Quality Programmers top Remould the Textile World
Contemporary fibre, textile and apparel industries are multifaceted; high-tech businesses invested with countless competitive challenges. To deal with these, many of the approximately 30,000 textile-associated companies in the United States have brought about quality management programmes to bring down costs and better both products and customer satisfaction. A large range of high standard techniques and various levels of implementation are used; some companies still depend on age-old final-inspection methods, but other organisations can be considered among the highly developed in any industry.
Today, the fibre, textile and apparel industries make up about 7 percent of all manufacturing jobs in the United States. Together, these industries employ 1.2 million people directly and encourage more than 2.4 million other jobs. This huge industrial centre is the leading supplier among basic manufacturing industries to the U.S. gross domestic product.
During the last 10 years, textile-associated industries have invested more than $2 billion annually in new technologies and equipment. This investment has directed notable productivity growth. For instance, productivity in weaving per loom hour enhanced more than 500 percent between 1975 and 1999. This differs sharply from overall U.S. productivity, which has more than doubled since 1970.
Tackling the trade
The fibre, textile and apparel industries are enveloped by fundamental changes. Global contest is severe. Though the United States is the world's seventh-largest exporter of textiles and has accelerated exports by 15 times more than its 1970 rate, an astonishingly speedy expansion of imports, particularly in apparel, has generated an important trade deficit. The U.S. textile trade deficit escalated 10.4 percent in 1999 and made up 1.2 percent of the country's total trade deficit. The apparel trade deficit boosted 7.1 percent and now makes up 14 percent of the total. With only 4.3 percent of the world's population and 16 percent of the world's textile-mill production, the United States uses almost 20 percent of the world's textiles and obtains close to 20 percent of the world's textile and apparel imports.2
The industries' marketplaces are growing to be more complicated. Short life cycles are still and requirements for quick reply and just-in-time distribution are rising. There are still many hand-offs in the production and distribution processes, and very few companies are capable of monitoring the whole process. As competition goes on, U.S. fibre, textile and apparel companies must depend more on advanced quality, leading edge products and quick reply to customer requirements to ensure markets and to grow continuously. Discoveries in nanosciences, electrotextiles, nonwovens, medical textiles and geotextiles are imparting new optimism and new challenges. But all of the succeeding fresh products need even superior quality levels and production-control methods.
Historical movements in textile industry
The textile is one of the most ancient industries of the world. The earliest recognised textiles consist of scraps of linen cloth discovered from Egyptian caves approximately in 5000 B.C. In the western world, textile production continued a family industry till the early 1500s, when the first factories were erected. In Asia, particularly in China, centralising and standardising textile production took place as early as during the Zhou Dynasty (11th to eighth centuries B.C.). During this age, very clearly stated terms and conditions were in practice for silk and cotton fabrics. They firmly believed that quality and size of cottons and silks not comply with the set standards were not permitted to sell in markets. The later Zhou Dynasty even included distinct warp and weft touchstones for silk in the north and south because the weather and humidity were poles apart. Textile manufacturers who didn't meet these rigorous criteria were punished.
In the West, an early direction for the guarantee of quality in the textile business bears a date of 14th-century Germany. Called tuchshau (showing of cloth), the direction included knowledgeable inspectors who, together with an equal number of city council members, witnessed the whole manufacturing procedure starting at the loom, where warps were examined. If a single piece of cloth was not produced under this regulation, it could not be sold by any businessman.
As happens in most other manufacturing industries, for many centuries, quality in the textile industry was obtained through final assessment of finished goods. The last assessment was often used to generate different categories of quality, products of which were then sold at different prices. Gradually, manufacturers started to put assessment and regulation in the quality of raw materials and the production procedures.
Beginning era of the quality monitoring process
During the late 1940s and 1950s, the first reports on statistical quality monitoring of yarn-manufacturing products published. These papers underlined product quality and slip spotting rather than avoiding fault. At that time, it was a departmentalised function to give guarantee of quality. For many companies, regrettably in the textile industry, this situation still prevails.
In spun-yarn manufacturing, testing is concentrated on three segments: end-product testing of features like linear density, twist, strength and elongation, short-term evenness, and count variation; scrutiny of faults like thick and thin places, slubs and neps, and replicating defects like mechanical slips or drafting waves; and frequency inspections for end breaks during spinning. Recently, companies have started to put stress on electronic supervision of processing weights, defects and running performance.
However, one of the problems for many companies, which apply electronic control and monitoring is that the modifications are made on prearranged target values rather than through statistical control limits. This often results into far more change when over-control is introduced to the process.
Another crucial test for yarn production takes place in the filament and texturing fields. Here, importance is given to chemical and mechanical properties. Proven features involve dyeability, yarn crimp, contraction and permanence, package density and build, strength and elongation, and shrinkage. Present-day companies look for to manage the factors in the process that generate these attributes; for instance, during the process of texturing, continuous tensions and temperatures will result into more constant dye uptake in textured yarns.
Statistical process control is also applied in woven, knitted and nonwoven-fabric production. Many companies still concentrate on sensing faults, sorting, resolving situation and other fire-fighting activities, although the fresh leaning has been toward constant perfection and prevention. The connection between yarn and fibre quality and the final fabric's quality is now recognised and managed better.
The third section of SPC in textiles is dyeing and finishing. Dyeing a textile yarn or fabric is one of the most challenging, tracked of and constrained processes in the textile production chain. The finishing process, comparatively, still has few controls and it depends a lot on scrutiny and test. Chemical and mechanical processes are important in finishing. Assessing the outcomes of both techniques is still extremely subjective, and very little SPC has been used in these areas.
There are problems when using online quality controls and superior control charts in textile production. Since many actions in textile production are not independent, as are many of the quality features, dynamic control is impossible without new technique to deal with these problems.
But stabilised development has been achieved. As early as 1949, companies were in search of a way to compare yarns. Zellweger, a textile producer in Uster, Switzerland, began to collect information at the international level. In 1997, statistical data about twist statistics using new techniques from the Swiss Textile Testing Institute was appended to the 40th edition of the resulting database. Yarn count, strength, elongation, twist, uniformity, coefficient of friction and hairiness are now all frequently evaluated.8
For Eco-Tex Standard 100 for human ecology-optimised textiles, a new standard test for was introduced in 1992. This standard defines bottom needs for textiles that aren't injurious to human skin. By the end of 2000, more than 20,000 Eco-Tex certificates had been issued to textile manufacturers all over the world.
A related challenge in textile production bothers the quality of raw materials in connection with the final quality of product. Inclusion of natural properties as raw materials makes quality control very difficult. For many years, grouping cotton quality was a subjective and laborious procedure. In 1969, the U.S. Department of Agriculture started producing devices able to speedily and impartially making these group. The entire association of cotton in U.S. is using this system. In 1982, Cotton Inc. launched the Engineered Fibre Selection cotton fibre management system. Accordingly, cotton mills have been competent to reduce expense and enhance product quality. Basically all the cotton-spinning mills of the United States now use this system.
The upward trend of standardization
The textile industry, particularly in the United States, has lately started using the ISO 9000 series of criteria as a quality commitment system, though certification is still viewed by many companies as only necessary as a factor for exports. Before ten years, less than 100 textile companies were registered. By 1996, the number had escalated to 1,600, and by the end of last year, the registration reached 3,673 figure.
The number of ISO 9000 certificates in the textile industry grew up to 29.6 percent from 1998 to 1999. This increasing figure was dominated by the textile companies of China, Italy, France and Germany; on the other hand, just more than 30,000 U.S. companies have been registered.
Revision of this certificate as ISO 9000:2000 is likely to invite more textile companies to get registered to convince their clientele of quality commitment systems. Moreover, an upsurge of both imports and exports from U.S. will make the adoption of criteria more crucial in fibre, textile and apparel industries. The new criteria have more benefits than the original series published in 1987 and revised in 1994. These comprise a stress on a process model, constant progress and customer satisfaction. The amendment also incorporates eight management principles same as the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and European Quality Award standards. These standards can be encapsulated as customer-centre, leadership, participation of people, process mode, system mode of management, constant development, realistic approach to decision-making, and a common advantageous suppliers relationship.
Excellent and enhanced quality management programme
At the very peak of the industry spectrum positions one of the biggest textile companies in the world, Milliken & Co. In 1981, the company's higher management introduced its Pursuit of Excellence proposal, a promise to customer satisfaction spreading all through company levels and sites. By 1989 Milliken & Co. was in the lead of its competition in all 15 criteria of customer satisfaction and achieved the Baldrige Award. Milliken & Co. has constantly compared itself to the best-managed companies in the world and has adopted the best methods from them. It now has a highly flat organisational make-up with self-managed groups in all fields of the business. Milliken has released almost 20 percent of management and engineering positions to create a desirable strike team of process-development experts.
The company has accomplished the exercise of development groups to cope with certain challenges and to modify and make the processes better in all sections of the company. Milliken & Co. also has been guiding the industry to erect measurement systems and take decisions hinged firmly on accurate information. It has also recognised the importance of quality management, which encompasses all work procedures. For instance, by the time the company achieved the Baldrige Award, it had perfected on-time distribution from 75 percent in 1984 to the industry best of 99 percent in 1988.
Associate involvement is another sphere where Milliken & Co. has maintained supremacy. Last year the company received more than 92 proposals per associate and more than 85 percent of them were put into operation.
Changes in distribution channels
Fierce competition, both nationally and internationally, has generated a fresh spotlight on quality management in textile companies. Entrance of higher management from outside the industry has introduced some new techniques in the industry, but most starts have been suggested by companies within the industry looking at all opportunities of growth.
The first thing many of the new higher authorities noted was their companies' bulky record. The number of record turns per year in textiles continues among the minimum of all industries. Distribution channels are immensely long and complicated, and products are regularly stocked, stacked and shipped many times during the production cycle. Stockrooms symbolise a large portion of the area and costs in the textile production process.
The Harvard Centre for Textile and Apparel Research recorded many of these phases for apparel manufacturers in a milestone study financed by the Sloan Foundation and published in 1999. For the companies like Milliken & Co. and Burlington Industries, introduction of distribution channel management has become a main concern. Special ventures in minimising inventories, designing quick response plans and reducing product improvement times are now ordinary in many eminent companies.
Speedy & perfect quality method
As happens in other industries, major fibre, textile and apparel companies keep going to look for new suggestions and practices for enhancing quality, cutting costs and improving output. Some of these companies have taken the lead in realising Six Sigma quality programmes. One of the first to practise Motorola's lead in employing Six Sigma was AlliedSignal (now Honeywell) under the leadership of Larry Bossidy. For many years, AlliedSignal has been the forerunner in fibre manufacturing. DuPont immediately followed and has made Six Sigma a key player of its management plan.
DuPont applies the programme for its productivity and quality enhancement strategies. It regards Six Sigma as a business-management procedure that focuses on removing faults from work practices. The company now has more than 4,000 accomplished or in-progress Six Sigma programmes. Several of these have diminished the company's environmental influence or improved security. At one U.S. plant, such a project saved 50 billion BTUs by dropping the amount of purchased steam needlessly compressed and misused by drainage. At a DuPont site in the People's Republic of China, a project helped in shrinking the electricity use and carbon dioxide release. DuPont calculates that one in every 10 employees will be occupied in such projects in the near future. It looks forward to that the consequential developments will be key forces of the company's progress efforts.
Other textile companies, such as Burlington Industries, Unifi, Collins and Aikman, and PGI have also introduced Six Sigma programmes. The reputed fibre, textile and apparel companies will always look for concepts and techniques in quality management that give competitive benefit. The quick execution of the proper techniques will make an important and winning difference among many of these companies' futures.