Without Human Intervention, System Can’t Help You Out

The garment industry realised the need for software systems and data in managing the company and the manufacturing facilities. A system is necessary but that does not mean that everything (activity, decision making, problem-solving) could be done by the system automatically – without an operator. If someone expects a sewing machine to sew the garment without an operator or expects an ERP system to reduce fabric sourcing delay, or think an IT enable system will increase the production of a section without human intervention that will not happen in the near future. 

Technology and human touch

I met one garment factory owner. We were discussing the benefits of software applications. After the interaction, the factory owner shared his concerns with production management. He knows his factory efficiency sometimes falls and he knows the main 3 reasons for the efficiency loss. Reasons are -
  • Delay in fabric sourcing and trim sourcing. As a result, his production team don’t get work and at the end, shipments are getting delayed. Factory efficiency goes down.
  • Operator absenteeism (sometimes operator shortage). They have observed that migrated workers from other states go to their home for farming and harvesting seasons every year. During those time period, they face worker shortage. Due to operator shortage, he can’t ship orders on time.
  • Printing and embroidery delay. Their printing section can't supply printed panels as per the demand of the production department. This also causes a delay in product and efficiency loss.
Then he was asking – whether a real-time production tracking software system can resolve his problems.

I explained to him, what a system can do (Any IT-enabled system) what a system can’t.
  • A system can provide information that users need for monitoring and controlling a factory. 
  • A system can send alert to the managerial staffs and shop floor team when fabric and trim sourcing getting delayed. But Everywhere factory needs human action to fix the root causes of any issue. 
  • A system can measure current performance. A system can provide you with a historical performance record. 
  • A software system can identify where the work is lying in the process whether it is inside the production line. But a system can’t carry the work from one workstation to another (if you don’t have UPS production line)
  • A system can show you bottleneck operations in the line. A supervisor need reassign workers to reduce the work from the bottleneck operations and balance the line.
By using a quality management system, you can track and identify major quality issues - but the quality personnel need to act for fixing the root causes of the quality problem. An operator needs to repair the defective stitching. A defective garment component needs to be replaced by the concerned team. A quality control application software can’t correct the defective garment without human intervention.

An article published on Techcrunch says Technology can replace the human touch 

A sourcing guy needs to do follow up with fabric supplier to speed up the sourcing process. Purchasing an item from eCommerce store and sourcing fabrics from mills are not the same. Ecommerce stores keep the listed product inventory ready and they have defined a delivery schedule. But in fabric mills, they need to produce the fabric, need to process the fabric after customer's approval. Sourcing can be done on the scheduled time if you take a commitment from your supplier for the scheduled delivery and you plan your scheduling as per supplier's capacity and schedule, and you do continuous follow up with a supplier, and you provide approvals and comments on time. For managing the real status of the fabric processing, fabric sourcing, pending approvals you need a system. 

In case printing and embroidery section unable to supply printed panels, it may be due to the capacity issue of the printing section. Printing section may have a quality issue, maybe all machines are not running or workers are not present. You need to look see root causes from all angles and then take corrective action to increase the production capacity of the printing or embroidery section.

If you see the production capacities between different processes are not balanced (garment stitching and printing processes), you can’t expect that all orders will be delivered by the printing section on time.

We need the systems (An ERP, A real-time production tracking, Production scheduling, and Event tracking etc.) but at the same time, factory teams need to work and use the system generated information. Before using the system generated information, factory staff must enter the correct information to get the correct status and update.

Prasanta Sarkar

Prasanta Sarkar is a textile engineer and a postgraduate in fashion technology from NIFT, New Delhi, India. He has authored 6 books in the field of garment manufacturing technology, garment business setup, and industrial engineering. He loves writing how-to guide articles in the fashion industry niche. He has been working in the apparel manufacturing industry since 2006. He has visited garment factories in many countries and implemented process improvement projects in numerous garment units in different continents including Asia, Europe, and South Africa. He is the founder and editor of the Online Clothing Study Blog.

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