Many apparel merchandisers consider fabric as one of the raw material components similar to buttons, labels, interlining etc. A factor should be considered here that the fabric is THE most important and complex component. A wrong button or thread can be changed even at a short notice of a week or so. It is very difficult to correct or replace a wrong fabric within such short notice. The fabric manufacturer on the other hand should understand the requirement with a clinical precision.
In most cases, a fabric order is finalized by a field sales representative or a sales manager and the order is placed by an apparel merchandiser or a fabric purchase manager without checking the feasibility and all other requirements with the manufacturing point. That is a guaranteed passport to disaster. If everything including the delivery lead time looks feasible comfortably, then only the order should be taken by a fabric manufacturer. It is prudent to refuse orders which cannot be taken with 100% confidence because customers are not guinea pigs for experiments and fallout of badly managed orders hurt everyone. Suppliers who refuse orders they are not comfortable with are respected by buyers.
Price quotations play a vital role. Traditional PERFORMANCE FABRIC costing systems are dated and should only be used as a rough guideline. The pricing should also should be worked out in harmony with the market rates of a particular quality. When the volume is high or the potential is exciting, it is wiser to quote a competitive rate and minimize the cost by increased efficiency and better RFT (Right First Time) which in most cases determine the actual costs.
The fabric purchasing agency/ buyer should conduct an audit of the fabric manufacturing facility based on their requirement before putting the supplier on their vendor list. Some of the important audit points are:
a. Quality policy/ accreditation of the fabric manufacturing unit.
b. Testing lab, availability of required instruments like colour matching system, color dispenser, fabric pilling tester, fastness tester, strength meter, abrasion resistant meter etc. & its documentation system.
c. Pre-production sample making capability and infrastructure.
d. Sample presentation and quality of labeling.
e. ERP Management functionality.
f. Machinery and shop-floor housekeeping in general.
g. Documentation of order process flow-right from pre-order stage to finishing & packing.
In general, a recognized Quality Assurance Certification like ISO 9000-2000 takes care of the above points but in some cases the system is followed more on paper than delivering actual result. A wise buyer’s audit should be able to see through the weak points and get assurance of correction.
2. Fabric Manufacturing Plan – The Next Most Critical Stage
At any point of time, several orders would be running at any point of time. The PPC (Production Planning & Control) plays a crucial role. I have seen many cases where change in manufacturing plan is effected at the behest of people at the top, without considering the negative fallout of such decisions. This practice without considering the overall impact is amateurish and must be avoided.
3. Raw Material Plan
The cheapest raw material may not protect the interest of the business. Yet, in many cases, either to save cost or to make more money, the raw material quality is sacrificed, leading to low manufacturing efficiency, sub-standard output, re-processing, delays, quality complaints and finally loss to everyone, not to mention cancellation of orders or slapping of penalties by buyers.
4. Process Control
Many textile manufacturers, in an attempt to save costs, change the process control parameters without establishing quality beforehand. Result-undesirable output, leading to delay and quality claims. Textile fibres are very sensitive items and even a slight change in processing method may give vastly different results.
Also it is important to have a well maintained record of all process conditions preserved for different results performed.
5. ERP-The Navigator of Business
A good ERP based management pays in the long run. It saves lot of time and money in avoiding costly mistakes, shipment delay, improved follow ups and has a strong documentation base.
Fortunately, Indian textile manufacturers understand the importance of ERP, albeit the progress needs to be faster.