And why not?
The potential of big data analytics-led MES solutions, AI, IoT, and the likes of these have been well realised in the world by now. So apparel manufacturers should also pin down the strategy of their next big technological investments - towards the evolution of ‘Apparel 4.0’.
What does it mean for apparel manufacturing
To understand this better, let’s look at a general process chart of how apparel factories work.
In this diagram, we can see the different functions in an apparel factory for executing an order. We also see that some processes are marked with purple and a few more with orange. These colours represent the technological touchpoints we have in an apparel manufacturing unit. In other words, we have available software technologies at these points that are making our work easier.
Let’s see how.
Purple:Up until now, for most apparel factories around the world, we had different solutions that were helping us perform well in the purple dot areas. The most popular of these were different ERP solutions.
Orange:However, from the processes with orange dots, we see more advanced technologies in apparel factories - advanced planning and execution solutions like MES, big data analytics, robotics, AI, real-time capabilities, and so much more. That is the building block technologies of Industry 4.0.
The purple dots are the touchpoints that have used (now) rudimentary technologies for the last three decades. But as we move towards the orange processes, we have mobile data tracking devices, AI solutions, analytics, cloud computing, and more.
Where is the problem?
The problem now lies in the rate of acceptance of these technologies in manufacturing units. We are aware of the critical role that primitive data capturing and planning software played in apparel manufacturing up until now. They were widely accepted, implemented and depended upon for their capabilities. But to unlock higher levels of production competence, thereby achieving competitive advantage, the apparel sector must move towards these advanced technologies that are transforming the world of manufacturing.
Where to begin?
The older technologies have given us a starting edge in the world of technology. But the technology that can help us level up our production game is MES solutions. This is because it is the one technology that can maximise the production potential, touching upon all the four major principles of industry 4.0 – Interoperability, Decentralisation, Real-time Capability, Virtualisation.
Interoperability:It is defined as data management and electronic communication through IoT. However, the fundamental concept of interoperability lies in accessing real-time data to improve production operations efficiency and sharing accurate information at the right time. So, even before the introduction of IoT in the factory, we can get real-time data tracking for faster and precise decision-making with MES solutions.
Decentralization:This concept revolves around the current need to increase intelligent manufacturing processes to reduce planning effort. MES solutions work on two levels for logical decentralization of a manufacturing unit:
Real-time Capability:The primary requirement of a smart factory is collecting real-time data and analysis to update the production plan accordingly. This kind of intelligent decision-making helps factories in achieving higher profitability through operations.
The primary basis of an MES solution is the capability to capture, structure, and present real-time data of a factory. This aids the management in faster decision-making.
Virtualization:Virtualization in industry 4.0 is a selection of several modern technologies like cloud computing, mobile devices, and even IoT. Its goal is to introduce and enhance scalability and ubiquity of operation to build a smart factory.
In MES solutions, the possibility of real-time data storage using cloud technology helps a factory update its operations as much as needed. What’s more? This is done without the need for bulky software integration and updates. It also helps in making the data more accessible to decision-makers through mobile devices.
Why MES, though?
Whenever we talk about growth, we mean building upon our existing resources and making something better. We know that legacy systems like ERPs and other planning software have been omnipresent throughout apparel manufacturing. To level up from there, we need something that can seamlessly integrate with them. MES solutions can do that without the need for an overhaul of the existing production system.
The goal here is to transition into the promising ideas of industry 4.0 as smoothly as possible, not to disrupt the existing operation and optimise the learning curve.
Is there more?
There is always going to be something more. But right now, the most pressing matter is the urgency of it all. When many garment manufacturers are in it for the technological transformation of their factories, it is crucial for others to not lose out on building that competitive edge.
After all, the time is now.