The term ‘Smart Factory’ and its relevance to apparel manufacturing industry have become more significant now than ever. The apparel factories can be seen adopting this concept in most critical areas within their factories, if not in the entire premises which reinstates the fact that digitalisation in garment factories has been accepted as the ‘new normal’ lately because the factories had already been facing some prolonged challenges such as low efficiencies, labour issues, and suppressed prices from buyers along with some bottlenecks pertaining to raw material procurement. Making factories ‘smart’ is the solution that can help eliminate massive cost involved in non-valuable activities, especially after COVID-19 times.
Bengaluru-based Silver Spark Pvt. Ltd. (a Raymond’s initiative) is one of the most high-end suits and jackets manufacturers in India with over 1,400 MTM suits production capacity per day. What’s interesting is that Silver Spark is a combination of automation and IoT – the technologies which are customised as per the requirements of the factory. The use of such innovative technologies has reduced non-valuable activities in the factory as well as has brought forth transparency of the entire system at the customer’s end.
There are many firsts in the name of Silver Spark in terms of technology adoption. The most critical areas of factory are IoT-enabled that have enhanced Made-to-Measure (MTM) production of blazers and jackets for exports in fabric quality, cutting, cut components inspection system sewing, and inventory departments too. The factory is also the first one in the world to use SAP-S4Hana software’s fashion module.
Talking more about IoT-enabled process, Kaushalendra Narayan, Director (Domestic Garmenting Operations), Silver Spark, said that all 1,400 MTM suits in the factory are enabled with end-to-end tracking through IoT. This system is indigenously developed in Silver Spark only. Every piece flows with a unique barcode taffeta label and a track sheet. Scanning of pieces is done at every stage to get real time WIP of each department. “Our system streamlines MTM internal portal with SAP and further with delivery portal site. This barcode system helps automate the fabrics, trims and pattern checking process as well as tracks the fabric inventory, raw material, order status and pressing of blazers in a more synchronised manner,” commented Kaushalendra.
Below are some of the brilliant technology implementations within Silver Spark to make processes smarter –
- To ensure efficiency in fabric cutting of 1,400 MTM suits fabric, Silver Spark has also developed an automated fabric storage carousal with pick and place machine which works on the principle of demand and supply concept. This whole arrangement can store 120 rolls of fabrics and linings. Machine goes to a particular rack, picks the desired roll and brings it back to the station where it gets unrolled at required length. Cutting then takes place at the exact length required as per the scanned barcode. After cutting, pick and place device takes the fabric roll back to the rack and puts it up there.
- An SMS based sewing machine maintenance system has also been implemented to reduce maintenance time. This is again an IoT-based GSM device which is integrated to all sewing machines in the factory. The sewing machine operator just has to press a button of his machine in case of a breakdown. A notification of this breakdown will go to the line’s maintenance team member’s mobile automatically. If he does not respond within 5 minutes, it will go to his functional head. This maintenance time starts when a member of maintenance team comes to the machine and switches off the button. Once done, he will note the time taken in this entire maintenance activity. This data is collected to further improve the maintenance activity on day-to-day basis.
- As Silver Spark runs in two shifts, the power consumption is high. Kaushalendra said that previously the power consumption remained always higher in the second shift than in the first one. “We weren’t sure why second shift was consuming more electricity despite having less of activities as compared to the first shift,” mentioned Kaushalendra. They then implemented an energy monitoring system which is connected across load centres. This online tracking system of energy consumption started giving real-time status with demand management which now tells the company where power is uselessly consumed. This energy monitoring system helps factory reduce huge amount of electricity cost.
- Silver Spark has also implemented a digital Kanban system to manage and monitor WIP in the production lines in real time. A live digital production system board is also there to track the ongoing production on the shop floor.
- Silver Spark has also introduced the digitisation of everyday reports to reduce the paper consumption in reports. Alongside, virtual sampling audit activity as well as virtual shipment procedure and tracking of inventory through virtual systems are carried as a regular process.