“To succeed in this world, you need to change all the time” – Sam Walton
The Apparel Manufacturing sector is one of the most rigorous and competitive industries of all. With increasing demands, tighter lead times, and cut-throat competition throughout the market, only the fittest of them all can survive this ever-challenging business. Even with such challenges, the apparel manufacturing sector has always shied away from advancements, to improve the standard and methods of manufacturing. This 200 years old industry is still majorly dependent upon human resource to run the show, contrary to the working of mostly all the other industries like automobile, food, construction etc.
Why is cutting room an important part of the manufacturing process?
The cutting room of a garment manufacturing factory, being the driving stone of the profitability of a business, is a quintessential part of it. There are various areas of the cutting room, which if revamped with the help of technology, can boost the profits as well as the efficiency of the business manifold.
Let’s have a look at the numerous areas of the cutting room –
1. Planning Room
The planning room is the brain of the cutting floor. The planner is designated to plan & execute orders on the cutting floor. Following are some of the chores that a planner has to perform on a daily basis –
A. Marker Ratio Planning – The planner needs to calculate ratio plans for markers, against which the fabric lays will be cut. This is a rigorous task that he/she performs continuously for many orders, a larger number of sizes and even larger quantities, manually, keeping in mind the best-suited plans for the floor.
This time and effort consuming task can very well be automated with the help of Automatic cutplan generating software /programmes, which can produce marker ratios for the planner by just a click of a button.
B. Fabric Preparation – The Planner also needs to keep a tab on all the fabric that is being issued for the tables to spread and cut. This means for all the orders that are running on the floor, the planner needs to manually issue fabric rolls to each lay and document the same. If there is more than one shade, shrinkage or width, he/she needs to manually segregate the same and ask the CAD Department to make markers accordingly. The planning room is also responsible for documenting the amount of fabric used and returned to the store.
All this work takes a lot of processing and documentation, to be done manually. But by using Fabric planning automation solution, they can take help of a systematic database system, which can help them track, issue, record and return the fabric rolls back to the store. Streamlining this setup with a barcode system further reduces the efforts of the planning room.
C. Order Reporting – During the execution and post completion of an order on cutting floor, the planning team has the task of calculating and compiling data in the form of various reports. This may include reports like calculating the number of pcs cut on a regular basis, calculating how much fabric was used or returned after order completion, analyzing consumptions post order completion, a closing document of an order, etc. This is a job that differs from one factory to another according to their requirements and requires the team to be cautious and keep a constant tab on the production, to help document correct numbers in reports.
2. Marker Making Room
The marker making room is responsible for making the most efficient markers against the style and marker ratios provided to them by the planning room. Earlier, markers were made manually, by placing each pattern one by one on paper and tracing the same, to get a better efficiency and consumption, and was a very time and effort consuming task. This is also time-consuming in the sense that the maker has to do various hit and trials to get the best possible result.
These days, almost all the large-scale garment manufacturing units have Computer Aided Design software (CAD) to help them make more number of markers taking less amount of time and effort. The department, using CAD, can develop patterns as well as make multiple marker combinations with just a click of a button.
Think of a scenario where a lingerie marker with 100 garments pcs has to be made, and the time and effort that will be consumed in making this single marker manually, with multiple hit and trials to get the best possible result. On the other hand, the same marker can be developed multiple times with multiple clicks. The time and effort reduce to almost one-third of what it would have taken manually.
But now, the CAD allows the user to manually place pattern pieces into a marker and can also do the same itself automatically. This feature is called Auto-Nesting. Various factories do not use this feature because of a pre-impressed thought that manual nesting of patterns in a marker is always more efficient. However, this is not the case. Auto-nesting can be done for a selected amount of time, in which the system will try multiple numbers of combinations to give you the best results.
3. Cutting Floor
A. Spreading-Cutting Area – This is the main playground of the cutting floor, the place where the fabric has to be cut to pass on for sewing. This part of the department is the most labor-oriented, with factories mostly dependent on large amount of people for the tasks of spreading the fabric as well as cutting them.
The Spreading tables have designated laying teams, who are responsible for unloading fabric rolls on the table and spreading each fabric ply one by one onto the table as per the requirement. In this team, 1 person is stationed at one of the tables to cut the ply and hold it, while the other end of the table has another person or a weight to hold the lay. Then there are 2 people who are moving across the table spreading each ply, also making sure the fabric has no creases. If the lay is too long, the tables will have 2-4 persons allocated to smoothen out each ply after spreading. This kind of a team structure can be seen in various factories around the world, especially Bangladesh and India.
This is a huge investment in terms of human resource, time and effort. Once, the spreading is finished, the team then handovers the lay to the cutting team, which comprises of 2-4 people (depending upon the length of the lay) who commence cutting of each piece in the lay using a straight knife. This is also a time-consuming task, as the team needs to cut all the panels manually. Such operations done manually, have a higher risk of mistakes and poor quality output.
These days, many factories have begun switching to automated spreaders and cutters to reduce human effort and time as well as increase the quality of work. The automatic spreaders have a head which is loaded with fabric rolls, and the person stationed at the table just needs to input the required length of the roll. The rest of the work is done by the machine. It is responsible for the uniform spreading of fabric and also cuts each ply at the end.
These machines are equipped with end catchers which help hold each ply to the lay. Hence the work which was earlier designated to at least 3-4 people, can now be easily done by just 1 machine, for 100s of orders in a day.
There are various versions and types of auto- spreaders according to the requirements of the factory. There are various innovations in terms of automatic cutters as well, which simply takes CAD input into its system and the lay is fed to the machine (compressed under vacuum), which then quickly and efficiently cuts all the pieces in the lay using the input. These machines reduce the time and human effort, while increasing the quality of job manifold.
B. Cutting records -While the laying and cutting team is designated to spread and cut the lay according to the plan handed over to them by the planner, it is always seen that there are no clearly recorded documents of how much fabric was laid and how many pieces were cut out of it after the process was complete. Even if it is recorded to some extent, the documents are not stored due to which the data is not available after a short time.
This floor-feedback to the planner is an important element of production so that the planner can get a clear picture of what was planned and how much was actually produced. Traditionally, factories have the practice of handing paper slips to laying teams to write down the actual production. However, they are not followed correctly and are vulnerable to getting lost easily, hence no record can be found after that.
C. Panel Replacement – Quality inspection post cutting is also a very important activity in the cutting room, after which the defected panels are replaced by new ones. For this either small markers are made again and lays are spread to cut the new pieces, or panels are cut one by one for each defected piece. This department also needs to record and document how many panels are being cut and how much fabric was required for the same.
4. Fabric Store
Fabric is 70% of a garment’s cost, so it is important that this element of a garment must be carefully used. Although each factory always tries to keep correct records of how much fabric was bought, issued to the floor and returned back to store, even then the store is not able to track the usage of fabric efficiently, due to lack of efficient tracking system.
For example: A roll of 100 Yards was brought to the store and was issued to the cutting floor to be used. Once its work was done, only 10 yards was returned back to the store. Due to lack of any tracking on the floor, the store will never get to know where was 90% of the roll used. Was all of it used in lays, or some of it was damaged, or some was given for panel replacement, or there was some excess/shortage in the roll. Such information helps the store buy and issue fabric in a more streamlined manner. A recon ciliated data of fabric usage is also important to help them improve their production.
It is very important for any business to understand the advantages of investing in any type of technology to help them grow. Factories often shy away from investing into systems with the apprehension that the tech will not be able to help them grow or improve any further.
Now let’s see how the technology behind intelloCut fabric planning automation solution can help a factory win its wars against every type of wastage – time, human effort, fabric, and hence money!
1. Automatic Marker Ratio Generation – The “Cutplan” Module of intelloCut can generate marker ratios for ‘n’ number of sizes and quantity, within a couple of seconds, with just a click of a button. The user just needs to feed the system its requirements, so that the system can generate the most optimal cutplan according to the cutting floor.
2. Fabric Control & Tracking – intelloCut gives a factory control over all of its fabric, roll to roll. The fabric store can easily keep a track of how much fabric entered the factory, how much was issued to the floor and how much was returned. Along with this information, they can also fetch the information of how much fabric was used to cut the main lays, how much was given for panel replacement, how much was damaged, and if the supplier had given an excess or shortage in the rolls.
The planner can also now handover the responsibility of issuing rolls to each lay, with just a click of a button, using the “Roll Allocation” Module of intelloCut. This module not only allocates rolls to each lay but it takes care that each roll picked up is utilized to its maximum with minimum wastages.
3. Live Feedback from Spreading tables and Part Replacement Department – intelloCut is accompanied with its highly efficient tablet application, intelloGreen, which when deployed on spreading tables, can replace paper lay slips and help give live actual records of production to the planner. Similarly, the same application can be used at the part replacement counter, where the operator can easily enter the replacement records as well as the amount of fabric used. All this information is easily available on the planner’s desktop to have a look at.
4. Production and Fabric Reports – intelloCut offers 30 different reports to various departments:
a. Fabric Store: Fabric roll list and Roll usage report
b.Planner: Fabric reconciliation, Cut plan and Daily cutting summary report
c. CAD: Marker efficiency report
d. Factory Management: Aggregated Reconciliation Report and Buying Summary
These reports are generated in a single click and can be also be generated on a mobile phone.
These reports give better visibility and all meaningful data at one place to help make a better-informed decision.
Apart from all the above features, intelloCut is a smart automation solution that provides a whole new way of managing the cutting floor, more smartly than ever before, with planning, cutting, reporting and tracking in your full control!
Click here to check out more on how intelloCut works and how it can automate the entire working of your cutting floor
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Mehuli is a Consultant at ThreadSol. She is a Fashion Technology graduate from National Institute of Fashion Technology, Kolkata and has more than 2 years of experience in Apparel Manufacturing and Consulting.
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