What better encapsulates information technology’s importance than Bill Gates’ statement: “Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don’t think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without talking about the other.” The remarks of the founder of world’s largest software business (Microsoft), rings as much true for the apparel industry as it is for any other sector today.
“The necessity of the IT in our industry is beyond any question,” says Syed Abu Yousuf Abdullah, Managing Director of Mitali Fashions Ltd., adding, “To reduce delivery time and cost, we have been using ERP. Besides, to increase the productivity we are using IT-based machine-to-machine linking mechanism.” Specialized in knitwear and producing kidswear, menswear and womenswear to the tune of around 2.2 million pieces a month to cater to clients such as Walmart, Peacocks, Kik, BayCity, Kappa, Kmart, Rieker, Regatta, Zara, Metro Group and many others, Mitali Fashions has set up a separate R&D division to find out and source cutting-edge IT interventions, best suited to its needs and requirements.
The US $ 320 million DBL Group, a diversified business entity with vertically integrated textile and apparel manufacturing (Yarn-Knitting-Dyeing-Garments) facilities and employing a dedicated workforce of more than 22,000 people, has well-defined IT expert team, Programming (development) team, Planning and Analysis team, and Execution team, along with well-established data centre with high-end, reliable hardware and network infrastructures. The company also uses external programmes like Fast React for production, planning and finance, accounts, inventory and fixed asset modules of Oracle ERP. “We have already transferred all manual inventory register system to ERP; data is updated online and input is done once only. Raw data is captured from machine operators and then data input is done,” maintains Md. Abdul Jabbar, Managing Director of DBL Group.
Echoing the same sentiments pertaining to IT’s overwhelming importance in garment manufacturing, Managing Director of Saiham Knit Composite Ltd. (or SKCL – the forward linkage unit of Saiham Group of Industries having its own knitting, dyeing, printing and garment unit), Syed Shafqat Ahmed opines that MIS is pivotal for growth in business, reasons being ready and timely availability of information, and prevention and corrective opportunities driven from it.
“Having dynamic and real time data in terms of production, quality, TNA and planning have become the essentials for business to meet the stringent lead time of buyers,” says Ahmed, adding, “We were one of the firsts to introduce ETS system, a chip and scanner-driven dynamic production system which gives us real time data in production, quality, WIP and bottlenecks and efficiency of the floor. In fact, the workers are most benefited as they are given incentive bonus for every level of targets set for them; also transparency in production recording which comes with added advantage of automated bonus calculation is a boon.”
SKCL has invested heavily in IT and each order, right from initiation to shipment, is digitally followed to ensure timely and hassle-free transportation, Ahmed underlines.
It is quite evident from the huge number of spreader and cutter installations that majority of the big players use CAD system for marker making and pattern cutting. However, the companies now would have to take the next step and evolve into fully factored entities rather than just working on FOBs. They need to start with design studios to create right product or collections in tune with the evolving and famous trends and share the designs with the product development and production teams for execution.
Sampling/prototyping is another area where IT has taken over the entire process. Worldwide, the biggest problem in the garment industry today is the time spent on developing and approving samples. Physical samples take time to deliver and test, and there are errors. With simulators, the fit model’s body can be used on the computer by the patternmaker, manufacturer as well as the buyer; and special softwares can be used to develop virtual samples, which in turn can be reviewed by the buyers in real time and comments sent back via email to speed up the process. This also allows new ideas to be tried and visualized, besides the facility of correcting any error before a physical sample is actually made. This way it saves number of iterations and thus save time, effort and most importantly money.
It is perhaps a matter of time before the industry takes these much-needed steps. But most importantly in another development using mobile and mobile apps to strategically monitor planning and execution from a single and centralized mobile-based platform is gaining currency.
Epic Group’s Cosmopolitan Industries Limited (CIL), producing approximately 50,000 units per day, has developed an ERP software, available on smartphones, to gauge and evaluate profitability of orders. It also helps get a clear picture about capacity utilization. Based on a simple technique, the company has built upon the system to calculate man-hours and cost for any particular product, based on which SMS alert is sent to all involved so as to save valuable time. This simple but unique software also sends daily alerts based on cash inflow and cash outflow as well as operating costs, enabling CIL to run the manufacturing unit profitably. Be it the production status of a sewing line or giving approvals to production teams and merchandisers through digital signatures, all can be done through ‘Wear IT’ in the future.