Apparel Industry and Technology: Why so much friction?

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In any industry, change is always met with a resistance. The same is the case with
software. Software applications are not readily accepted within the apparel industry, even
though software applications are steadily enveloping every other industry.

The fears of using a software range from personal (losing jobs) to operational (no backups)
to strategic (dependency on software can abruptly stop the business if it fails). The biggest
and the most tangible fear that refrain businesses from using software are the fear of losing
control, be it a cloud-based application or a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application. But
are these fears even valid with the extensive and adaptable technologies we have at our
disposable today?

The garment industry has seen a continuous evolution globally. We readily accept new
hardware and machinery moving ahead but are still reluctant to accepting software. It is
because we are failing to understand the true business value of software.

    •  The Fear of Change

      The biggest challenge in implementing software in the company is the fact that basic processes will change and we are never ready for a change.
      When adopting new software, we are also limited in our approach, as we
      are moving all our data to the software. So what will happen when the company’s
      needs, processes, and infrastructure changes? But what we fail to understand as
      businesses are the fact that software does provide the users the flexibility, or the
      ability to incorporate the changes the business goes through. Piles of paperwork and
      hard copies of data might not offer this ability to change readily.

    •  The Fear of Data Security

      It is one of the most common fears businesses experience when it comes to software applications. It is not just about entrusting your data to another party, but also about fear of sudden loss of data. Watchful eyes to prevent data leakage and regular data backups can easily resolve this issue.

    • The Fear of Losing Control

      Choosing and implementing software is a commitment to the  way, processes in the company are handled. Software are often disliked by many in the industry due to the fear of losing flexibility or control in  the processes. Software that are used in the industry currently, offer the flexibility to the company to incorporate new processes or change the current processes and align the software with them.

    • The Fear of High Investment

      This is the biggest deterrent in garment industry when it comes to using software. Implementing software does need a heavy investment in the start, but to make a more informed decision for this, we need to understand the software’s return on investment.

In the garment industry, we have always meticulously tracked our production, piled on
pages of data for complete production cycles, but have rarely used it to its full capacity for
future planning. Software applications available for the industry today not only equip us to
better maintain our databases but also use that data for informed decision making. Software
solutions will make it extremely easy for businesses to incorporate the gathered data into
the businesses strategic planning.

It is a labor-intensive industry, and our focus has always been on building up the skill pool of
our factories. But in today’s business environment, survival requires businesses, to not only
develop basic operational skills but also into the company’s planning and decision-making
skills, for which software investments can prove extremely beneficial.

To better appreciate the advantage software offers, let us take an example of a large-sized garment manufacturing unit, with a daily production capacity of 50,000 pieces.

Right from the product development, through the bulk production, as a piece moves through the various stages of the production process, data is generated at each stage. For cutting 500,000 pieces of bottoms per day, 8 to 10, 15-meter cutting tables will be required. Around 75,000 to 80,000 meters of fabric will be consumed for this daily. Is it possible to track
80,000 meters of fabric daily, manually?

2500 workers, 1500 machine and 50 operations, and an approximate 200,000 pieces of WIP (finished and unfinished), all this data has to be recorded, and rightfully so, as this data is crucial for future planning and ensuring the order is completed within the stipulated time and budgetary constraints.

From the example given above, we can conclude the following points:

1. If this entire mammoth amount of data is recorded and maintained manually, will it be practically possible to retrieve and utilize it for deriving strategic inferences for current and future order planning? Moreover, what is the cost of this manual data management? Skilled labor, streamlined systems, time, and the cost of manual consolidation of fragmented data, are some of the cost factors associated with it.

2. Without any software support, can this data be accurately recorded, retrieved, used, and analyzed, for KPI measurement and strategic planning within the factory? Now, here we saw only the operational side, the whole administration side of the process is still another source of never-ending but important data. So why not handle the data with the help of technology and automation?

IntelloCut by ThreadSol is a fabric planning and optimization solution which uses the latest Artificial Neuro Network (ANN) technology to plan fabric cutting for the apparel industry. In addition, it keeps complete track of the fabric usage on the cutting floor, helping manufacturers optimize their biggest cost- fabric. It is high-time that manufacturers should realize the gravity of improving their fabric planning methods which can be a task if done manually.

3. Process improvement demands the ability to benchmark and measure success. Today, people want to drive productivity up without increasing costs. Technology can enable firms to efficiently evaluate and analyze their productivity, and this can result in an immense positive push to the company’s bottom line.

As an industry, garment industry still lags behind many of its counterparts when it comes to
software implementation. But, we have many industry examples that can prove the worth of
software investments and the extent of benefits the industry can derive from it.

Take, for instance, the banking industry. In current times we cannot imagine managing of
big banks and financial institutions on paper, where small features like online and mobile
banking have made things not only easier but also exceptionally faster for the users.
Without software, managing personal accounts, overseas transactions, financial deals, will
all take multiple days which now are completed in a minute’s time.

Software undoubtedly offers garment industry a humongous opportunity to change the way
things are being done today. Although this change will demand an investment to start with,
in the long run, it will not only save time and money for the company but also allow the
company to focus its resources and efforts in the direction of strategic sustainability rather
than basic data management. So, do you think garment industry is ready for this next leap
in its development cycle?

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  1. Varun Sanadhya says

    According to me the biggest obstacle in adopting technology in garment industry is developing the technology itself. The people who understand processes don’t know softwares and the people who know about softwares don’t understand the processes. This Gap is the reason that good solutions are not found. We really need process engineers with a fine taste of technology.

    1. Mausmi Ambastha says

      Hi Varun,

      Yes, the skill gap is one of the challenges in adopting a technology, but that can be overcome with effective training and skill development.
      In my opinion, the bigger challenge is the fear that implementing technology might change the basic processes. What is important to consider here is that adopting technology will also enhance the decision-making skills and reduce the planning effort.

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