Staying Ahead of the Competition: Leveraging Innovations in Manufacturing

It is often discussed that the apparel industry has become very competitive due to an excessive number of manufacturers from many countries. Buyers have many suppliers to choose from a range of countries hence suppliers really should be creative to retain the current buyers and to attract new ones.

Leveraging innovation in manufacturing

Most manufacturing countries are experiencing inflation and raw material suppliers naturally increase their prices to keep the margins. However, apparel manufacturers do not see much increase in product price due to the competition hence facing a tough situation.

Over the years it has been noticed that the apparel industry in South Asia is somewhat lagging behind when it comes to embracing new innovations and technology. Except for a few companies, most manufacturers still use the same basic industrial sewing machines with basic functions first introduced in the 1980s. Let’s look at one of the recent innovations that will help to reduce manufacturing costs and improve efficiency.

An example of such an innovative solution:

Needle breakage prevention function

If your company is working for reputed buyers, chances are you are expected to follow the needle procedure. This is a health and safety requirement that is integrated to buyer’s manual by most reputed buyers such as M&S, Next, GAP, George, and so on. The idea is to avoid sending garments with needle parts stuck in them. Failure to follow the procedure could result in many consequences that include, order re-check, cancellation, RTM, and even huge fines.

Source: Brother sewing machine manual

It is calculated that daily 17% of the production time is wasted due to needle procedure. Typically needle procedure means, that when a needle is broken, the operator has to stop the machine and find all the parts. Then take them to the designated person who’s authorized to maintain the needle breakage log and issue new needles. As you can imagine these few steps itself take a few minutes. However, as we know very well, it never happens this way. Often, some pieces are hard to find. The rule is to stop the machine until you find all the pieces. This means stopping the line and getting somebody to bring a hand-held needle detector and doing a thorough search till you find it. Now imagine a situation where this happens a few times in a few lines…? 

This is an everyday occurrence in most of our factories.

One of the clever innovations in recent years is that Brother Corporation has developed a single needle lockstitch sewing machine series with a newly added function called “Needle breakage prevention function”. Some of those models include S-7100A, S-7300A & S-7000DD. Engineers have studied and tried to understand some of the common reasons for needle breakage and come up with a solution.

One common reason they identified was the poor handling of the reverse stitching actuator switch. When doing backtacking it is important keeping the needle in the UP position. Often operators are not aware of the position of the needle which results in needle breakage. When the needle breakage prevention function is switched on needle automatically goes to the UP position and penetrates the material without vibration. This lowers the possibility of needle breakage.

I have described above just one example of how new innovation and technology can help to improve the productivity and efficiency of your company. It is obvious that buyers will give preference to work with manufacturers who have this type of technology as it will reduce some of the concerns they have about the quality. Let’s look at another innovation next week.

Also read: Application of AI Technology in the Apparel and Fashion Industry

Charm Rammandala

Dr. Charm Rammandala currently works as the Sustainable Program Manager at Apple Inc. USA. He has over 20 years of international management experience and previously contributed his expertise at Tesla, George Sourcing, and Vomax LLC.

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