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Eliminating Waste – Excessive work in process

“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: excessive work in process. Workers have piles of components and semi-processed product. This conspires against a proper production flow. Defects and problems (e.g. machine breakdown, invisible bottleneck processes) get hidden inside the piles and bunches. Components deteriorate or get damaged. This creates a waste in materials. It causes reworks. It adds counting / re-counting – packing / re-packing tasks. It takes more room in the factory floor. All this is a waste of time, labor and space. If this is a usual view of your factory, there are huge opportunities for improvement.

impactiva process optimizaton footwear apparel shoe garment

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Stay tuned for more Impactiva optimization solutions.

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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.

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 – Transportation

“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: excessive transportation of materials, components and finished product. This is a waste of time and labor. It normally happens when the factory’s layout or production flow are incorrect, therefore workers waste a lot of time moving things around the factory. 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 – Labor and Materials

“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: reworks mean waste in labor and materials to repair or to replace rejects if they can’t be fixed. If the product was already packed, there is an additional waste of packing materials. It negatively impacts lead-times. If the shipment date is too close sometimes the rework will have to be done in overtime. If this is a usual view of your factory, there are huge opportunities for improvement.

Rework of finished and packed product:

impactiva process optimization footwear

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Reworks in-line:

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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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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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Machines being moved during the layout change

 

Results:

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.

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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.

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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.