Interview with Roger Thomas

Roger Thomas
Roger Thomas
Methods Apparel Consultancy
Methods Apparel Consultancy

No visibly strong HR policies focus on growth and improvement of workforce
The Indian sewn products industry has miles to go to reach full potential. Methods Apparel Consultants is a leading South Africa-based provider of systems and services to enhance productivity in the sewn products industry. In an interview with, Roger Thomas, MD of Methods Apparel Consultancy talks about the industry.

What is the size of the global sewn products industry?

The global textile and apparel trade is roughly worth US$ 770 billion, and India’s share is about 5.5 per cent. Of course, this may have changed in the last year or so.

What are the latest technological innovations taking place in the sewn products industry?

The latest changes in the industry are the use of computers in all aspects. Improvements in computer development have been quite spectacular in the past few years. They include continued development and improvement in CAD programmes, improvement in predictive systems covering sales and development of computer systems similar to ours which allow companies to monitor their personnel. We have also seen the development of RFID systems to improve information flow throughout the business. Some of the latest improvements also relate to equipments wherein operator performance and motion patterns are being tracked through the machine motor.

What are the five commonly practiced HR policies in the Indian sewn products industry?

This is one of the grey areas of our industry where there is huge scope for improvement. The current practices are not at par with international best practices. The HR department, except in a few good companies, are largely limited to giving out salaries. No strong policies are seen focussing on overall growth and improvement of the workforce. There seems to be a lack of motivation and increased absenteeism in the workforce resulting in decreased productivity. Usually, the companies hire workforce on a six month-basis, and send them on a break to avoid giving them remuneration benefits like PPF, ESI etc. Discipline among the workers is not exemplary either. The HR department should have strong compensation policies in accordance with the knowledge, skill and performance of workers. They should staff strategically, which means knowing the type of workforce required - skilled or semi-skilled. As seen in many firms, the accurate skills matrix is not worked out. Hence, recruitment is more general than specific. There is lack of training facilities in factories, and the workforce is not multi-skilled to meet day-to-day challenges of production. Due to lack of training and education, the workforce is also resistant and reluctant in adapting to new methods. The HR department should also have policies which bridge the gap between management and workers - basically, easing out the tension between the two, so as to increase productivity.

How can companies ensure enhanced productivity in the sewing department?

There are three major ways to increase productivity. The first is to do a deep investigation in methods, and inculcate the best ways of doing a job. Once the best methods are in place, work study can play a really important role in implementing these methods. The next step would be to improve the methods of collecting information from all individuals involved in production and quality side of the business. RFID does this significantly well as all the staff concerned has an instant access to real-time performance of each individual in the factory. An action plan needs to be executed to deal with poor performers. Incentive is the third and final step to improve productivity. But this should only come into place if the first two are running properly. Rewarding high performers will ensure employee motivation and lead to higher profitability.

How can wastage be reduced in a cutting room?

We have been working in this area for more than 16 years. Fabric is a major factor in the cost of production. Pro-cut, our fabric-saving module was developed to monitor fabric utilisation. It works in a very systematic way, and monitors every inch of each roll. The programme starts with grouping the fabric by width, shade and shrinkage. There is an advanced cut order planning tool, which takes care of the cutting room productivity by ensuring minimum number of lays and the best fabric utilisation. Our highly advanced algorithm ensures that best rolls are allocated to the lays in order to minimise the end bits. We monitor each roll through bar codes and track end bits, damage, roll variances and end losses. At the end of each lay, reconciliation is instantly generated advising the cutting room and factory on profit or loss on the fabric. The tool can also predict fabric shortages or exccess well in advance to plan ahead. Using this tool, factories have been able to reduce their fabric purchasing by up to three per cent.

Please share details of your current fiscal. What are your expectations from the coming two fiscals?

We have been doing some really exciting projects in the current fiscal. Our RFID sales have doubled this fiscal, and we expect this to increase by at least five times in the coming years. We have also made significant progress in skill development this year. We have been nominated for master trainer pan-India for Apparel Made-ups and Home Furnishing Sector Skill Council (AMHSSC). We have trained more than 200 trainers this year. We are also a registered assessment agency with the Textile Committee for all the skill development projects under the Ministry of Textiles. This is huge as skill development is going to play an extremely important role in productivity improvement of the industry. In the coming two years, we expect to train at least 500 more trainers and assess at least 1.5 lakh people.

What is the budget allocated towards R&D? Please share some of your research findings.

We are always on the lookout for more advanced and economic solutions for the apparel industry to boost productivity. Therefore, R&D is an integral part of our business. We generally tend to allocate 10-15 per cent of our net profit towards R&D. Ongoing research is on the online development of Pro-SMV, our module for establishing standard minute values. This will be the first of its kind experiment in the apparel industry. As per current practices, only industrial engineers who can get proper training of Predetermined Motion Time System (PMTS), have the privilege to be part of the industry which has bought such an advanced solution. We are trying to open this system worldwide, and open it to all who are willing to take this certification. This is currently in the R&D stage, and will be developed in the next six months.
Published on: 03/02/2016

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of