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Eliminating Waste Series – Time (machines breakdown)

“A picture is worth a thousand words”. What do we mean when we talk about eliminating waste? These are real pictures taken during different process optimization projects that illustrate how we assist our customers’ factories to produce more efficiently.

Type of waste: time, not to mention the complications of production stoppage caused by machines downtime. Or the quality defects a malfunctioning machine can cause. When a machine breaks down, it ruins the whole production planning and flow. Sometimes the solution is as simple as using another machine, or as difficult as having to buy spare parts abroad, wait for the authorized service, or other similarly frustrating circumstances.

As always, our advice is Prevention. Set up a machinery preventive maintenance program instead of resourcing to quick fixes that save you today and get you into trouble tomorrow. Have inhouse a mechanic with the necessary skills and training to service the factory machinery. If dirty, not lubricated, unreliable machines is an usual view of your factory, there are huge opportunities for improvement.

impactiva process optimization footwear apparel shoe garment

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Stay tuned for more Impactiva optimization solutions.

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Waist band not well aligned – Case #564

“A picture is worth a thousand words”. Practical solutions to problems encountered in the manufacturing process that demonstrate how we assist our customers’ factories to produce Right from the Start TM.

Problem: the center front waist band was not well aligned due to the incorrect placement of the center front button (3/16” from the top).

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Impactiva solution: we developed a template for the operators to use in order to attach the button correctly.

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Stay tuned for more Impactiva technical solutions to every day production problems.

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The Weatherman says: the weather is the pretext of the weak-willed people

by Denis Noharet

Are you currently enjoying the 14C° in Paris in the middle of the afternoon in mid June? You are not eager to buy a new pair of sandals at full price, since your closet is full of them or since you don’t like to wear them with wool socks. All the stores are full of plain summer stuff (bikinis, Ts, tanktops, mini shorts) in shimmering colors, but empty of customers… All the retailers are complaining about weather in Europe. Well, almost all indeed. Zara, the world champion of fast-fashion and lead time reduction is not only able to get in stores what you see during the catwalks within 5 or 6 weeks, but is also able to adapt their supply to adapt to the weather conditions. To make a long story short, to deliver a world class retailer performance. And the figures speak for themselves:

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“…The first-quarter results sent shares in Inditex, one of the most expensive retail stocks globally, up 3.2 percent, outperforming Swedish Rival H&M which reported a pickup in sales growth in May after a fall in its first-quarter profit.”

Inditex, well known for whisking the latest trends from runway to stores in a matter of days, is bucking a broader industry trend with other major fashion retailers complaining of weak demand.

Sales of lingerie-inspired, lace-trimmed dresses, oversized shirts and other items from flagship chain Zara helped push sales across the group’s brands up 15 percent at constant exchange rates in the first weeks of the second quarter from May 1 to June 13, it said.

“In a market environment where most retailers are bemoaning the weather, Inditex’s results demonstrate the strength of the business model and its ability to deliver superior results,” said Bernstein analyst Jamie Merriman…” (extract from Fashion Mag US, June 15).

Believe you me Zara, or Massimo Dutti and even Inditex as a whole did not discovered the way to predict the weather 6 months in advance, or how to “influence” the weather. On the other hand, they have implemented a fast fashion system, highly sophisticated and well kept-up by a world class supply chain. There is a size effect for sure, and the scale savings Inditex is able to enjoy, thanks to its worldwide network is an amazing asset. They are able to book in advance huge amounts of greige fabrics, or yarns, or mesh… the size effect helps also the designers to create with immediately available stuff, without compromising the final product…but many other retailers are also giants. If we talk about Mulliez Group in France, or Mango (another Spanish company), Target, The Gap or Ralph Lauren in the US…they’re giants aren’t they? But why the hell do all these “traditional” retailers continue to withstand out-of-fashion supply chain management (I am sure you’re enjoying the play-on-the-words). When will you guys decide seriously, professionally and with a decent accountability level to implement the solutions already at hand? Anybody remember the juniors market in the 1980’s with 6-7X’s turn over a year and goods to market in 6 weeks?  It’s possible…just imagine a better way! It exits; it’s called Manufacturing Excellence.

The choice is yours: continue to waste money investing to predict the weather, or seriously turnaround your supply chain. I will buy a bathing suit this afternoon at 50% off. There might be some sun this summer…

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So you say that it is more complex to sew a pair of chinos than to build a car? Think Lean please!

By Denis Noharet

I do not want to compare one business to another. I just wonder why, after more than 20 years in various lifestyle businesses and in several countries, I keep meeting business owners (CEOs, Factories Owners…) who tirelessly tell me their process, their business model, their product development department, their design… is too complex to be optimized?

 

How then to rank a new car development on the complexity scale? or a new computer? However, from a customer point of view, it’s now quicker to deliver a car from the assembly line than to deliver a pair of pants.

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When I tell them that 34 minutes of sewing time cannot explain the 75 days required for delivery, they usually say:  ”well… we need 45 days for the fabric, you know” I say, “bear in mind than the steel process is not really quicker”, you know, my car analogy again… 

 

And even if 45 days are required for the fabric, still we are talking about 30 days left to perform a 34-minute operation. Ok. I can agree to allocate an extra 1/2 hour for the washing, finishing, packing… What? You say a basic wash is 4 hours including drying? No problem. Let’s then give a couple of days for the entire process: cutting, sewing, washing, finishing and packing. And 45 days for fabric, without any optimization. This is now 47 days compared to 75… 28 days difference; 37% of the lead time to be eliminated. Sounds interesting?

 

We have demonstrated with several clients, after a value stream mapping exercise, that the usual lead times in the lifestyle business can be reduced by at least 50% without major investment in the process (no more machines, no robots, no alien technology ;) .

React or die because if a millennial decides to spend her money on buying a pair of pants instead of attending the latest yoga seminar or eating at the hottest new raw bar, then you’d better have what she wants now, not in 75 days.

 

The wining retailers and brands, are already able to issue 6, 8, even 10 collections per year. Can you measure the huge amount of cash ($$$) frozen for ages when you order your summer production in May or June, to be delivered in January next year? And can you measure the cost of uncertainty (what will the best sellers be)? What extra business could you generate if you could fulfill the demand on best sellers without losing any sale? What is the cost of end-of-lines? What part of the new collection will you sell full price? What part will you be forced to discount to clean up the shop floor for the coming new collection? You miss the hit color of the season and it’s too late to order? Well, that’s too bad…

 

There are so many examples of dormant value in the lifestyle supply chain that most of the retail prices are nowadays 6, 7, 8 (and even more) times the FOB price of the items just to cover for the waste. And believe me, when your FOB is 10 USD, and your retail is 70 or 80 USD, it is a misconception to consider the difference as added value. It’s the phenomenal amount of waste the majority of players are burning to feed an overwhelmed system. R.I.P.

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How to compensate for materials and labour cost increases

There are variables that the brands and their factories cannot control. We have seen commodities’ price fluctuation. Cotton for example. Economic or political crisis in certain countries, weather conditions, sometimes even natural catastrophes are some of the reasons for the fluctuation in supply and demand that affect the price of the materials needed for our apparel, footwear or leather goods production.

So in order to compensate for the variables we cannot control, like materials or labor cost increases, let’s work on the variables we can control. The opportunities for improvement are there, in our own work, in the way we do what we do, and why. We just have to spot those opportunities and take them. We are talking about reducing costs by improving our performance.

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A candid assessment of the supply chain done by qualified professionals is the first step to find such opportunities. Then it is time to define the strategic goals that will drive the transformation and develop a well designed action plan. The implementation has to be planned in consecutive phases, in order to measure, track and evaluate results in completed stages. The choice of the correct Key Performance Indicators is crucial.

All processes are susceptible to being optimized, from Product Development to the distribution to the stores, but especially in manufacturing. The benefits apart from lowering costs are numerous: shorter lead times, increased sustainability, more flexibility to produce smaller orders faster, just to name a few. It comes down to eliminating waste and inefficiencies in all their forms: overproduction, excessive transportation reprocesses, reworks, rejections. Savings are seen instantly once we eliminate waste of time, materials, labor and, capital.

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Are you considering re-shoring?

More and more companies in the fashion industry are considering, or already actively working on re-shoring projects. By re-shoring we understand to bring back the manufacture of products to the countries of origin of these companies, or to produce nearer to the consumer.

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The comparison can no longer be done on the unit cost or landed duty paid cost of a product. This implies ignoring hidden and not-so-hidden costs that affect the final figure, like exportation packaging, international banking/financial expenses, trips of executives, emergency airfreight costs, inflation and currency appreciation in the manufacturing countries, just to name a few.

 

The re-shoring might not be possible or worthwhile for all companies and products. Maybe it can be wise only to produce some of the components, or to carry out some stages of the manufacturing process only. It takes a deep analysis of costs and a solid project of Manufacturing Excellence in the countries where the production is intended to return, as a really Lean, sustainable way of manufacturing is needed to counterbalance the higher labor cost (higher wages).

 

At least it is worthwhile the exercise, analyzing a possibility of re-structuring the manufacturing process, analyzing inventory control, supply chain management, and operational inefficiencies.

 

Here is where Impactiva can help! Our Manufacturing Excellence Business Unit has programs in place to optimize material management, transform the manufacturing process with Lean techniques and scrutinize your entire supply chain for optimization. Our deep knowledge of the leather, footwear and apparel industries combined with our ability to apply industrial engineering techniques guarantees a unique and realistic assessment of the current situation of a supply chain and a sound plan to improve it. Contact us!

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Seam allowance – Case #275

“A picture is worth a thousand words”. Practical solutions to problems encountered in the manufacturing process that demonstrate how we assist our customers’ factories to produce Right from the Start TM.

Problem:  excessive and uneven seam allowance followed at sleeve double needle stitching.

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Impactiva solution: we identified the deviation and educated the factory to attach the sleeve with a single needle stitch and then make the top stitch with a double needle machine. This dramatically improved workmanship and the esthetic look of the sleeve. Moreover, we averted re-works and rejections at later stages.

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Stay tuned for more Impactiva technical solutions to every day production problems.