Apparel & Textiles | Factory Floor Digitization | Grid

Shaurya Poddar
September 1, 2021
5 mins to read

Apparel and textile manufacturing is evolving. Despite automation taking precedence over everything, it is still people and worker (operator) dependent and will always be. The key to running an efficient shop floor lies in identifying critical trends that lead to loss of efficiencies early and fixing them before the productivity of the line is impacted severely.

Nearly 80% of managers say latency in information flow from the factory floor to their inboxes leads to the maximum amount of efficiency loss. Our conversation with a plant manager for a leading manufacturer revealed the following:

"More often than not, we are in a situation to solve an identified issue on the floor as soon as we get to know there is a decreasing trend in output/quality. The problem is, we don't get to know a trend as soon as it is identified. Even a 24 hour lag in information flow leads to productivity losses which can ultimately lead to the entire operation missing monthly and quarterly KPIs.”

Real-time information and KPI display across the floor can improve production outputs by up to 10% and drive a huge reduction in defects (up to 40%). Keeping these in mind, it is becoming increasingly important for shop floors to deploy real-time data capturing and information sharing tools across the shop floor. In this article, we are taking the example of how a garment manufacturer can deploy applications on the shop floor to identify critical areas of improvement in worker efficiency

Identifying and monitoring key performance indicators

Identifying performance indicators that need improvement helps in identifying data points that need to be captured in real-time to create maximum impact. Let's talk about a production line with 50 workers. The line manager for this operation should first define a benchmark of total production output expected from each operator for a given period (for example: 50 pockets sewn to a shirt/hour).

Identify key reasons for decreased output

Based on experience and reports, the line managers should be able to identify the critical reasons for the failure of meeting the set benchmark of 50 pockets per hour. These could be reasons like the sewing machine needs a needle change, or the operator has health concerns, or the machine balancing is not correct.

Equip the line manager with an app that captures data points in a digital database

Based on the above inputs, an application must be deployed at the shop floor with the line managers that will help them capture the output against the benchmark (in this case actual production against the 50 pockets/hour), the reason observed (if any) for reduced output, and any other data points at each Key Transaction Point (KTP).

Create real-time trend reports from the captured data. Capturing the data in a digital database format lets one create real-time reports and trend lines for each operator in this case. These trend-lines can be made available on the handheld devices of the floor managers and key decision-makers. Another proven tactic to improve efficiencies is to use TV-based reports and trend lines on the factory floor to keep the operators updated with the lines overall performance.

Build an action plan

Trend-lines, reports, heat maps from this data help the key decision-makers create action plans for improved efficiencies. For example, if the issue of unbalanced sewing machines is increasing or is constant, the Maintenance and Engineering teams must be immediately informed and training sessions be conducted for them. If operator positioning emerges repeatedly, training must be conducted for the end-user for the same.

The above example is a simple demonstration of how shop floor digitalisation can help the garment industry increase its bottom line. There are multiple other processes like defect identification, pilferage detection and other problems that can be solved using simple applications but can lead to a huge impact on the bottom line of an enterprise.

In their 2018 report 'Is Apparel Manufacturing Coming Home?', Mckinsey explored how automation and efficiencies will be the key drivers for the future of onshore and offshore manufacturing. It is now time for manufacturers across the globe to focus on increased supply chain efficiencies through improvement in their production and quality outputs.

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Shaurya Poddar
Helping miners and explorers be efficient | Founder @ WorkOnGrid, talks about #growthmindset, #nocodelowcode, #enterprisetech, and #operationsmanagement‍
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