In a post-pandemic world, the entire goal of the apparel industry has been shifted from a traditional supply chain – which might have been a 40-45 week end-to-end supply chain from concept to hitting products into the stores – to just around 7-8 weeks. It’s true that the most important factor in reducing this cycle time is an efficient product development process but at the same time quality plays a key role if a factory wants to see an enhanced delivery rate.

The evolution of quality management in garment factories has probably been the fastest in last decade and it’s disrupting even further in a post-COVID-19 world. The expectations of customers (brands/retailers) have changed over the years and a lot of conventional perceptions related to quality concept in garment factories have been debunked. The factories are paying attention to ‘Right First Time’ products only because of two reasons – 1) To keep cycle short, and 2) To save costs of unnecessary rework and rejection. And, this is why the stakeholders are now willing to do things in different ways, pushing greater investment in digital assets.

But before we delve deep into the technology suppliers and the case studies, let’s look at why ‘Speed to Market’ is important and how ‘Right First Time’ approach can increase the speed of the processes.

Why ‘Speed to Market’ is important?

Undoubtedly,a shorter cycle is always better. But, with all the conventional approach, it is not at all easy to keep cycle short which results in a long-term dent on the profitability. There are several strong reasons behind it that need a broader discussion and more attention in order to increase speed to market and keep product cycle short.

  • Evolving Trends is one of these factors in the fashion industry, causingthe advent of social media platforms like Instagram that has changed the whole concept of fashion dramatically. Fashion is no more being decided in the catalogues of some selected fashion shows; rather it’s being decided on digital mediums where every consumer can see it and make their opinion about it. On one hand, it seems to be an easy-to-go scenario but it isn’t, as predicting fashion is becoming difficult due to rapidly changing trends.
  • Adding to this is the inefficiencies that have severely impacted the industry over the decades and supply chains are fragmented because of which the brands and manufacturers aren’t able to produce right products at right time mostly.
  • Fashion retailers, in today’s time, have to predict what’s going to sell 3 months from now and, based on that, they have to make decisions. Some of the products may work well in the market but some don’t and retailers have to sell the non-performing products on heavy discounts. Identification of products which can move and sell quickly is a must but this is not happening at large scale.

Simply put, to pace up with Evolving Trends, it is important for brands and manufacturers to bring down inefficiencies; predict the selling product categories in advance to not see falloff due to heavy discounts; and see a consistency in cash flow reserve by on-point identification of inventories.

Also Read: Potential of 3D fashion needs to be seriously realised

‘Right First Time’ principle jackhammers hidden costs and paves way for smoother delivery rate…

According to Jitendra Kumar,Head of Strategy and Partner (Jr.), Texcoms Textile Solutions Consulting, Singapore, the apparel manufacturers in most parts of Asia have yet to appreciate the hidden costs associated with poor quality. Most factories treat defects and rework as natural parts of the production process.

“Though several arguments can be extended as reasons for this faulty approach, I think the overwhelming reason is availability of inexpensive labour. The tendency to gravitate towards rework/repair and not towards Right-First-Time (RFT) principle causes losses which could otherwise be avoided,” said Jitendra.

One research study, targeted at comparing garment quality parameters across India, Bangladesh, Vietnam and China, found wide range of rework % and rejection %.

Quality IndicatorInferenceIndiaBangladeshVietnamChina
% ReworkA high rework % means that the garments have to be worked upon again leading to wastage of factory resources.1% to 10%3% to 5%4% to 30%5% to 10%
% RejectionA high rejection % results in wastage of resources and a single rejected garment could wipe out the profit margin of several accepted garments.1% to 7%0.5% to 1.2%1% to 20%1% to 2%

The Cost of Poor Quality (COPQ) not just results in a dent on the profitability but this factor also delays the delivery and brings negative disruption to the manufacturing supply chain which further affects a vendor and buyer relations in long term.

In order to quantify COPQ, the method employed is that of factory minutes and the associated cost. So the first step is to measure the amount of rework and rejection level, followed by estimation of the work content (in rectifying the defect).Multiplying factory minute cost (i.e. per minute cost of running a factory) with this work content will give the COPQ arising from rework and repair.

How Technology is helping manufacturers and brands overcome quality woes and increase speed to market?

  • BlueKaktus-QC

With more social distancing norms, the business owners in the apparel industry – both retail and manufacturing – are opting for digitisation and virtual concepts which undoubtedly is the need of the hour in order to repair and reform the devastated supply chain. Earlier buyers used to come to factories and ask what kind of products the factory is making but now they ask what systems/technologies/resources do factories have to complete what all kind of processes. Business excellence is getting its stronghold, so ‘Right First Time’ is the approach being followed by the industry which helps ship the products to the market way faster than the time taken in the conventional approach.

As we all know that systems are already there like Lean, Traffic system, RFQ but implementation needs to be given focus and this should be built on strong foundations to cater to the needs of buyers in today’s time.

BlueKaktus-QC is a software tool, offered by Royal Datamatics, which follows the same mantra as there is an unprecedented demand predicted for virtual quality inspection in apparel factories. The software does have tool to support this virtual inspection by digitising the process with Digital Quality module where vendors can perform their Quality Processes/Audits on a single platform which can be accessed by the clothing brands online.

This online quality process can be used to perform the following activities:

  1. GPT/FPT
  2. PP Meetings
  3. Initial, Inline, Final Inspections

A complete digital record of inspection images, videos and defects can be maintained and all information is available digitally on a mobile for all stakeholders to review. Inspection certificates can be digitally generated and approved. BlueKaktus-QC is a state-of-the-art mobile-based quality application which both garment manufacturers and brands can use to manage their quality processes in today’s COVID-19 world.

“Digitisation is an enabler to streamline processes and perform them properly without experiencing stop-gaps, especially in COVID-19 times of social distancing. Every stakeholder should be on a single platform and know what’s happening in their businesses and contribute effectively. The tools are helpful in current times when we need to educate vendors so that brands and their sourcing teams can trust them and can know that their vendors are well-equipped with technology and they can achieve the desired quality level without having the need of third part inspection,” explained Sarika Arora, Head of Corporate Communication, Royal Datamatics.

Case Study –

One of the exemplary adoptions of BlueKaktus-QC can be witnessed by Arvind Fashions. Its Quality & Technical Head, Ajay Ravuri shared his experience of how Arvind has transformed its Quality Management process and how it has been of great help to them in this COVID-19 situation. “The traditional method of quality checking is AQL. But now what we actually see is that the quality level is asked to be maintained in each of the departments such as cutting, production, finishing, washing by buyers,” said Ajay.

So, to give what a buyer wants in terms of quality, Arvind has not only identified bottlenecks using BlueKaktus-QC tool but the solutions also. Every operator and person in the factory should be a quality checker himself to get ‘Right First Time’ product. “In our case, we have to deal with 100s of vendors who generate 100s of reports, PP meetings and brand reports. This humongous task has become easier for us with BlueKaktus-QC as we are now using a mobile app which tracks record of every vendor of ours. Through this cloud-based app (given access to all the vendors), our vendors can generate reports online,” told Ajay.

This app has all the activities related to quality management process such as risk assessment, inspection report, audit, PP samples, etc. Based on this, a vendor can schedule an audit of quality. By picking up a style, sub-factory and time and so on, Arvind has also set certain hard constraints and soft constraints to run the software as well as to have certain SOPs. What it can see while coding on to the system is that it is actually building SOPs where a vendor can’t skip a certain process while working on app. If he skips it, the subsequent process will not initiate. “This is how we have customised coding as per our own requirements,” informed Ajay.

If a vendor is more empowered which means if quality rate of a particular vendor is good then there is no need to send a QA over there. The vendor can release the goods doing self-audit. This is done through the BlueKaktus-QC system which itself tells, using AI and data analytics, if the fabric components FPT/GPT are okay for a vendor and a report for a particular style is not required. “Similarly we are using geo-tags to know which all locations have been covered in terms of quality inspections and what’s the time period required for QA,” asserted Ajay.

According to Gunish Jain, CEO, BlueKaktus, the digital quality solution enables real-time audits and inspections for all stages of the production process. The application also allows users to capture images as well as videos of audits being done. The defect analysis dash board provides a comprehensive overview of quality issues which factories and brands can use for improvements. The BlueKaktus quality application is extensively used by over 1,500 vendors and major brands such as USPA, Arrow, Max, Lifestyle and Myntra.