In a nutshell
One of India’s largest garments manufacturers, listed in stock exchanges, needed to improve the productivity of their assembly lines. Their visionary MD had a clear, well, vision that tech would let him do this. We cannot tell you which company this is; if we do, either we will have to kill you or they will certainly kill us.
Challenges, not problems
The challenge in this project lay in the nature of business of this manufacturer. Their garment designs are prized, and their clients order a few thousand pieces of each of several dozen different designs in a single order. These have to be manufactured and shipped all over the world under tight deadlines.
When an assembly line is set up to manufacture a single design, it runs for barely a few days to manufacture a few thousand pieces. Then it has to be re-set up for the next design. Therefore, the assembly line has to be optimised in a matter of hours to deliver maximum productivity and this optimisation has to be repeated every few days. This is completely different from the normal assembly lines in factories, which take weeks to optimise and then run the same line for months or years.
Solutions, not ideas
We built a system for the client which combined some custom hardware with custom software to make a breakthrough in assembly line optimisation.
Each worker at each assembly line tapped a button on a small hardware console below his or her table when she finished each job. These taps on buttons were picked up by our software at a central server, and line supervisors and managers in the factory and even the HQ several hundred miles away could see the pace of work of each worker in each line. The reports crunched this data and pin-pointed bottlenecks in real time, and line managers acted on this to re-jig each assembly line. Assembly lines became super-optimised in a matter of hours, and never fell out of tuning because of the constant vigilance our system brought in.
The hardware for this system was built based on an existing product by an HMI (Human Machine Interface) product manufacturer in Pune: Renu Electronics. Their logger devices communicated over a MODBUS interface, and connected to our servers using RS485 interfaces.
If you’re running one product mix on a line for just 5 days, you have a challenge. But you can now tune it with real data in the first few hours, and keep a beady eye on it to maintain high productivity till the batch is done. This is real achievement.
Now that’s value
In garment manufacturing factories, Garments Per Tailor Day (GTD) is everything. It is the one metric by which the entire factory team is measured.
After our system was installed, the GTD of every factory went up by about 10-12% on a sustained basis, without a single dollar of extra spend on variable costs. This increase in efficiency in a hard-nosed, tightly run manufacturing operation is unheard of. We were lucky to have a client who invested in us and worked with us to see this system deliver results.