To meet the flexibility demanded by smallerranges and faster turn-around, Bairdwear Lingerie has joined forces with Coats in a threadefficiency drive

With ten manufacturing operations spreadacross South Wales and the south west of England, Bairdwear Lingerie is one of the largestsuppliers of lingerie and nightwear to Marks and Spencer and produces over a quarter of amillion garments every week.

Over the past 18 months the company - amember of the William Baird Group - has been working closely with its thread supplierCoats Ltd in a major drive towards operational efficiency and waste reduction.

Using Coats' Metrelink and Stocklinkinitiatives, coupled with close liaison and consultation at every stage of production, theBairdwear/Coats partnership is already reaping real benefits for the business, with theamount of thread used in production reduced by an impressive 10 per cent over the lastyear and a half, on a like for like basis.

Key to forging the close relationshipbetween the two companies has been Coats planner Jim Cottrell, whose role it is to ensurethat efficiency measures are put into practice.

Another important part of the alliance isBairdwear's on-going link with Coats' management team. Coats' commercial manager RobertBlaikie is in regular contact with Bairdwear's production executive David Walker to ensurethat an open channel of communication is maintained between the two companies.

Thread usage analysis
Prior to sourcing its thread through Coats, Bairdwear had never undertaken anythread usage analysis.

Bairdwear's David Walker takes up thestory: "We used to buy our thread in bulk and distribute it to our machiningoperations direct from our central stores. This inevitably meant that we had no real ideaof how much thread was being used, or how to improve the efficiency of this usage.

"When Coats introduced us to theirtechnical teamwork initiatives we were intrigued to know how they might help with threadefficiency as part of Bairdwear's process of continuous improvement".

The improvements introduced by Coats havebeen manifold, and range from using the Metre Link system to work out the precise amountof thread needed for a particular garment, to the use of more efficient thread cone sizes.

Coats also produces a monthly Thread UsageAnalysis document, which charts thread usage in all of Bairdwear's ten operations. Thisforms a barometer of thread usage efficiency by all the manufacturing operations and canquickly identify where changes or improvements need to be made.

By taking a basic pence per hour'calculation, the Thread Usage Analysis clearly reflects efficiency changes as they occur,and has highlighted a reduction in thread cost from 24.5 pence per standard hour, to just21 pence per standard hour produced.

Customer demand
"The lingerie market has changed quite considerably over the past couple ofyears", says David Walker. "The customer now demands a greater diversity ofcolourways, and seasonal palette requirements are more stringent with smaller ranges andquicker turn-around, so we must have the flexibility to adapt to these needs withoutcompromising our operational efficiency. Recently we have been using as many as 35different thread shades on our garments, so proper control of thread usage is especiallypertinent".

Bairdwear's close relationship with Coatsplanner Jim Cottrell means that he is involved from production planning right through tothe finished product. Bairdwear has encouraged Jim to get right to the heart of itsbusiness and he spends much of his time travelling around the company's manufacturingoperations, meeting with the respective managers and their teams, and ensuring that, inhis own words, "the right product gets on the right machine at the right time, in theright quantities".

Currently Bairdwear is working with Coatsand General Sewing Data (GSD) to establish a benchmark standard for thread per garment,and this will provide the target for future thread efficiency measures.

"Coats is an on-going partner and hasbeen the catalyst for the many changes which have taken place in our industry", saysDavid Walker. "Using Coats' Stocklink system means that we no longer have dormantstock on our shelves and Metrelink has allowed us to calculate our thread requirementsmore accurately. Collectively these measures have resulted in significant savings for ourbusiness, and will continue to do so as we strive for even greater operationalefficiency".