Textile industry, agility and speed.
The textile industry is perhaps the most globalized and agile in the world, and its production process is one of the fastest.
Millions of garments, shoes and accessories are manufactured daily around the world in record time. The latest designs and collections are produced according to market trends and customer preferences. Closer and closer to the end customer and their taste, faster and faster. This is how textile sourcing manages, manufactures and responds to trends and market preferences in fashion.
This efficient system, which entails both the pre-production and manufacturing stages, is complemented by a perfectly coordinated and highly qualified logistics for shipping and delivering garments from the factories to the points of sale.
How did the fashion industry manage to respond immediately to the market?
First, because fashion is one of the sectors that has adapted the best to globalization.
The various origins that make up the very wide range of sourcing possibilities prove it. Since offshoring to Asia in the 1990s, through the current growth of India, Bangladesh and South East Asia at the expense of China, to the increase in production volumes in the Mediterranean Basin, there is proof that this industry has not only been able to adapt, but it has turned globalization into a competitive advantage.
If we take into account how little traditional lines of production in a textile factory have changed since their origin up to our days, we will arrive to the conclusion that what has been brought into the value chain is an improvement of the processes, a more efficient management of stocks and the generation of more statistical information stored for analysis.
Technology, communication and transport.
Improving lead times and breaking with traditional schedules established within the conservative textile industry that consisted of two seasons per year was possible thanks to the addition of value in the supply chain.
This has been achieved through a thorough analysis of business information; improving the response speed in the areas of design and purchase; positioning productions optimally in order to increase volumes; accelerating manufacturing times and optimizing transport, distribution and deliver of the product.
In summary, it comprises increasing speed and productivity, shortening each area’s processes to the minimum and at the same time, being more efficient for all the above to translate into cost reduction.
Part of this has been gradually achieved through improvements in communication and transport, and, certainly, thanks to the steady progress in technology. But one of the main triggers of this process in the textile industry has been the implementation of the systems of improvement.
Systems of Improvement.
The adaptation to global changes and the speed of response to consumer wishes on the side of the fashion industry, globally renowned brands and large retail chains has been possible thanks to the application of improvement systems like the Just in Time, Lean Manufacturing and Kaizen.
Regardless of the fact that each of the major chains has a particular approach, with some of them going for large volumes, others for innovative materials or responsiveness, all of them have modified the traditional pace of the industry with globalized, versatile and extremely fast sourcing. All these textile companies have become more sophisticated and have improved the efficiency of their supply chain through one of these improvement systems.
Just in Time, Lean Manufacturing and Kaizen.
Just as I did, you will be able to find more information online, in specialized bibliography, in order to further analyze each one of these systems.
This is no doubt a fascinating subject. For that reason, I will briefly describe its salient aspects based on that information.
Just in time.
The “Just in Time” method is an organizational system for manufacturing of Japanese origins that consists in producing items based on real orders and not on forecasts. Its main goal is to eliminate the storage of finished goods. The requirements to achieve this are a long term relationship and closeness with the suppliers, as well as flexibility in the processes to introduce changes faster.
Manufacturing the necessary items, in the necessary quantity and timeframe. In essence, it implies a reduction of the time, space, materials and equipment necessary to complete a task.
This is simultaneously a philosophy and an integrated system for production management that evolved slowly through a process of trial and error. A suitable environment was set up in Japanese factories for this evolution from the moment the employees were given the instructions to “eliminate waste”. Waste can be defined as: “anything different from the minimum amount of equipment, materials, pieces, space and time that are absolutely essential to add value to the product”.
This is a model of management improvement with an aim to deliver maximum value to customers with the minimum necessary resources. The creation of this flow focuses on the drastic reduction of the seven “wastes” classified in terms of the manufactured products, namely: overproduction, lead time, transport, excessive processes, inventory, movements and flaws. An eight type of waste in manufacturing is also analyzed: underused human potential.
Essentially, it means to obtain the right thing in the right place, at the right time, in the right, exact quantity, minimizing the level of waste, being flexible and open to change.
The starting point is that by eliminating waste, quality is improved and production time and cost are reduced.
The key principles of Lean Manufacturing are: perfect quality the first time, minimizing excess, continuous improvement, “pull” processes –products are pulled, meaning that they are ordered by the end client, not pushed to the end of the production process–, flexibility, development and maintenance of a long term relationship with suppliers by making deals to share risks, costs and information.
In Japanese it means a change for the better or improvement. In the common usage of its translation to English, it means “continuous improvement” or “constant improvement”, and its implementation methodology is known as the CITQ : Continuous Improvement to Total Quality.
It is a strategy or quality methodology in business and at work, but individual and collective.
Its motto is: “Today, better than yesterday; tomorrow, better than today!”
This is the basis of ancient Japanese culture, and it means that it’s always possible to do things better. In the Japanese culture, a concept is rooted that no day must go by without some kind of improvement. This philosophical concept, part of the cultural heritage of Japan, is put into practice and its goal is not only the wellbeing of the business and the people working in it, but also to drive the company with organizational tools in order to look always for better results.
Starting from the principle that time is the best single indicator of competitiveness, this philosophy acts on its optimal level by recognizing and eliminating waste within the company, whether it is in existing or draft-stage productive processes, new products, equipment maintenance or even administrative procedures.
This methodology brings concrete results, both qualitative and quantitative, in a relatively short period of time, and at a low cost –therefore increasing profit—supported by the synergy generated from team work within the structure built to reach the goals set by management.
I hope you enjoyed this article! See you next time!
Article also published in Gabriel Farias’ Blog en Modaes.es