Volodarka suits Ukraine's new image
Ukrainian company Volodarka is one of Eastern Europe's leading men's tailoring companies. Not only does it manufacture for both for the domestic and export markets, but it is also developing a retail network in the main cities of eastern and central Ukraine. Niki Tait found out more on a recent visit.
Volodarka, situated in Vinnitsa, west central Ukraine, is one of Eastern Europe's leading men's tailoring companies.
Employing 2,000 people at one location, it produces around 2,000 men's jackets per day and 1,445 trousers, both for export and the domestic market (the latter being produced under the company's own label, Volodarka).
The company was set up in 1923 when the sewing industry workers' union organised a sewing workshop for unemployed tailors in Vinnitsa. The first labour collective consisted of 15 male and female masters who renovated old clothes.
New workshops were gradually opened and the collective was turned into a factory in 1928, named Volodarsky after the famous Russian Marxist revolutionary and early Soviet politician.
By 1933, the suit factory and its various satellite units was producing 10% of the total gross output of the Ukrainian clothing industry.
The former Soviet Union had a system of regional concentration in the textile industry: production of raw materials tended to be located in the eastern republics of the USSR, the textile sector was concentrated in the European part of Russia, and a large share of sewing production was based in Ukraine.
Companies were state-owned, told what to make, how much to make, where to sell and how much for. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, production of all textiles and apparel products declined sharply, by more than ten times for some product groups.
After independence, the old traditional markets disappeared but new alternative markets were created, mainly in the west European region and Germany in particular.
Volodarsky began contract work for well known European men's clothing brands which helped the company to gain wider production experience, to create its own brand and gain professional contacts.
Since April 1994, under the leadership of Mr Leonid Gavrysh, the factory reorganised as the public corporation 'Volodarka.' Initially the company was 50% privatised, but grew this to 100% privatisation in March 1996.
Recognising that to succeed it must modernise, both for productivity and quality reasons and to gain export customers, an ongoing investment programme has resulted in Volodarka becoming one of the most technically advanced clothing companies within the Ukraine today.
Soon after Gavrysh took over the company he invested in Assyst CAD for marker making and pattern design, becoming one of the very first companies within the Ukraine to use any sort of CAD system.
This system was subsequently expanded by investment in the much cheaper, locally developed, Julivi software. Today there are five Assyst stations, one for pattern design and four for marker making, and five Julivi stations. There are two plotters, one from Gerber Technology and a Wild.
Around 80% of the company's production is made for export as contract work. The customer provides the patterns, fabrics and trims. Volodarka grades the patterns and submits these for approval before cutting. For its own brand the company obviously does the whole design development.
Sewing production at Volodarka
Not only was the company one of the first to use computer aided design, it was also one of the first to invest in automated cutting room equipment.
In 1994 the company visited IMB in Germany and as a result upgraded its cutting room to incorporate band knife cutting and automatic spreading using the Gerber Niebuhr Synchron 100B spreader.
Eight years ago it upgraded further and introduced the Gerber Technology 7250 NC cutter, the first Gerber cutter of this type to be sold within the Ukraine. This is used today for 60% of the fabric cutting; the remaining 40%, which consists of striped and checked fabrics, is spread and cut manually.
Also about 12 years ago the Meyer RPS-Junior fusing machine was purchased to ensure high quality fusing.
Over the years the sewing machinery has also been updated, with many Durkopp Adler automated machines to carry out critical operations such as pocket insertion as well as automated side seamers for increased productivity. Modern Pfaff, Brother and Juki machines are also prevalent.
2003 saw major investment into Brisay and Indupress fully programmable pressing machines and carousels. The bank of Brisay top finishers includes automatic front presses, sleeve presses and lapel setters. Rotundi and Test have supplied most of the trouser pressing equipment. Irons and vacuum tables mainly come from Veit.
Production orders range from 80 to 4,500 garments per style, although the average is 150-300. Both classic and fancy suit designs are catered for, plus the region's traditional wear.
This makes for a multi-style, high variation short run production. Overseas customers include Lego, Berwin & Berwin, Basler and Hugo Boss. The company aims to increase its export and branded production in parallel.
Automatic cutting at Volodarka using Gerber Technology
All departments work a two shift system. Training is important to the company, with many of the middle managers having been sent to Germany to learn modern European construction and management techniques. Currently, 100 employees are undertaking evening and/or weekend classes locally to improve their technical skills.
Each year the company reinvests 50% of its profits. The cutting room, which was one of the first areas to be modernised, has recently been enlarged by the addition of a new GTXL cutter and Synchron spreader, both of which were supplied by Gerber Technology and installed in February 2006 to increase its capacity.
The company is also developing a network of branded shops in the main cities of eastern and central Ukraine.
As standards of living improve within the country, the Ukrainian market for high quality suits has began to grow rapidly over the last two years. The brand is also proving popular in Russia, where business is also likely to develop.
Talking about future plans, Gavrysh explains that the company will continue to invest in equipment to continually improve quality and productivity. "Products get more and more complex, and fabrics get more and more difficult," he says. "It is not possible to ever take a rest."
Niki Tait, C.Text FTI, FCFI heads Apparel Solutions, which provides independent assistance to the apparel Industry in the areas of manufacturing methods, industrial engineering, information technology and quick response.
The Gerber Niebur Synchron 100B automatic spreading machine at Volodarka
Marker making at Volodarka
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