The American company Williamson-Dickie is the largest workwear manufacturer in the world. While they began as bib overall company in 1922, under the name of Dickies, Kodiak and Terra they now offer work garments for industries as diverse as hospitals, transport companies, crafts enterprises and much more. It's a long time already that the constantly growing company has been selling their garments not only on the American market but worldwide.
Along with the manufacturing of trousers, shirts or jackets, Dickies Europe also offers embroidering the garments with their customers' logo. It was in this embroidery department where the cooperation with NETRONIC got started: The management was looking for ways of improving the embroidering processes by means of replacing the mere manual planning by a visual one. As a matter of fact, it was only one single employee that had to manually assign the individual orders to a total of eleven embroidery machines. From the management's point of view, this led to the following challenges:
- There was always a great uncertainty prevailing as to whether promised delivery dates could be kept.
- The entirely manual planning process could not scale with the steady increase of orders.
- Moreover, the management was afraid that if the planning employee was absent for a longer period, this would have a negative impact on the entire embroidering operations.
- In case of time pressure, parts of the embroidery orders were outsourced to third-party suppliers although it was not at all sure whether the own capacities would really not suffice to process the orders on schedule. The management supposed that in terms of saving potential, this situation could be considerably improved.
Dickies wanted to add more transparency to the planning process of their embroidery department without having in mind the concrete functionality of a Gantt application. After many discussions with the NETRONIC-Team and a precise analysis of the starting situation, the following requirements were determined:
- A „Live Gantt“ had to be found: A planning table, being always supplied „live“ with data from all embroidery machines, thus always showing the current production plan.
- The planning has to enable the postponing of orders.
- Stoppage periods like machine failure during embroidering have to be shown
- Due to the different stitch numbers at the different embroidery machines, the orders can have different durations depending on the capacity load.
- The fact that different types of garments call for different technical equipment at the machines has to be taken into account: Some machines are better suited for, e.g., embroidering caps than others.
- The operators of the machines have to be supplied with current order lists so that they can set-up the machines accordingly.
Today, Dickies uses the „Visual Embroidering Scheduler“, thus not only gaining much more overview for their planning but also a considerably better machine utilization without getting into trouble with their delivery dates. Judy Clay, Corporate Director at Dickies: „Within just 6 months of using NETRONIC's Gantt application we have to outsource 40% less orders to third-party suppliers, thanks to the better planning that lead to improving the utilization of our own machines.“
The Gantt application reflects the complex planning at Dickies by lots of interlocking functions. Have a look at some examples: Orders that are not yet planned are taken from an „order stock“ and are assigned to the machines by drag &drop. Red coloring in the Gantt area of the Gantt chart indicates the machines not matching the requirements of the order, or vice versa, the machines that, due to their technical equipment, go best with the order.
The red marking in the table area indicates a machine being out of order. Machines highlighted in green are ready for use; the ones highlighted in grey are offline.
The orders being defined as critical because of their delivery date are indicated in the table area by a red hatch. Hatching in one direction indicates a delivery tolerance of three days, hatching in both directions a tolerance of one day until delivery. The planer recognizes immediately which orders have priority.
The orders of the respective machine are shown on expanding the machine in the table, the hook showing whether the material needed for the order is already available at the machine. A green bar indicates which order is currently being worked off.
An extra dialog allows to add or delete machines or modify other configuration details like number of stitches. These details have immediate effect on the scheduling of the Gantt application.
Orders that are not assigned can be postponed manually. Clicking an order opens a dialog to assign a reason for the postponement. If, for instance, the textiles are of bad quality ore the textiles provided for the order don't match the order details, all parties involved in the order receive relevant feedback about the reasons for not working it off.
As the Gantt application had to map many particular features of Dickies' production process, intensive upfront discussions about the requirements certainly paid off. The realization by means of VARCHART XGantt was then carried out quite quickly. “Roundabout 30% of the project time was needed for developing the Gantt application as our powerful Gantt component saves a lot of programming work. Much time went into the preparation, i.e. in the definition of the visual application precisely meeting all requirements but also in the implementation at the customer's, and to be more precise, in tuning the linking of the data to the existing system. But it did pay: Dickies got exactly the Gantt application they needed for their specific planning process. And we got one more satisfied customer“, says Markus Hammers, who is responsible for the Dickies project at NETRONIC.
Judy Clay sums up her experience as follows: „ I can only agree with Markus. NETRONIC's visualization competence in terms of production planning data is unmatched and they have got the right tools for developing powerful planning applications. Today, we could not produce without the Visual Embroidering Scheduler any longer.”