For the most efficient factory operations with greatest output, today’s supply chain must be fully connected, interface with other tools and create a seamless process from designers to production floor to showroom. This “control approach” gives brands and retailers a birds-eye view to all the moving parts of a factory’s operation, showing the benefits and bottlenecks in real time and gleaning actionable data every step of the way.
Traditionally, real-time data and cloud analytics had been tailored primarily to middle management, but with enhanced digitalization, visibility tools are now touching all levels of a factory, including upper management. “Being able to reach everyone in the company has revolutionized the production management,” said Paul Magel, president, business applications and technology outsourcing division at CGS, whose BlueCherry® Shop Floor Control (SFC) digitally connects the factory floor. “Other management levels have now become highly involved in the production process visibility, and individual operators can set and report on goals easily.”
Digitization has gotten more accessible for a couple of reasons. One, factory workers and middle managers are more tech savvy than ever before, and two, newer tools like touchscreens and UX-optimized terminals ease the user experience. “It’s about reaching a different generation of workers,” said Magel. “We aren’t just placing a calculator on people’s desks.”
By collecting real-time data on every production activity, the platform presents users at all levels of a factory with up-to-the-minute views of the information they need to act on most.
“Sewing operators and production workers see progress toward goals; supervisors see alerts about bottlenecks along with recommendations for how to prevent or remedy them; mechanics see which machines need attention and can track and manage equipment and parts inventories and maintenance records; plant managers see how lines are performing against goals; executives see capacity and constraints across multiple locations and make informed decisions about where to route incoming orders,” said Magel.
Such results are quantifiable with clear insights into return on investment (ROI).
Manufacturers using SFC technology consistently report attaining ROI within six to 12 months, namely, five percent to 25 percent increase in operator productivity; 10 percent to 30 percent decrease in excess labor costs; 10 percent to 30 percent reduction of work-in-process; 1 to 4 percent reduction in payroll overpayment; plus, lower printing, handling and payroll costs, according to CGS.
Most important, advanced analytics—with seamless integration—provide actionable data for better decision-making. “Using BlueCherry SFC’s built-in analytical capabilities and native integration with advanced BlueCherry business intelligence (BI) tools, engineers and executives can easily manipulate shop-floor data to answer pressing questions and solve complex challenges,” Magel said. “They don’t need specialized information technology (IT) support or third-party BI software to analyze production data.”
CGS cites apparel client STAR Garment, which benefited from Shop Floor Control technology by calculating exactly how much off-standard time occurred during a shift or day. “After [STAR Garment] began measuring this time, it was shocked by how it added up,” Magel said. “But by gaining greater visibility to this non-productive time, Star’s team tackled the problems much more quickly. Since rolling out SFC, STAR Garment has eliminated 90 percent of off-standard time while gaining double-digit productivity increases.”
Monitoring labor ethics
On the labor side, lacking visibility and control over your suppliers’ practices can also come back to haunt brands, especially in today’s age of ethics monitoring and “cancel culture.”
Today’s consumers, especially millennials and Gen Z, are increasingly interested in both ecofriendly brands and those compliant with labor laws. A CGS survey found that 51 percent of U.S. consumers ranked sustainability as important when making purchases, and 30 percent said they would stop using a brand if they found out it employed unethical processes.
And the cost isn’t just financial. Lack of visibility into your supply chain may result in declining corporate social responsibility and unwanted practices. And this reputational damage often falls on retailers and brands, not necessarily manufacturers. “All brands are worried about delivering products with high-quality in short amounts of time,” Magel said. “But manufacturing ethically and equitably adds another layer of complexity, and without access to hard production data, brands cannot follow up with the manufacturer.”
But more important, happy workers are productive workers.
Instead of just top-down management, self-service features empower individual operators. The terminals can answer questions about garment construction—in the operator’s language with 3D images and videos—so workers don’t need to signal and wait for a supervisor’s help.
Workers can also set their own goals and performance incentives, all measured automatically. Managers can even display the data on widescreen monitors visible across a factory floor for some friendly competition among production lines, rewarding the highest-producing teams accordingly with bonuses or other incentives.
To learn more about how CGS BlueCherry Shop Floor Control can maximize output at all levels of your factory, click here.