Managing apparel production using the latest technologies

Managing apparel production through technologies


Apparel production is the core stage in the apparel supply chain. Improving the global apparel productivity level, technologies have an important role. With the help of technology, now buyers can audit shipments remotely. With the use of technology, suppliers can submit digital samples of the new collections to their buyers and can take the design approval on digital samples. The technology is helping businesses in reducing product development costs and eliminating the sample development time.

There are many breakthrough improvements done in the apparel business by using software systems and IoT technologies. In this article, I will focus on managing a production unit and managing the production floor using the latest digital solutions. We should be grateful to the software developers and latest technology solution providers for bringing such sophisticated technology.

In this post, I have covered the following points.

  1. Technology trend in managing apparel production.
  2. What does it mean by managing apparel production?
  3. Why production management is so important in apparel production?
  4. Technology solutions that are available for managing a production factory in a better way.
  5. Technology solutions that are available for managing a production floor in a better way.
  6. Managing production using a real-time production management system (PMS)

1. The technology used in managing apparel production

If you are already working in the apparel manufacturing sector, you might be already knowing the common technology solutions that are trending in the 21st century. If you are a newbie, you might find this list something new innovations. All these solutions are available for garment manufacturing units. The question is how one can utilize such tech solutions.

  • Digitalization – Digitalization of the shop floor data. Making use of the shop floor data in improving factory performance.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) - A way of connecting each sewing machine and equipment through the internet (wi-fi) and being able to reach each other and share data. 
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI tool) - Using the collected data through digital solutions and using AI for getting projections in various production areas.    
  • Business Intelligence - A tool that helps in preparing customized reports, KPI dashboards from the data you have gathered in your system and database. 
  • Augmented reality (AR)
  • Real-time PMS
  • MES – Management execution system. A tool of a combination of IoT, real-time tracking of order from each stage through scanning barcode/QR code/RFID kind of tags
  • Mobile applications – The use of mobile applications has been increased recently with the development of application-based solutions for managing shop floor activities. Mobile applications are utilized in production tracking, MIS report reviewing, Quality control through entering quality data through an SQC application, machine maintenance, etc.
  • Smart sewing machines – This is not a new thing to those who are already using smart sewing machines and IoT-based sewing machines. But the application of smart sewing machines is still less.

2. What does it mean by managing apparel production?

In an apparel manufacturing unit, if someone is working as a manager or say managing the factory or managing the shop floor, he is supposed to do one and many of the following activities. Managing apparel production can be done following ways.
  1. Managing 5Ms (Man, Machine, Material, Method, and Money)
  2. Production planning, production scheduling, and production control
  3. Running production floor smoothly at the desired level of performance
  4. Meeting the production demand and delivery date
  5. Attending problems and issues raised by an apparel production team
  6. Resolving shop floor problems as early as possible
  7. Managing shop floor employees and making them happy in terms of making work available, paying fair wages, considering performance bonuses, providing all necessary tools that can help operator doing their job better.
  8. Getting things done by the shop-floor team.
  9. Taking database decisions and building a system based on the own factory processes and resource availability.

2. Why production management is so important?

According to Management Study HQ, there are three main reasons for managing production.
  1. Helping an apparel manufacturer to accomplish its objectives
  2. Boosting manufacturing business reputation and goodwill
  3. Reduces the cost of production

These are many reasons of considering production management is an important area of business growth. As you can achieve the following goal by managing the factory floor.
  • Improving factory performance through utilizing resources
  • Increasing product quality for implementing the right systems. Better the quality you produce on the floor (from sewing machines) better will be business.
  • Reducing the delivery time.
  • Improving the production KPIs
  • Controlling material consumption, controlling the manufacturing cost, and executing orders as per plan.

If someone can’t manage the factory teams and can’t focus on the business – their teams would always be fighting with each other for work-related issues. Some teams will be overloaded with work, and some teams will enjoy their free time.

4. Trends in technology solutions in apparel production

In the digital age, data is playing an important for managing shop floors in the garment industry. There are various data capturing technologies and automation in data gathering and preparing intelligent reports for managers. To name a few -
  • Mobile applications for Quality management, Machine maintenance, production data capturing
  • RFID / Barcode technology for tracking production and inventory data
  • Automation in sewing using robotic arms
  • Integrating PLM, ERP, and RTPMS, and other software applications used by companies
  • Smart Sewing machines (Juki Smart Solutions, Brother NAXIO)
  • Displaying production data, quality data, and line performance on LCD screens in front of the product lines.
  • Giving access to the techpack and operation video to operators and line supervisors through tablet and mobile applications
  • Making sewing machine set-up time quicker – just like copying machine set-up from one sewing machine to another machine.

Here I have shared two videos. One is from Juki Advanced Network (Janets) and another one is from Brother IoT sewing machine.

Video#1: Janet systems / Juki Smart sewing machines (Source: YouTube)


Video#2: Brother Nexio (Source: youtube)



5. Production process flow and technology solutions

In the following chart apparel production process flow and technology used by each process are shown.
Managing apparel production using technology and software systems

 
Related article: Automatic Fabric Spreading Machine in Garment Manufacturing


For managing the apparel production in a garment factory, your need to know the following things with knowing the technology availability. This will give you an idea of what tools and technology are helpful and the need of the hour.

6. Activities that are done by the shop floor team

These are common activities a production team needs to perform in a garment factory to manage the factory better way. Most of these tasks are handled by the industrial engineering team. Most of the garment factories follow the traditional method of performing the following tasks. But these tasks can be performed faster with accuracy by using technology solutions (Software systems, mobile applications).

  • Establishing garment operation SAM
  • Defining workflow (OB and Line layout)
  • Building operators’ Skill Matrix
  • Ongoing line balancing (with live production data)
  • WIP management
  • Capturing Non-productive time (making it part of a process)
  • Incentive calculation (automation in incentive calculation)
  • Data collection and report preparation
  • Method Improvement
  • Measuring operation cycle time
  • Displaying production KPI data
  • Piece rate payment calculation
  • Garment quality checking and inspection
  • Operator training
  • Explaining an operator using mock-up of an operation

You see how many different things need to be handled by industrial engineers and the production team to manage the production floor. All these become part of the production system for reducing the error in making garments, controlling the production cost, making a garment in the least possible time. Another factor is human management. We can build trust with workers through communication, showing the possibilities through data and examples, and systems. For that reason, all these activities are there.

Read the book Industrial Engineer’s Digest: Learn, Practice, and Improve Factory Performance to learn about these activities and how-to guides.
 

7. Who is managing the production floor?

For managing the production and production floor, garment factories hire a team of people. The shop floor supervisors and managers are assigned the followings type of profiles. Each of the following persons has an important role in executing the orders.
  • Line Leaders
  • Line Supervisors
  • Industrial Engineers
  • Production coordinators
  • Floor in-charge
  • Production manager
  • Production GM
  • Quality team

Whatever profile one has, they need a tool for managing the production floor. Need a system for handling the manpower and managing 5Ms of management.

8. Tools and technology used for managing production lines

  • Line balancing tools
  • Loss time tracking (non-productive time)
  • KPI data displays on the floor (Production performance and quality performance)
  • Handling machine breakdown
  • Machine maintenance application
  • Reporting tools
  • Mobile applications

9. Real-time production management system (PMS)

The PMS system is the most detailed and extensive system that can capture individual employees' working data and can help to perform the above activities in a better way.

This system is very smart. Data is collected from one place (sewing workstation, cutting workstation, and from other shop floor workstations) and develop a detailed database. Which later become the powerhouse for data. All the above kinds of analysis can be done from that database.

Video#3: Real-time production management system from CGS Inc.

 


With less manpower now garment factories are able to do many activities and manage the production line in a better way. The top management of the companies is getting real-time production status and helps the factory team to manage it very well.

Read this article to know more about the real-time production management system.

Conclusion:

I know you are doing a great job in running your factory business. But if you give closer look, there are many problems in production factories. Where the number of processes is more in order execution, there will be higher problems. Without the right technology and utilization of the installed system, you can’t manage the factory the way you want.

Sometimes we used to complain that if I did the work this or that way, and if I had the right information, I would have been executed that order in a better way. And this happens in all orders.

In this article, I have tried to show how garment plants can manage their order, production processes with the help of the latest technology solutions. This article has explained many terms and tech solutions with brief notes. If you want to learn more about all these technology solutions, you can learn that by exploring other related articles published on the OCS website.