Whenever confronted with a crisis, the general human tendency is to firefight our way out of it. Nothing much is wrong with that.
But when the crisis becomes a daily occurrence and we still choose to firefight, instead of identifying the root causes fueling it and striving to eliminate them in the first place, we are doing it all terribly wrong.
And what graver crisis can we imagine in a garment manufacturing facility, when a garment after washing/overdyeing is going way off the desired measurements caused by unpredictable shrinkages. Even more damaging is having consumer complaints and returns after abnormal shrinkage occurring during home laundering.
This threatens the manufacturer with the dangers of getting the whole shipment rejected and all the investment, labor, effort and goodwill going down the drain. This seemingly disastrous scenario is, in fact, a very real threat to manufacturers dealing in washed/overdyed knits garments. The low twist, low tension nature of knits yarn coupled with a more open, loopy structure of knits fabric is mostly to be blamed.
The quick fix solution employed by most apparel manufacturers to avoid this unfavorable outcome is commonly referred to as CPL/Bit Wash or simply ‘Bitting’. It involves the following steps:
To be fair, this process, with a well standardized washing/drying timing and recipe does negate the chances of getting the measurements out of whack.
But, when we take a closer look and weigh in the pros and cons, it becomes abundantly clear that why this messiah of a process is actually a marauder of profits in disguise.
Let’s see and analyze the pitfalls and wastages encountered at every step of this process which keeps on compounding and multiplying one after another.
1. Shorter markers: The industrial tumble drying machines are originally designed to handle garment pieces and not fabric lengths. Washing longer fabric lengths can lead to distortion and fabric rejection. This forces the use of smaller fabric panels (a maximum of 3-3.5 m) which means smaller markers. It is a well-established fact that smaller markers correspond to extra plies, poor marker efficiency and high wastages. The overall drop in efficiency compared to longer markers is usually between 3%-10%.
This corresponds to an average of $0.5 lost on a garment of $10 FOB.
2. High end-loss wastages due to uneven shrinkage: In bit wash process, the shrinkage of an entire lot of fabric with multiple rolls is assumed by analyzing only one or two rolls. This means that individual roll shrinkages within the same lot can still vary from each other. This often leads to uneven panel/bit lengths post washing. To safeguard against the possibility of some fabric panels shrinking more than planned, extra buffer is added on the estimated shrinkage. This always leads to significantly higher end-Loss wastages as some rolls shrink less than estimated. Refer to the below pictures of a lay spread after panel/bit wash. Observe the great variation in panel lengths and very high end-loss.
As you can see the end loss post washing is often as high as 15-20 cm for a 3 m CPL lay compared to a maximum of 5 cm in a regular lay of 5-6 m. This corresponds to an additional 3% fabric wasted in end loss.
This means an additional $0.20 lost in a $10 FOB garment.
3. High end-loss wastages due to shorter markers: Shorter markers mean that we have to spread greater no. of plies to cut the same order quantity. Since the end-loss remains unchanged irrespective of the marker length, these extra plies correspond directly to extra end loss.
4. Use of inefficient manual markers due to fabric skewing: Often the panels getting washed gets twisted or skewed during washing and tumbling process. It causes the edges of the lay to skew at an angle rather than keeping straight. This renders the use of efficient CAD generated marker impossible. It is then often dealt by manually arranging pattern pieces on the floor itself with zero accountability for efficiency and utilization.
These inefficient manual markers cause another 3-7% drop in efficiency wasting another 4% of fabric on an average.
This means another $0.30 lost on $10 FOB garment.
5. Last minute changes in ratio/marker: Another big hassle occurs when after washing, some of the panels/bits shrink beyond the expected range and become shorter than the marker itself. Take this case for instance:
Now the 3m marker is rendered useless and a new marker needs to get created with a newer ratio in smaller sizes to accommodate this extra shrinkage.
This leads to a chaotic situation on the floor as the entire cut planning for the order needs to get revamped to accommodate this sudden change. The lay keeps occupying the table capacity in wait of the re-planning and new marker to arrive, killing productivity and efficiency.
Also, the newer marker causes even higher end-loss wastages as the plies which were fortunately of the correct desired length, will now also be cut using a smaller marker.
Overall the average productivity drop in cutting and Cut-planning can get as high as 50%. The average cutting labor cost in a $10 FOB garment is around 10 cents (Not accounting for the extra Planners Overhead).
With this unexpected drop the extra cost incurred is often an additional 10 cents ($ 0.1).
Strikingly, it is more than the entire profit margin on some of these orders, which is often as low as $1 for a $10 FOB garment!
Turning a blind eye to the situation is only adding the cost they are losing unknowingly. CPL, though a prevalent method of handling the variations, is actually hijacking the bottom line.Each stage is robbing them off the capital, effort and time.
It’s high time that apparel manufacturers deploy solutions and standardize processes in order to make this work.
Watch out for this column next week for detailed insight into the various solutions for problems experienced during cut panel wash.
To be continued…
About the author:
Saurav Ujjain is Principal Consultant at ThreadSol Softwares and an established industry expert with over 8 years experience in the garment industry in the areas of production, merchandising and retail. He holds a degree in Fashion Technology from NIFT, Delhi.