DO YOU THINK SEMI-AUTOMATIC MACHINES ARE SUCCESSFUL IN ASIA?
There are some semi-automatic workstations available for sewing like welt pocket making, pocket attaching in jeans, etc. Do you think such semi-automatic machines are successful in Asia? What should be the maximum payback period for such machines to be considered as successful/value-added propositions? What are the parameters (quality, productivity, any other) which you should consider to decide on the adoption of automatic machines in your organization? Have you ever thought about (or attempted) improvising the existing sewing machines to create something similar? Can any breakdown of such machines be repaired by local engineers? Do you think in-house engineers are more capable for handling these breakdowns?
In the present market, a lot of automated and semi-automated machine options are available. Interestingly, these options are mostly experimental and ready for launch in near future.
To be frank, all the professionals have different opinions on these gadgets based on their experience related to their products as the market is being handled according to both location and the buyers.
These machines with additional features are beneficial if these are used for longer runs plus the manufacturers handling such technology should have sensible workers. For example, the latest UBT SNLS machines are a compilation of lots of features but these are rarely used on the production floor. This is the case of 80% of the garment manufacturing units. The maximum they use are the thread trimmers. Similarly, specialized machines in a multi-product factory are used for specific orders only.
But, in case of a dedicated product unit, far better efficiency can be retrieved using these machines and this is how the manufacturing units can shorten the ROI period. Undoubtedly, the quality, consistency and productivity achieved through these machines are unmatchable!
In case of multi-product factories also, if the cost of machines is being covered within one or two orders with respect to the saving of man and machine within the span of order length, it is worth investing in such machines. Only few limitations in these machines regarding the type and shape of fabric bars freezes the thought of the buyers to buy these machines for seasonal purpose.
Moreover, this is the time when industrial engineers, machine mechanics, and tool room experts work together and try to design the substitute with the help of folders, profiles, attachments etc. Therefore, semi-automation or full automation is a key necessity these days.
Apart from all these applications, extraction handling of these machines is a Herculean task especially for small and medium-size units. Larger companies have qualified maintenance team to understand the technology and hence, they take up partial training to handle the minor breakdowns at their own level. Whereas, the SMEs are completely dependent on machine suppliers to attend their complaints which gives them bitter experience on such machines and, in these cases, it results more in losses than the benefits.
Overall, I am of the opinion that understanding and self-motivation on the use of technology is very important before we plan to opt for it and the retrieval of rewards out of it is in our hands.
Sr. VP (Operations), Orient Craft Limited, Gurgaon (India)
Automatic machines like welt making, loop attaching are pretty useful nowadays as these machines increase the production efficiency to a great extent. Additionally, these machines do not require a highly skilled labour for the mentioned operations. On quality front, the consistency of the operation across the pieces can be maintained equally.
If I talk about the manufacturing processes in Europe and USA, the factories there are mostly one or two products specific and production-oriented. Whereas, in Asia, the factories manufacture multiple products and basically their need depends on the continuous run through products for the specific period with
large quantities. Multiple style changeovers and varied products are difficult for a factory to decide on a particular need of a machine to buy. Uncertainty of buyers’ association and continuation with the factories is also one of the main reasons for limiting automation in Asia. In countries like Bangladesh and China, the skill and human resources are cheaper than automation. But gradually the use of automation is increasing and I can predict a bright future for automated machines in Asia since the continent is the best apparel manufacturing hub in the world.
However, the adoption of such machines depends on the products of the factories. If product lines keep changing frequently, investment in these machines is not advisable. It can be recommended only when the factories have standard products and regular buyers. Some factories hire these machines on a rental basis along with the operator for the specific buyers or orders. If factories are not able to buy the machine, payback period should be minimum 2 to 3 years.
At Raymond, we encourage our vendors to opt for special attachments and guides to ease the operation, which are implemented as standardized operations such as back pocket creasing template machine, automatic loop attaching machine and special attachment for tape insert at waist band.
In order to see profit in the defined period of time, the in-house machine technicians should be trained thoroughly to rectify the breakdown in the shortest possible time. This reduces the machine’s idle time. In some factories, the operators are also trained for minor breakdowns and for the major ones, they call up the external technical team.
RM N RAMANATHAN
Assistant Manager (Product Development), Raymond Limited Mumbai (India)
I cannot say yes for all semi-automatic machines since the use of the machine depends on the garment type. I see many big vendors in light woven or knit field investing in semi-automatic machines and I have experienced that it helps in maximizing the productivity. But still lot of factories, which focus on CM (Cut and Make) orders, don’t invest much at this moment since they have a mindset that the labour cost would be cheaper than automation. The outdoor manufacturers like us use several types of semiautomatic machines such as waist band attaching machine, and I can confirm that some of the semiautomatic machines are somehow successful in Asia.
However, the payback period depends on the machine type. Some machines’ price for welt pocketing or pocketing or cycling for hook & loop would not be expensive and payback period could be as short as 6 months. But other machines such as semi-automatic down injector or CAM need much longer, considering the machine price and also the way the operators use them.
As far as my organization is concerned, we consider parameters such as quality, productivity, efficiency and market trend that decide the order volume, before investing in these machines.
In case of minor breakdown of such machines, my engineer team repairs the machines. However, if broken part is sensitive or complicated like substrate, supplier service team comes to the factory to repair it. As in-house engineers face lot of breakdowns, experienced engineers are capable to handle these malfunctions well and even faster minimizing loss of productivity in the production lines.
Senior Merchandiser, Unico Global Inc., Vietnam