Attendees at the launch were taken through a simulated factory production floor, to better understand how RES.Q | QMS works

Attendees at the launch were taken through a simulated factory production floor, to better understand how RES.Q | QMS works

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A new quality management tool that uses powerful data analytics to minimise defects in apparel manufacturing has been developed by the technology arm of Sri Lankan clothing major Hirdaramani Group, and field-tested for over a year in its factories.

Called RES.Q | QMS, the cloud-based IT solution provides a 360° view of factory floor production quality.

And because the data is available in real-time, it enables decision makers to make production-crucial and time-sensitive decisions instantly with the right information.

Developed by enterprise solution provider H One, it helps improve production quality, eliminate reporting time lags, enable faster and more accurate decision-making, and reduce wastage.

According to the developer, it can be used by anyone with minimal training, and easily adapted by apparel manufacturing businesses of any size – small, medium or large.

H One's solution draws on the rich heritage of expertise provided by its parent company – Hirdaramani Group, a 120-year old apparel powerhouse in Sri Lanka.

"We developed RES.Q | QMS because we know the challenges faced by apparel manufacturers intimately," said H One chief executive officer, Samath Fernando, at its launch last week.

"Now, the end product can be used by any apparel manufacturer to make highly informed decisions quickly and efficiently to significantly reduce the huge losses the apparel industry is making due to quality issues."

The software builds on the Industry 4.0 concept, which advocates the idea of a 'smart factory'. In a smart factory, digital and physical systems monitor the physical processes on the factory floor to bring greater visibility and speed to the decision-making process.

Apparel has struggled to move towards Industry 4.0 as it is constrained by the inability of systems to fully address or resolve issues unique to the manufacturing process.

RES.Q | QMS aims to fill a critical technology gap by helping decision-makers tackle head-on the hidden and often recurring quality issues that eat away at profitability.

In effect it improves the overall cut-to-ship ratio, a key performance indicator in any garment factory that represents the losses incurred from the point a factory cuts pieces of a garment to fulfil an order, to when it is shipped out to the customer.

In Sri Lanka's US$4bn turnover apparel industry, the average cut-to-ship ratio is 98% – for most manufacturers the loss is incurred in millions.

RES.Q | QMS estimates that with its analytical insight, manufacturers can cut back on this 2% loss; for example, by reducing internal sewing line defects by 50% and cutting the traditional 10% end of line defect rate by half, thus saving up to US$40-80m per year on internal defects.

This is a conservative estimate, given that actual defect rates are usually much higher than those published.

The new tool can achieve this by streamlining the quality inspection process and focusing on addressing the hidden costs of production, in most cases, known as the 're-work rate'.

It captures and analyses production quality to deliver specific, actionable data that can identify the top defects of a particular garment type.

Key to its impact is that it gets smarter with use, helping decision-makers leverage a knowledge-base of issue remedies and best practices, thus reducing the time spent resolving quality problems, and serving as the backbone of production-related decision making.

The software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution doesn't require costly servers, can be set up in under a week, and functions via a device positioned with a supervisor at the end of each factory line.

It is available in three user-friendly interfaces. The quality inspector interface captures data from the factory floor; the quality planner portal helps quality administrative users track and remedy defects in real-time; and the dashboard for top management users visualises all quality data via charts and graphs.

Jo Lanka Group was H One's first RES.Q | QMS customer outside of the Hirdaramani Group.

According to general manager Denver Jayasundara: "After using RES.Q | QMS in our factories over a period of two months, we noticed a significant decline in the end-line defect rate by nearly 10%."

The Quality Management System (QMS) is the first RES.Q solution, and will be followed by a Machine Inventory tool to track and manage apparel manufacturing assets, and a Skill Profiling tool to track employee performance.

H One also plans to serve apparel markets beyond the region, such as Vietnam, Bangladesh and Ethiopia.