impactiva process optimization footwear

Eliminating Waste Series – Time and Labor

“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: direct labor (workers losing time). If the materials are not easily available to the workers at the right production moment, they waste time searching them, delaying the whole manufacturing process or having to deploy workers specifically for the task of finding components / materials. If this is a usual view of your factory, there are huge opportunities for improvement.

impactiva process optimization footwear

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Stay tuned for more Impactiva optimization solutions.

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Eliminating Waste Series – Over-production

“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: Over-production. It hides a lot of problems which should be solved immediately, and leads to the storage of finished or semi-finished, a waste of capital sitting all over the factory with no return on investment whatsoever. If this is a usual view of your factory, there are huge opportunities for improvement.

impactiva footwear process optimization

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Stay tuned for more Impactiva optimization solutions.

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Eliminating Waste Series – Direct Labor

“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: direct labor (workers sitting idle). The reasons can be varied: unbalanced lines, quality issues, materials unavailability, machines breakdown, just to name a few. If this is a usual view of your factory, there are huge opportunities for improvement.

footwear process optimization

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Stay tuned for more Impactiva optimization solutions.

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Three Qualities of a Successful Lean Manufacturing Program

Executives Are Focusing on Flow, Culture and Buy-in to Succeed in their Lean Transformation Efforts

By Jose R. Suarez, Founder and CEO, Impactiva


In today’s competitive, budget-conscious environment, apparel and footwear executives face substantial challenges, from rapidly shifting consumer and channel demands to rising labor costs and market volatility. As a result, many are embracing Lean manufacturing to eliminate waste and increase efficiency and flexbility.

However, as many executives are discovering, true implementation success requires more than just the right tools.

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Rising Pressure for Efficiency, Productivity and Flexibility

Across the apparel and footwear industries, various economic, labor and consumer trends are impacting the competitive landscape, forcing companies to streamline costs, improve quality and bolster productivity.

Years of rising wages and labor costs across all of China’s eastern seaboard provinces has amplified the trend to shifting production to countries such as Vietnam, Bangladesh and Laos, thus diversifying supply chains and presenting executives with new challenges regarding operations, delays and material costs.

Meanwhile, consumer behavior is evolving. The pace of style changes is quickening, and with the growth of e-commerce, greater speed and flexibility is being required throughout the supply chain.

The obstacles are significant, and overcoming them is critical to the future of apparel and footwear companies. Therefore, many brand and retail executives are adopting Lean manufacturing programs for their factory base in the hopes of achieving greater output with fewer resources. However, as many have found, Lean initiatives only succeed when accompanied by three key components:

  1. Focusing on Optimizing Production Flow
  2. Building a Sustainable Lean Culture via Change Management
  3. Defining “What Is in It for Me”


1. Focusing on Optimizing Production Flow

Before starting a Lean transformation, factories should assess where they are incurring seven types of waste that inhibit them from optimizing production flow: transportation, inventory, motion, waiting, over-production, over-processing and defects.

The assessment will help them identify non-value-add activities that create bottlenecks. Time and motion studies can also be used to detect inefficiencies and bottlenecks caused by unbalanced production lines.

To measure the effectiveness of the production flow of a manufacturing facility, factories should calculate their Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), which measures the percent of effective production time. It can be determined by multiplying availability (equipment uptime) by performance (productivity) by quality (right-the-first-time rate).


2. Building a Sustainable Lean Culture via Change Management

One of the most important factors in ensuring long-term program success is the development of a sustainable Lean culture. After all, Lean manufacturing is not only about building robust processes; it is also about building a culture based on five values: transparency, discipline, accountability, experiment-fail-learn and positive energy.

As with any significant, long-term initiative, developing a sustainable Lean culture requires leadership. Top management should focus on instilling these five key values, as well as displaying a continuous improvement mentality and total adherence to Lean principles.

As part of this effort, management should build a continuous improvement team within the organization, including a designated Lean leader to serve as an ongoing subject matter expert. Then, as part of a mechanism to break old habits throughout the factory, management should employ metrics and targets to hold team members accountable for supporting the effort on a daily basis.

By completing these tasks and demonstrating a commitment to changing habits, top management will gradually transform and solidify behaviors and values across the factory—yielding the right atmosphere for a sustainable Lean culture.


3. Defining “What Is in It for Me”

Finally, brand and retail executives should define what the factory will gain from adopting Lean and becoming more transparent. This effort is critical, as factory buy-in is required for the long-term success of a Lean transformation of one’s factory base.

For instance, executives may ensure an increase in factory volume that would accompany a successful Lean implementation. These communications may even include a guaranteed volume for a certain number of years, or a guaranteed level of profitability per unit that grows as higher levels of Lean are achieved. Conversely, executives may opt to provide disincentives, such as a cap on price increases due to rising labor costs.

With factory buy-in established and a sustainable Lean culture in place, systems and processes can be successful despite any changes that may occur in factory management. As a result, a Lean manufacturing organization can focus more on goal-setting and ultimately long-term profitability.

Ultimately, Lean manufacturing programs can help brands and factories to overcome industry challenges by producing significantly more with the same or less resources. However, only with the right focus, leadership, culture and buy-in can they deliver lasting increases in productivity, on-time delivery, flexibility and capacity.

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Lean Transformation – a footwear manufacturing case

“What do you mean by Optimization?”. Easy to understand real examples of how we helped factories optimize manufacturing processes.

Context: men’s high end leather shoes factory looking to improve their productivity and efficiency.

Duration: 6 months from the assessment to the conclusion of the project.

We redesigned the factory layout with Lean concepts, using the right combination of man-machine-method. We balanced the line according to Takt* time. We implemented KPIs and a Quality measurement system. During the whole process we trained the workers in special technical skills as well as in Lean basics so that they understood the reasons for the changes introduced. We also conducted a Change Leadership Coaching program for the factory management, essential for the sustainability of the optimization system into the future.

*In this case, average production time to produce a pair of shoes


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38% more shoes with 29% less human resources. 93% of increment in efficiency. 5% increase in the “Right-the-first-time” rate, meaning 5% less reworks.

The factory obtained six-digit amount of savings and the return of their investment in Impactiva’s fees was 5 months.

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The factory production manager said: “There is a noticeable change in the Team Members skills as well as in their mind set”.

Stay tuned for more Impactiva optimization solutions.

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Lean Transformation – an apparel manufacturing case

“What do you mean by Optimization?. Easy to understand real examples of how we helped factories optimize manufacturing processes.

Context: men’s shirts and woven women’s tops factory looking to increase their capacity while reducing overtime and lead-time (cutting to packing).

Duration: 6 weeks from the assessment to the conclusion of the Kaizen Blitz project.

We advised to integrate one line “sew to pack”. For this we implemented a “just-in-time” production system. We redesigned the line layout with Lean concepts, using the right combination of man-machine-method, and balanced it according to Takt* time. During the whole project we trained the workers to understand and apply Lean techniques and concepts. We also trained them in MDI (Managing for Daily Improvement), problem solving and continuous improvement tools, to ensure the sustainability of the Lean transformation of this production line.

*In this case, average production time to produce a garment

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The new integrated line sews 34% more pieces and packed 23% more with the same human resources. The overtime was reduced by 73%, same as the lead-time (from 14 to less than 4 days). Also the sewing productivity improved by 36% (pieces/person/hour)

The factory obtained six-digit amount of savings and the return of their investment in Impactiva’s fees was less than two months, optimizing only this one production line.

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The factory CEO and production team were very pleased with the achievements.

Stay tuned for more Impactiva optimization solutions.

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What Happened When Impactiva Applied Lean Manufacturing Techniques to a Footwear Factory in China

By Sourcing Journal staff.

Sometimes good isn’t good enough.

That was the case when quality assurance provider Impactiva was contracted by a major U.S. retailer to help transform its supply chain by improving operations at one of its footwear factories in China.

“The retailer had been working with this factory for many years and it was regarded as reliable supplier, but still had numerous opportunities for improvement,” the Impactiva process optimization team explained.

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An initial assessment of the factory—which produced 7 million pairs of women’s casual shoes a year for the retailer and employed 3,000 workers—found that a lack of quality awareness, training and skilled operators, combined with an inefficient use of resources, was leading to excessive inventory in the lines and between departments, in addition to considerable rework and re-verification.

In fact, a high percentage of manpower and materials was being assigned to fix production problems discovered too late, while a lack of training meant most of the workers were only capable of performing two operations.

These issues were preventing the retailer from meeting its strategic operating goals, which included cost reduction and transparency. That’s the main reason why the client requested Impactiva’s help, so that its goods could be manufactured at a lower cost and in less time.

To that end, Impactiva initially focused on improving the factory’s overall equipment efficiency by implementing its “footwear manufacturing excellence system” in the facility’s stitching and lasting lines in an effort to train employees to understand and apply “lean” techniques to increase efficiency and eliminate waste.

In addition, factory management, supervisors and operators were taught how to run the facility using data to solve any obstacles they encountered through fast and accurate root cause analysis and corrective action plans.

All in all, it took two weeks to train the factory’s employees and two months to execute Impactiva’s basic “lean” tool during a three-month Kaizen Blitz period, or rapid improvement workshop.

“This factory had a very traditional production system and they believed they were working well,” Impactiva said. “They started the project only to please their client—in order to get more volume—but then they saw and appreciated the benefits.”

For instance, Impactiva managed to step up the hourly productive output of a worker in the factory’s stitching line by 19 percent, while lasting achieved a 55 percent improvement. In addition, takt time (that is, the rate at which a finished product needs to be completed in order to meet customer demand) improved by 16 percent.

The optimization team helped the stitching and lasting lines perk up their quality, too, by 12 percent and 20 percent respectively.

“Lasting lines are more complicated to balance out the workload as they have many more tasks to be performed, meaning factories do not know how to distribute the many tasks evenly amongst the operators to optimize the use of labor on a last line,” Impactiva explained, referring to the varying levels of improvement gained by each line. “Stitching is less inefficient as it is just one operator working with one machine. In a non-lean factory, you can normally easily improve stitching by 20 percent to 30 percent, but lasting can sometimes surpass 50 percent.”

In order to keep that momentum going, Impactiva implemented a key performance indicator (KPI) tracking system and trained the factory’s team leaders to troubleshoot quality issues and develop corrective actions, while the shop-floor supervisory team and top management were taught how to track KPIs every hour and manage abnormalities.

Meetings to review performance would be held at the end of each work day to analyze progress and plan the next day’s priorities, and once a week a “steering committee” would meet to analyze defects and the effectiveness of corrective actions.

“After collaborating with Impactiva, our team learned the experiences of factory management and I feel we can produce all the orders our clients will provide,” the factory’s owner said.

In fact, the pilot was a win for both sides. According to Impactiva, a 10 percent increase in productivity annually at this factory—as long as labor costs don’t rise—will yield savings of $146,502 for the retailer and add $219,753 to the factory’s profits. Even if labor costs increased by 5 percent, that same improvement in productivity would generate $115,574 in savings per year for the retailer and the factory’s profits would increase by $173,361.

MA012 Branding Authorized pic for apparel factory related presentations

Laying the Foundation for Automation Success

Forward-Thinking Executives Are Maximizing ROI with Lean

By: Jose R. Suarez, Founder & CEO, Impactiva


Today’s apparel, textile and footwear executives are facing significant challenges. Competitve pressures are growing. The need for efficiency and accuracy is intensifying. And with labor shortages looming across China, labor costs are increasing.


As a result, some executives are investing in automation, hoping to capitalize on reductions in cost, waste and delays. However, as many are finding, robots alone will not yield success. Like any manufacturing revolution, the shift to automation requires preparation, including optimized processes, practices and operational management.

MA012 Branding Authorized pic for apparel factory related presentations

Increasing Pressures to Adapt and Evolve

In the modern, fast-changing global marketplace, competition is greater than ever. And while executives confront the difficulty of capturing and maintaining customer loyalty, they are also facing a wide array of economic challenges.


Most notably, the ever-present challenge of producing higher quality products in less time and with less resources is being amplified by growing labor costs.


For instance, in China, the world’s dominant producer of apparel and footwear, the scarcity of manpower and true artisans has doubled labor costs in the last five years, according to a recent IHS Markit report. Moreover, they are expected to rise another 10 percent this year alone.


Automation: A Growing Competitive Necessity

Consequently, many executives are exploring and embracing automation. In fact, 1.3 million new industrial robots will be installed in factories over the next three years, according to a recent International Federation of Robotics report.


While the initial investment in automation is substantial—one basic sewing robot averages $40,000—the short- and long-term returns can be overwhelming.


For example, consider the manufacturing process of an average shoe, which typically requires 28 separate, manual operations. As more tasks are automated, improvements in accuracy, material savings and productivity are compounded. And with the potential to reduce factory resources by up to 70 percent, executives may be able to recoup their investments within months, not years.


For this reason, in segments such as footwear manufacturing—particularly cutting, sewing, and soling operations—the shift to automation is no longer an option; it is a competitive necessity.


The New Manufacturing “Revolution”

The shift to automation is also part of the natural evolution in apparel, textile and footwear manufacturing, as exeuctives seek more efficient, accurate and dependable methods.


Continuing with the shoe factory example, consider the modern evolution of the basic leather cutting task. In the early 1900s, this task entailed a pattern, knife, and the human eye. By the late 1900s, it still entailed the human eye, but technology had shifted to metal die and a clicking machine.


Today, as a result of automation, the human eye is no longer an essential component. Instead, the task has evolved to feature leather scanning for defects, computer positioning of patterns, and robotic cutting.


The Importance of Preparation in Achieving Maximum ROI

Given the potential competitive, economic, and operational benefits of automation, it is no surprise that we are on the verge of a new manufacturing revolution. However, there’s a catch: investing in robotic technology alone will not significantly improve results.


Like all prior manufacturing revolutions, a shift in technology must be accompanied by a similar shift in organization and operational management.


Looking back to the innovations of Henry Ford and Frederick Winslow Taylor, their success in revolutionizing production would not have been possible without powerful management and a strong layer of organization. The assembly line required calculations to be well balanced and each work station to be intensely studied, fine-tuned, monitored and adjusted in real time.


Such is the case with today’s automation revolution. To deliver optimal efficiency, robots require optimal efficiency at the human level. Therefore, executives must prepare and evolve their operations prior to implementing robotics.


Timing of these efforts is critical, especially given the tremendous capital expense of automating tasks factory-wide. If a factory is not sufficiently Leaned before robots are implemented, ROI can plummet—or worse.


The Path to Success: Three Key Preparation Steps

So what does necessary preparation look like?


Considering the wide array of tasks that must be accomplished, the effort may seem daunting. After all, production flow must be optimized. Cutting, stitching and assembly must be in line and well balanced. Data capture must be organized to maintain process flexibility. Materials and supplies must be fully under control to ensure quality and on-time delivery. Employees and management must be trained and fully committed.


It is a lot, but it can be done. Specifically, with the assistance of process optimization specialists, executives can effectively prepare for automation by completing three key tasks:


  1. Defining the factory’s needs and most probable evolution in terms of products, lead times, technical options and finishing options.
  2. Thoroughly analyzing and optimizing current processes by implementing Lean manufacturing principles.
  3. Planning and engineering implementation and phasing via setup, transition and training.


Optimizing factory processes prior to implementation is allowing executives to not only maximize their return on automation investments, but also enhance them. For instance, by establishing a Lean production system, executives are systematically removing waste created through overburdened and uneven workloads.


In addition, they are removing costly environmental waste, such as solid/hazardous waste and excess energy or water use. In fact, a recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report found that “using Lean principles to improve chemical and waste management processes can have big pay-offs for environmental performance and bottom-line results.”


Ultimately, like automation, Lean manufacturing princples are letting factories produce significantly more with the same or less resources. They are reducing lead time while increasing quality, productivity, on-time delivery, system flexibility and manufacturing capacity—the same benefits promised by automation.

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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.