Shopfloor Software for Third-Party Manufacturers Gives Brands Greater Visibility and Control

Shopfloor Software for Third-Party Manufacturers Gives Brands Greater Visibility and Control

With greater competition and a need to get to market faster than ever before, many fashion and home goods brands rely on third-party manufacturing (3PM) to ensure the right amount of supply of products, delivered in a timely fashion. Working with 3PMs can help brands concentrate on creating great fashion design and focus on running the business without taking on the compliance burden and workforce management of running their own manufacturing operations.

Relying on third-party manufacturers or contract manufacturers poses some unique challenges for brands, including limited visibility into and control over production. Failing to deliver products on time and in the right quantities has the potential to ruin relationships with major retailer customers. Many leading brands are turning to Shopfloor Control software solutions to manage both in-house manufacturing and 3PM engagements.

Top Challenges of Working with Third-Party Manufacturers

3PMs can be an invaluable resource for brands that want to outsource the workforce management and equipment investment required to manufacture products in house. Working with 3PMs is a balancing act between lowering manufacturing costs, maintaining sufficient manufacturing capacity and feeling like you have enough control over product delivery. Brands typically face these challenges brands when working with 3PMs:

Difficulty in Planning and Scheduling— When you’re trying to get seasonal products to market, coming in late with order deliveries will not suffice. Neither will stocking out of the season’s hottest products. That’s why many brands feel compelled to over order their products, in order to ensure they are not derailed by a few late deliveries from their 3PMs. Over ordering usually leads to excess inventory, forcing retailers to heavily discount product prices later in stores. With better visibility into WIP and workforce productivity levels, brands could move orders if delivery deadlines were in jeopardy or place additional orders with other suppliers.

Lack of Visibility—Brands send production orders to their 3PMs and wait for product deliveries. But in between order and delivery, they usually lack much insight into where WIP is in the production cycle. They may receive spreadsheets with WIP updates from 3PMs, but these would rarely be updated more often than daily or weekly. Major brands need this information in real time.

Difficulty Monitoring Quality—If product quality is poor, brand image will suffer. Fashion and soft goods companies have to find ways to control quality while working with 3PMs. Some send a quality inspector on site at the 3PMs but this requires time-consuming and expensive global travel. Some brands use third-party quality control (QC) firms. Today, technology is also being leveraged for real-time QC inspections.

Shop Floor Control Improves Productivity, Efficiency and Timeliness

Shop Floor Control systems provide in-house manufacturing operations with real-time visibility into WIP, quality and workforce productivity. This information empowers manufacturers to make decisions that keep productivity high and ensure on-time deliveries to customers. But what about when a fashion or home goods brand works with 3PMs, instead of manufacturing products themselves? Now there is a solution to help you manage multiple 3PM relationships for greater productivity and more on-time deliveries.

Exenta Shopfloor 3PM™–a One-of-a-Kind Solution for Fashion and Home Goods

Exenta is the first company worldwide to create a Shop Floor Control solution to help apparel and soft goods brands monitor manufacturing by 3PM suppliers around the world. Exenta Shopfloor 3PM brings real-time visibility and control to enable brands to see what’s happening with contractors and work in progress (WIP) and maintain control of deliveries. 

Brands don’t need to demand a large investment from 3PMs in order to gain the visibility they require. Exenta Shopfloor 3PM is a flexible, cost-effective solution that runs on easy-to-use Android® tablet devices and doesn’t require a physical server to be present in each location. The solution can be deployed in a wired or wireless environment. It enables you to stay on top of customers, distribution, and deliveries easily, using any browser, from any device. Using Exenta Shopfloor Control, our customers have reported the following improvements in their business operations:

  • 37% higher productivity
  • 26% less absenteeism
  • 72% reduction in overtime
  • 44% quality improvement
  • 85% increase in forecasting
  • 30-50% less inventory on-hand

Real-Time WIP Visibility: Exenta Shopfloor 3PM provides a real-time overview of where each order is in production, at every 3PM you are currently using. This gives you an instant birds-eye view of total worldwide production. Drilling down, as each production order flows through the manufacturing facility, it is scanned at each station, providing real-time visibility into WIP at every stage, with any supplier.

Planning and Scheduling: Once you forecast how much of each product you need to produce, Exenta Shopfloor 3PM helps you plan and schedule your orders with 3PMs. Exenta Shopfloor 3PM keeps track of the historical productivity data of each 3PM to help you forecast how much can be produced in any given amount of time. This allows brand owners to see in advance which manufacturers can meet specific production needs based on item type and season. When a delivery timeframe is tight, this type of information helps you select the 3PM most likely to complete your production order on time and on budget. You can predict what start date is needed—tailored to the historic capabilities of each 3PM—in order to meet production quotas. Having this information at your fingertips helps you avoid over ordering and excess inventory. If problems arise, you have the information needed to react on the fly and move orders to other suppliers.

Quality: Exenta Shopfloor 3PM enables full quality auditing through sampling and quality pictures. Brands can see the quality control metrics from each stage of production, for example, cutting, sewing, and hemming. If quality issues seem to stack up during one production station, you can make inquiries with the 3PM to see if those employees require additional training or need better documentation.

Schedule an Exenta Shopfloor 3PM demo and see how this purpose-built solution for fashion and soft goods brands can deliver the visibility and control you need to speed products to market in a global supply chain.

How Real-Time Manufacturing Elevates Shop Floor Operations

How Real-Time Manufacturing Elevates Shop Floor Operations

The overwhelming majority of apparel and soft goods brands lack real-time visibility into production operations. Even companies that benefit from the streamlined automation of a real-time ERP system might see that automation end at the shop floor, if they don’t also utilize a real-time, integrated Shop Floor Control MES solution.

Many brands use third-party manufacturing (3PM), and in the past, contractors may have been reluctant to make the investment in shop floor automation. However, as Shop Floor Control MES solutions have become more affordable, the return on investment has become very rapid—as little as two to six months. For a much smaller investment of time and resources, brands and their contractors now have the ability to streamline shop floor operations, gain visibility, and improve workforce utilization.

Do You Know Where Your WIP Is?

When brands lack real-time visibility into their manufacturing operations, it is impossible to know when work on an order has started and when it will be completed. That makes is difficult to manage customer expectations and make sure you will deliver on your promises.

Companies without a Shop Floor Control MES solution invest a lot of time and effort into simply tracking what is going on with work in progress (WIP). Many have full-time employees whose only job is to circulate around the shop floor checking on orders and then assembling information on clipboards or in Excel spreadsheets. Brands that use 3PM might even have to send their own employees to production facilities to keep the rest of the organization informed.

Real-time Data Provides Instant Visibility into WIP

Shop Floor Control MES software tracks the progress of production throughout your operation in real time, showing managers and supervisors the current status and location of each job on the shop floor. Not only can easy access to real-time information speed up your sewing operations, it also returns time and bandwidth to your management team, so they can focus on more strategic projects instead of manually tracking WIP.

Whether you have one factory or a dozen, Shop Floor Control MES lets you see everything about production with the click of a button. The data is always accurate and always up to date, whether production takes place inside the building or halfway around the world.

Instead tracking jobs manually using gummed sheets and notebooks, workers scan items as they receive them on the production floor, so supervisors can what job is being done—cutting, sewing, embellishing, inspection, shipping—and who is working on it at any moment in time. On one screen, you can see a visual representation of the location of all WIP throughout the production cycle, order by order.

Shop Floor Control MES Helps Identify Bottlenecks and Improve Results

Shop Floor Control MES makes it easier to spot and correct production bottlenecks. Managers receive notifications issues or problems as they occur. Real-time reporting reveals critical information about quality, employee performance, and production costs.

Over time, the collection of shop floor data enables analysis that yields improvements in productivity, product quality and timeliness of order delivery. Shop Floor Control MES helps highlight areas where equipment or training issues impact productivity or quality.

Better Visibility Lowers Inventory Carrying Costs

Real-time data enables brands to increase their forecasting rate significantly, so they can carry less excess inventory and reduce inventory costs. One Exenta customer was able to reduce inventory from over $20 million to below $10 million with Shop Floor Control MES.

Real-time Machine Data Lowers Downtime and Costs

Shop Floor Control MES also helps maximize the value of equipment, through faster response to breakdowns and better preventative maintenance. Consider a routine malfunction such as a broken belt on a sewing machine. Without Shop Floor Control MES, the worker must report the machine to a supervisor who will then call maintenance. A maintenance worker comes to verify the problem, then heads back to the shop to get parts. After returning, maintenance replaces the belt and work can resume.

In contrast, Shop Floor Control MES provides a streamlined, two-step process. As soon as the belt breaks, the Shop Floor Control MES system notifies maintenance via text or email. The message identifies the machine and how it is malfunctioning as well as what operator was assigned. Maintenance shows up much more quickly, with the correct tools and parts. Fewer people were involved and machine downtime was minimized.

With predictive analytics, Shop Floor Control MES determines when a belt will become too worn or needles will need replacing, allowing preventative maintenance to be scheduled during off hours. In this way, companies can reduce downtime by 30% to 50%—saving labor costs in both production and maintenance.

When fashion and soft goods manufacturers switch from more manual shop floor operations to Shop Floor Control automation with real-time data, most experience a very rapid 10-15% improvement in overall productivity. But with time, trends in data also deliver greater long-term gains—in fact, 25-40% improvement in productivity is not unusual with the Exenta Shop Floor Control MES system. Moreover, Shop Floor Control MES changes the game for the manufacturing workforce. With functionality that can support the productivity of handicaped employees and deliver valuable incentive pay to all, Shop Floor Control MES puts the opportunity to maximize manufacturing earnings in reach for all manufacturing workers.

>> Get your free copy of our Shopfloor MES Comparison Guide

Schedule a demo today to explore the potential benefits of Shop Floor Control MES for your company.

6 Ways You Can Profit from a New Shop Floor Control System

6 Ways You Can Profit from a New Shop Floor Control System

To increase profitability, manufacturers need to produce a greater quantity of merchandise at high levels of quality and efficiency, at a speed that delivers product to market before consumer tastes change. Although it is an increasingly digital world, the majority of apparel, soft goods and home furnishings manufacturers rely on outdated production tracking methods. Some still use pencil and paper. Others record work in progress with gum sheets in a production book and transfer that data into a legacy software system or an Excel spreadsheet at the end of shift.

Six Ways to Benefit by Automating Shop Floor Control
Shop Floor Control software is designed to track the progress of production throughout a sewing operation. Running across multiple platforms and devices, Shop Floor Control allows supervisors, managers and workers to receive real-time information and notifications regarding work in progress (WIP).

With real-time tracking of manufacturing operations, manufacturers can make changes more quickly to optimize efficiency and quality. Here are six ways that Shop Floor Control makes a positive impact that can directly contribute to improved profitability.

1. Increase Productivity and Efficiency
Implementing Shop Floor Control creates a more productive environment that yields greater operational efficiencies all through the production process. These efficiencies include real-time planning and scheduling, instant document delivery, scanning, facial recognition time tracking, quality control tools, real time alerts to machine issues and more.

Gum sheets get replaced with real-time scanning and tracking. Employees gain immediate access to job information, so they can keep working without waiting. Managers get up-to-the-minute reporting about quality, employee performance and labor costs.

Most companies enjoy rapid productivity gains of 10-15% after deploying Shop Floor Control software. When they elect to Include incentive pay and gains can exceed over 30%! Over time, Shop Floor Control generates operational improvements that lead to even greater productivity gains. For example, worker performance data may prompt better incentive pay design. Long-term productivity improvements of 25-40% are not unusual with Shop Floor Control.

2. Reduce Throughput Time
Bottlenecks slow down throughput either by slowing production or causing more rejected pieces. Without Shop Floor Control, production managers try to spot bottlenecks visually and then figure out how to resolve them—without the benefit of in-depth production data analysis.

Shop Floor Control captures the information needed to identify bottlenecks sooner and determine root causes. Whether poor line balancing, outdated equipment or inaccurate forecasting has created bottlenecks, Shop Floor Control helps management make more informed decisions to improve throughput.

3. Gain Greater Visibility and Control
Shop Floor Control measures performance of work teams as well as individual operators, providing constant feedback to production managers about what employees are doing. Management can use this information to fine-tune incentive pay structure and to optimize machine and employee utilization.

Employees also benefit from being able to see instructions, videos or pictures of products they’re assembling. They can notify the maintenance team when equipment malfunctions or notify a supervisor immediately if they need help.

4. Control Costs and Quality
Shop Floor Control helps workers and supervisors keep close track of quality control with real-time data about defects and repairs. When manufacturers use this data to improve their quality processes, it will result in fewer repairs and reworking as well as less scrap. If you can repair less, you can produce less, and that controls labor and materials costs, improves customer satisfaction with orders and supports profitability.

5. Reduce Absenteeism
When employees don’t come to work, workflow issues can lead to production loss. A Shop Floor Control system reduces absenteeism by giving managers access to real-time time and attendance information. Reviewing patterns of absenteeism can help identify employees who do not meet attendance expectations. They can see if certain stations or lines are overburdened by too few workers or too many temporary workers. Shop Floor Control information can also reveal areas where cross-training operators could result in improved coverage of a station when workers are absent.

6. Minimize Off-Standard Time
When operators are not working their standard jobs, overall production suffers. Many issues can cause an increase in off-standard time, including: power failures, machine delays or breakdowns, meetings, line setting, waiting for additional work, and waiting for replenishment of inventory items like trims or accessories. A Shop Floor Control system minimizes off-standard time by tracking machine uptime and downtime and automating inventory tracking to ensure that fabric and other items needed during production stay stocked on the line. Adding real-time notifications of problems delivers further gains in productive time vs unproductive time.

As you can see, the insights generated by Shop Floor Control affect performance and profitability in important ways. Without a way to gather real-time measurements throughout the manufacturing process, it’s difficult to improve. Manual processes cannot yield the information needed to increase operational efficiency, labor utilization and quality control—all fundamental aspects of manufacturing profitability.

Exenta understands that manufacturers of apparel and sewn products face constant pressure to reduce costs, improve quality and shorten delivery times. Our Shopfloor Control software leverages IoT technology and off-the-shelf tablets to place real-time plant floor management in the hands of manufacturers. To learn how Shopfloor Control delivered measurable results for leading international apparel supplier, read this case study. Or, contact us today for a demo and learn how Exenta Shopfloor Control can transform your manufacturing operations.