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CBC Fashions moves aggressively using lean tools

by Apparel Resources

14-April-2018  |  17 mins read

Image Courtesy: kuder.com

‘Mission 2020, Rs.1 lakh crore turnover’ is the mantra of Tirupur export cluster. Despite turbulence in apparel export industry, the garment manufacturers in Tirupur are determined to accomplish this milestone which currently stands at Rs. 40,000 crore. CBC Fashions (Asia) Pvt. Ltd., owned by T.R. Vijaya Kumar who is also the General Secretary of Tirupur Exporters’ Association (TEA), is working rigorously to increase the turnover by upskilling the labourers, adopting lean implementation and imbibing the automation. “I feel ‘reducing wastages’ and ‘rework’ is the only key which can drive the productivity, thus, we are taking initiatives to eliminate these words from our dictionary,” shares Vijaya Kumar.

CBC Fashions has undergone strategic transformation recently as it consolidated its client base to work only with nine buyers, including 3 European buyers: Primark, Women’s Secret and OVS. Each of the 3 buyers has been allotted one unit of CBC for production and the remaining 4th unit works for the rest of the 6 small-scale buyers. Through this consolidation, the company claims to have reduced the overheads. “We now have 6 merchandising teams in all units combined while earlier we had 12 such teams (3 to 4 per factory) for follow-ups with buyers which created chaos. Post this change, we are targeting an additional annual order of Rs. 30 crore from each of our key buyers. To have fewer buyers with more orders is definitely a good strategy to cut in-house cost,” elaborates Vijaya Kumar.

The company is currently doing a business of Rs. 120 crore and with continuous expansion, it is aiming to grab more orders to become a Rs. 150 crore company by the end of fiscal 2018.

Lean Engineering: A lethal weapon for wastage reduction

The company has realized that unless it constantly works towards enhancing efficiency and productivity, it will not be able to grow. “India and China have rejection rate of 3-4% and 0.5%, respectively, whereas Sri Lanka has 0% rejection rate. Sri Lanka plans for 100 pieces but ships 105 pieces. This is the area we are working towards to gain higher profitability,” claims Vijaya Kumar.

T. R. Vijaya Kumar, MD, CBC Fashions

CBC Fashions is putting continuous efforts to increase the profit margins through lean engineering. The company hired Sri Lankan team SITSA to set the lean production lines. The first step to lean process was the implementation of 5S, a mantra to build the Quality Management System (QMS). The QMS team of CBC then made a layout, divided each area into 3 zones and set one week frequency for 5S activity for each zone. During the first week of every month, the QMS team selects zone-1, implements 5S within a day and then executes the oneness of this activity throughout the week in the entire zone. In the second week, the leader of zone-1 introduces 5S and oneness concepts to the leader of zone-2. Similarly, the practice is followed for zone-3. “We closely observe which all findings were implemented during the week and which were left untouched followed by investigation of the reasons behind not executing the planned tasks,” shares Sathish, Industrial Engineering Manager, CBC Fashions.

Carrying the 5S activity across the entire factory was a major task for which CBC Fashions has reaped the benefits as it can now see massive difference in ‘before and after’ conditions of the factory area. “Our material movement has improved as previously it was kept randomly on floor but now it is aligned with each other so that we do not have to put extra efforts to search for the material now…It’s all clearly visualized and segregated according to their categories,” pins Sathiyan, Personal Secretary to Vijaya Kumar.

The company is strictly refraining itself from installing in-house fabric sourcing options. Buying yarns, making fabric and sewing it in-house block investment for around 75 days. But directly purchasing fabric needs less capital investment and the money is blocked only for 45 days. The second process allows the company to rotate capital more frequently which helps in generating more profitability.

Implementation of 5S is not only the need for CBC Fashions but the entire hub for which the company has joined forces with 12 garment exporters in Tirupur. A team from each company, comprising of Management Representative (MR) and AGM-Operations, visits the shopfloor of another company every month to observe the shopfloor and learn from the practices being followed there. They, then, make a report of positive and negative practices in that factory based on their observations and present it in the Monthly Review Meeting (MRM) conducted at the end of every month. “With these collaborative efforts, we have the best lean suggestions from 12 big companies and this way, we are continuously improving our factory area,” explains Sathish.

We have maximum output in the first 4 hours. After that the workers begin to tire, and in last 4 hours, we get moderate productivity.” – K.C. Myilsamy, AGM –Productions, CBC Fashions.

Automatic centralized cutting room of CBC Fashions

CBC also maintains a huge ‘Red Tag Area’ which is a storage for all the scrap collected by segregating material on shopfloor. The frequency of cleaning this area is 15 days. If material is usable, the company considers to take it for use in the running orders, and therefore, saves the raw material cost to a great extent. “Average cost saving from this activity is approximately Rs 1 crore annually,” claims Sathish.

A process adds value if it is providing a service that a customer will pay for. So it is must for the manufacturers to eliminate all processes that are eating the profit margins. Following the same principle, CBC has just started the 3M (Muda, Mura, Muri) concept of the TPS (Toyota Production System) which is heightening awareness, identifying and, then, minimizing waste. 3M model also reduces inconsistency in cycle times obtained from different operators and brings the overburden level of machines down in order to reduce machine breakdown, therefore, providing a platform to unleash the unexploited opportunities.

Innovative production practices help simplify the processes

Over the years, CBC has become a pioneer in enacting the best of the production practices to gain substantial benefits. Previously, CBC used to carry production, washing and finishing processes on different floors. This approach used to take one whole day on an average to identify and rectify mistakes in the garments, thereby, increasing the cost of operation for the company. Now the manufacturer has adopted single floor system and carries all three operations on the same floor that helps reduce the rejection rate and improve productivity. “We used to dispatch 97% pieces but now sometimes we dispatch 100% pieces as the single floor system is eliminating the chaos that used to interrupt the overall process before,” comments Vijaya Kumar.

‘Hourly Production Monitoring’ sheet is strictly fixed and followed on every machine on the shopfloor

Till 2016, the company was using ‘Bundle System’ that resulted in low efficiency of the operators. Therefore, the production team of the company switched from bundle system to ‘Line Method’ in the beginning of this year (2017) and since then, they have been rigorously following this practice in the sewing lines. The line method is helping the slow workers of CBC to work faster and more efficiently. The rework pieces are also given to these slow operators so as to increase their backlog and to push them to work even faster. “We keep telling them that their efficiency is being watched. Even if the worker’s efficiency improves by 1-2% every week, they themselves are happy to know that they are giving more output,” unveils Vijaya Kumar.

The management gives incentive every week to these operators to keep motivating them. “Doing so, our productivity and efficiency has increased by 15% during this year. Previously, CBC Fashions was producing 6,000 pieces per day per unit on 200 machines and now it’s manufacturing 7,000 pieces per day per unit on the same number of machines,” claims Vijaya Kumar.

CBC Fashions rigorously follows the face mask practice in the finishing area

Strong PPC initiatives

Efficiency improvement in CBC Fashions cannot alone be attributed to the production practices only. The workers are seen cleaning their hands with the ‘hand rub powder’ while entering the shopfloor. It is a healthy practice to keep workers’ hands free from dust, dirt and germs that might possibly cause coarse in the garments.

Around 30,000 ready-to-sew pieces are always available as backup so that line would not stop and the operators would not sit idle. “CBC plans for 3 or 4 orders in advance and it is PPC coordinator’s duty to ensure that line planning is done for a month and not less than that in any case. In one month period, the coordinator has to get approvals of everything he plans,” underlines Vijaya Kumar.

“Our fabric rolls are segregated according to the colour codes. GREEN colour means the roll is ready to use. Similarly, RED means it is in end bits or rejected.” – Sathish, Industrial Engineering Manager, CBC Fashions

Technology investment is next

Use of technology is already a key adoption for CBC but the company is aiming to invest more in automation in coming months. The manufacturer is planning to replace manual hemming operation with the guide attachments. The guides will be placed on the separate sewing machines and no separate operator would be assigned with this hemming task. The idea behind the cost-effective execution of this plan is to train the existing sewing operator to handle both machines. Once the hemming operation arises, the same operator would place himself on the machine on which the guide is attached. Doing this, CBC is gearing up to reduce the cost of one operator. “The operation is under trial and we have observed that while previously it took 60 seconds for hemming, now it takes only 45 seconds with the help of the guides,” exclaims Vijaya Kumar.

A huge red tag area in cutting section is maintained well

Not just sewing lines, the company has a target of automatizing the IT division also. CBC is trialling an app-based production module that will be synchronized with the Visual+ ERP system of the company. Using the app in a smartphone, the production manager will be able to enter tailor-wise and line-wise production output which will further be added in the ERP at the end of the day. “Technology is always on our cards… and this app-based module will enable us to strengthen our monitoring process positively,” shares Vijaya Kumar.

“The UVR is US $ 2.20 whereas, the same products are being provided by Bangladesh for approximately US $ 2. We have to reduce our cost to become more cost-competitive.” – Sathiyan Personal Secretary to Vijaya Kumar

Employees’ engagement activities

CBC Fashions believes that the employees should always be taken care of in order to grow. To keep the attrition rate low, the company organizes ‘workers’ tour’ once a year for a change. Additionally, CBC has provided all the employees with hostel facility where accommodation and transportation are free of cost, whereas the food is chargeable. “We also take them to temples and for shopping… Doing so, we strengthen the bond between them and the management,” says Vijaya Kumar.

To motivate sewing line operators, the company has various kinds of appreciations such as: ‘Best Efficient Tailor’, ‘Best Reworker’, and ‘No Absenteeism’ awards which are distributed every week. Not only that, the company also organizes weekly medical camps.

Furthermore, CBC runs ‘Labourer Orientation Program’ too. In this program, the NGO’s tie up with the company, visit the factory area and discuss with workers in case of any grievances. The NGO’s authority makes a report based on the conversation with the workers and hands it over to the CBC’s management which further takes care of the suggestions mentioned in the report. By doing so, the company created a pleasant culture inside the work area.

Company Brief
• CBC Fashions has 4 state-of-the-art production units in Tirupur and has 7 lakh knitted garments’ production capacity per month.
• Each unit is equipped with 200 UBT machines and majority of these are from Brother and Siruba.
• The company has also installed an automatic cutting division with 3 Bullmer spreaders and 1 auto cutter synchronized with the spreaders.
• CBC Fashions uses Orbito CAD software and Value+ ERP as far as IT solutions are concerned.
• Embroidery section has 18-head and 20-head Tajima machines.
• Fabric storage area is studded with the advanced fabric lifter which eliminates the use of manual efforts in lifting the fabric rolls.
• CBC also has a printing division where 5 chest printing machines and one 24 metre table is installed. Printing production capacity is 6,000 pieces per day.