When it comes to factory production and worker output, companies either don’t have enough data, or they are drowning in it. Either way, if companies can’t understand the data they have, or they can’t seamlessly access, integrate and get it to work for them, it all goes to waste.
Hong Kong-based solutions technology company LTLabs has an intimate understanding of factory floor pain points—the company is comprised of people who have worked in apparel manufacturing for over 30 years—and it has developed solutions for brands and manufacturers looking to collect data to improve manufacturing efficiencies.
Here, LTLabs provides tips on how to optimize data streams and manufacturing output in global factories.
Give lagging mindsets the digital transformation
It’s not always archaic systems that need a tech upgrade, but human minds. In the fashion industry, many companies are still using multiple systems that don’t pull data into one centralized spot—if they’re using digital systems at all. A stubborn reliance on manual input logs and Excel spreadsheets puts users behind digital operations capturing data in real-time.
“Digital transformation requires a total transformation of culture in the way businesses are run in order to fully adopt a digital mindset,” said Kelvin Su, LTLabs president. “Digitalization can’t just be a ‘tick the box’ thing where companies jump in too quickly without understanding it. Yes, they can say ‘We’re digitally transformed,’ but they don’t understand what the system is capable of doing. We met with one customer who has 10 different systems, but he didn’t know how to pull any of the analytical information out of it.”
Connect the dots with interfacing data streams
There’s nothing wrong with multiple systems in a factory or other corporate environment, but it’s impossible to get a birds-eye-view of an operation if the data doesn’t interface among departments. Even in a single environment, like the shop floor at a single factory site, data must be gathered and shared to boost efficiencies across all sectors.
“True API integration (application programming interfaces), like in the LTLabs system, takes information from different software systems and pulls it into our single dashboard,” Su said.
Digitalization doesn’t have to be all or nothing
Companies that are tip-toeing into digitalization for financial or other reasons need a holistic and flexible approach that addresses pain points but doesn’t overwhelm.
Based off the team’s experience in manufacturing, LTLabs created a universal platform that factories can use across their departments to optimize digitalization along the production line and shop floor. The result is three team-focused applications—LTie, LTquality, and LTmechanic—each of which is modular and can be deployed depending on where a company is in its digital journey. They also work seamlessly with a company’s existing systems, pulling all information from onto a universal dashboard.
“We explain that you don’t need to buy all of our systems,” said Su. “You can just try one, depending on where you are on your digital journey.”
Boost ROI by determining, and decreasing, NPT
To raise productivity when machines are functioning, and lower non-productivity when machines are down, companies must carefully monitor and analyze worker output and abilities. Worker non-productive time, or NPT, is a big part of the overall efficiency, and it’s one of the areas where digitization reaps the biggest returns on investment.
LTLabs’ LTie is designed to discover and fix bottlenecks and inefficiencies, plus re-allocate workers on the line due to style selections, ability and output time per piece. LTie’s Digital Skills matrix captures operators’ skills into a live matrix, then calculates and graphs metrics to show where the bottlenecks are so companies can adjust.
“You must look at the cause of the NPT, and why it’s happening frequently so you can fix it,” said Su. “We say that by focusing on the industrial engineer team that monitors, tracks, plans and balances out the production line’s efficiency, within six months, you’re going to see an average cost savings of $12,000, and you’re going to see NPT lowered by 61 percent.”
Training and simplicity are vital
Even when management shifts to a digital mindset, factory workers, especially in countries with lower levels of education, might still struggle with technology if it’s not highly visual, intuitive and simple to use.
“When we look at our onboarding process, it’s almost a three-month process and about six or seven weeks of that is what we call our hyper-care and training process,” said Su. “That is all done online with management from the participating factory.”
Catch and fix problems early
Companies must nip problems in the bud to optimize efficiency.
First, accept that machines along a production line periodically (and inevitably) break down, and time is money. A manager must quickly identify a production line problem and deploy the right mechanic with the right tools to fix it. With LTmechanic by LTLabs, mechanic performance, repair holdups or escalating issues all show up on the screen with emails deployed to instantly notify supervisors.
For quality control inspectors, LTLabs’ LTquality not only operates in real time with an optimized user experience, but covers the entire assembly line, plus every quality inspection point in the factory, including fabric inspection, value added processes and pre-production, with the ability to add custom checkpoints anywhere.
To learn more about how LT Labs’ Team Connect can help streamline your factory, click here.