single piece flow eliminates intermediary stocking points, thereby reducing complexity in connectivity and facilitation automation (loading, unloading, transfer of part) coupled with efficient data capture. Single piece flow reduces inventory carrying cost. In fact, garment factories are producing more MTM (Made to Measure) products where each product is unique and is a single-piece flow from end to end.
Pull Production: In this system, the upstream only produces what the downstream asks for. Now, this type of production system manages demand and supply in synchronicity.
We should focus on creating supermarkets and use kanbans in “made to stock systems” to facilitate pull production. From an Industry 4.0 point of view, monitoring depletion and repletion of supermarket stock would create a warning system, thereby refocusing efforts on constraints.
Single Minute Exchange of Dies (SMED): This lean technique aims to reduce setup and changeover times. As a consequence, production scheduling is easier and the production system also tends to be more resilient to the frequent demand mix changes. Planning and scheduling efficiency and production flexibility are two gains of SMED.
Autonomation aims to pass on the mental capacity of the human to the machine to enable the production line to stop automatically on detection of error and in some cases repair the error.
3Ds – Don’t take it, don’t make it, don’t send it
‘Don’t take it, don’t make it, don’t send it’ is a very popular phrase in a Japanese workplace. In other words, it means don’t accept defects from the previous process, don’t make defects in your own process, and don’t send defects to the next process. Automation and connectivity will ensure that error-free production system is manifested and machines communicate with each other.
Jidoka or Autonomation allows the man to be separated from machine operations to focus on value-add jobs. Whenever the conditions of the process are disturbed, we must first identify the problem by stopping the process, then identify root cause for that problem, and finally implement a countermeasure. Otherwise, the problem can recur and haunt the production line for a long time. The machines nowadays stop as soon as they detect an abnormality. Jidoka not only applies to the machine, but also to the production line. As soon as an abnormality is detected, the supervisor must be alerted so that corrective action can be taken rapidly.
Rules for assembly line stops are as follows –
- Upon detection of the abnormality, the operator notifies the Supervisor
- The supervisor gauges the problem and keeps the line moving if he feels confident of resolving the problem
- If he cannot resolve the problem in time, he stops the line
The line could start only after resolving the problem, but it all depends on the degree of the problem. “The above three steps must be made mandatory in every factory upon detection of an abnormality. In the garment industry, we could line that would not stop, but the defective product could be reworked almost instantaneously upon detection,” commented Anand.
Andon means “lantern” in the Japanese language. Just as the lantern guides us through the darkness, the Andon lights on the shop floor help us to detect abnormal conditions in the factory. Andon lights, buzzers and video devices facilitate the transfer of information about abnormalities instantly. Typically in a factory, there is lot of noise, WIP all around the place which makes it difficult to discern between normal and an abnormal condition. Andon lights make the production system very reflexive by way of facilitating the problem resolution process as soon as the problem is detected.
Electronic visual dashboards in the factory can easily notify the constraint on a minute to minute basis in addition to the root cause to take quick and effective countermeasures. For that to happen, we must first create a culture of having visual dashboards across the factory.
It is a technique that aims to –
- Prevent errors from occurring in the first place
- Detect errors and prevent them from becoming defects
- Detect defects and stop them from moving on to the next process (initiate corrective action within workstation)
Therefore, error proofing deploys two approaches that rely on quick feedback and 100 per cent inspection.
Quick feedback can be first cultivated on the floor by resources who could immediately report an abnormality and goods can be 100 per cent inspected which they are currently, but could be done automatically through scanners, cameras, etc.
Balanced scorecard is a tool used to deploy policy across the organisation across levels and ensure that vision and strategy are understood and aligned throughout.
To bolster the workplace organisation, culture and teamwork, we must make implementation of BSC a must today so that we could deploy the policy in the form of BSC, metric sheet and master schedule.
Value stream mapping exercise must happen every six months to draw the current and desired state. Kaizen event must be made compulsory to address gaps.