“Waste not, want not. Old proverbs die hard even when the business is contemporary”
say Mausmi Ambastha and Anas Shakil.
Avoidable and unfortunate wastage in the cutting room can cut into profits and bottom lines more insidiously than one may imagine. Fabric, the entity accounting for more than 60 per cent of the manufacturing cost of garments, is virtually a gold mine. Are the consultancies even offering to save fabric? If some of them claim to save fabric, how are they living up to their claims?
One such example is Bangladesh, shouldering a major percentage of the global garment manufacturing. The country is seeing a huge influx of technology and consultancy services, from the introduction of the latest cutters to state-of-the-art multi-core CAD workstations and further on to top business process reengineering and downstream consultancy services. Bangladesh is making an impact in the industry. However, even such success can be tainted by wastage seeping resources out of the system.
There are several offered services, but unless the client is thorough, they can result in false promises. Let us understand how, as an industry, we have grossly misunderstood these much-hyped programmes:
1. Labour Reduction Services: They offer a 10-20 per cent reduction in total cutting-room workforce. They do the complete marker plan in advance based on fabric roll details and auto nesting for bulk markers. These claim to reduce the effort of planning the layers one by one and ensuring a smoother work flow with no hindrance. However, the uncertainties of the cutting floor pose so many hindrances that almost all claims fall flat.
The final plan is done way in advance and offers no flexibility to handle on-floor changes. So, as you complete the order, you end up making more markers. That results in extra man hours owing to re-works in CAD work station as well as cutting floor. The original plan that was secured in advance remains unused and what you actually follow is ad-hoc planning.
Now consider an out of the world, model factory setup where everything happens according to the original plan. Even then, you have no tool to utilise the end bits generated after cutting the main markers, leading to a good 5-10 per cent fabric wastage as small fabric lengths because no cut plan can predict the actual end bits which will be generated on the floor.
The chart below compares the cost of 5 per cent fabric loss versus cost of 20 per cent labour reduction.
Fact over fancy: spending thousands of dollars to reduce cost of labour does not save you money, nor does it earn you profit.
What do you really need? You need a service dedicated to save fabric at every stage. A service that offers solid tools that plan your entire cutting room in advance with the best possible cut-plan utilises fabric rolls by marrying them with most suited markers, utilise end-bits based on actual on-floor data and if required, adjust the entire plan automatically to any on-floor fluctuations.
2. End-bit reduction services: End-bits are smaller fabric pieces that are left after a roll is used in lay(s). These are pure money, since you have paid to buy this fabric. Then, why waste it? So, some of these services offer a complete end-bit reduction. They suggest that when a fabric rolls ends overlap the end with another fabric roll completing the ply and follow the same shade. But this does not help. It only conceals wastage and does not save anything. As a fabric roll ends, pick a new one, take a few steps back from the roll end, and blindly overlap with the new one.
The blind overlapping gives you numerous incomplete pattern pieces, which increases work in re-cutting. Also, it increases wastage that remains hidden at the overlapping points.
Fact over fancy: Blind overlapping, the current trend to “reduce” end bits is more wasteful. It hides the wastage rather than reducing it.
What do you really need? You need a tool that updates you with the current status of end-bits and then automatically plans to utilise them, and not just hide them.
3. Auto Nesting as Buying Tools: Auto nesters make markers automatically based on the patterns and parameters provided. These are excellent tools to make bulk markers that ease buying process considerably. These are not intended to give you wastage percentages for different products and fabric categories. These are not intended to give you correct fabric damage numbers for different suppliers. So, there is little point buying these tools. After all the marker ratios being fed in auto nesters are still simple ratios that mostly remain unused in production markers.
Fact over fancy: Auto nesters only aid in making markers in bulk. They do not have the capability to give buying consumptions and assist in buying fabric.
What do you really need? You need an honest tool that can give you genuine numbers of buffer and wastage percentages for different products and fabric categories. You need a tool that manages a compact database and automatically filters information to control flexible like shrinkage variation, width variation, damages, roll excess/ shortage etc.
4. Table Utilisation as Optimisation Tool: The aim is to spread a lay from a particular fabric group, cut it on the same table, inspect it, do the numbering, ticketing and panel replacement at the same spot, all one after the other, and the team moves from one place to another, before executing another lay on the table. The concept is sweet as it ensures no fabrics from different groups are mixed together. Along the way, it effectively blocks a whole table for several hours ensuring a drastic fall in line feeding and cutting room output. You will need long tables and lay from both sides. Now think how much extra movement rolls and manpower that means. A few years back, air flotation tables were invented. They were built especially for their dynamic roles in numbering, bundling, part changes and panel replacement, lay from one side and keep pulling the lay/cut pieces to get the work done in the next place. This is the same miniature concept of cars moving over the belt and workers performing assigned tasks. This is one tight deal. There are many ways to ensure fabrics with similar properties are executed in one go, following on from the fabric store itself.
Fact over fancy: Table utilisation is not an optimisation tool. Even if it does have the potential to ease work, it does not work effectively for all factories and their processes.
What do you really need? You need a system or service, probably a combination of both that understands the functioning of your factory and can give you customised solutions to optimise your processes.
Having looked through all the major services available today, we wonder how we can get a fool-proof solution. To answer this, one needs to understand the complete picture including systems existing in your factory and services being offered.
Target your buying department down to your fabric store and your complete cutting processes to create a service for complete material management system. This has to be a service that can ensure a transparent workflow throughout your existing systems, a service that can ensure in-depth implementation to prove what it claims, showing solid results on the cutting-floor, working hand in hand with your team. It has to be a service that does not just install systems and disappear but ensures overall sustenance by establishing clear checkpoints so that you are empowered with complete material management.
To begin with, check the millions of dollars of fabric pieces lying below your not-so-expensive air floatation tables!
About Co-Author: Anas Shakil has rich experience in apparel manufacturing and consulting. His proficiency in cutting room processes and lean sigma make him a popular figure in the Bangladesh Apparel World. In the past, Anas has set production for European buyers like United Angst in India. Today, Anas heads the business and operations for ThreadSol in Bangladesh, working with the best manufacturers in the country like Regency, Kenpark Dekko etc.
This post was originally published on Fibre2Fashion