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Cost-effective IoT implementation in garments sector with RFID tracking system

Consumer behavior and retail trends are changing in the global apparel industry. Consumers are rapidly moving into a fast fashion which can put significant pressure on the supply chain. It makes it easier for the buyers to end up with excess so that manufacturers will have to sell at a reduced price or a loss.

Figure 1: Md. Sadman Sakib, a graduate from BUTEX was describing the project details.

The profitability crisis has become a burning issue for textile and apparel manufacturers worldwide. So, manufacturing companies need to respond quickly to the supply chain. It is becoming more difficult for manufacturers to maintain consistent quality.

“Vendor lead time has decreased by one-third and SKU has increased 3 times in the last decade,” said Engr. Anis Ansari, General Manager, Vertex RMG Division. So, global manufacturers need rapid development which is not possible in the conventional process anymore.

Figure 2: Engr. Anisul Hoque Ansari GM, Vertex RMG Division, commenting on the project.

Therefore, Global manufacturers are moving towards the next industrial revolution Industry 4.0. It is a concept where an entire manufacturing plant can be converted into an IoT (Internet of Things)-based factory. There is growing interest in using the IoT to improve process efficiency in the textile and garment industries.

Bangladesh’s textile industry has already taken a step towards Industry 4.0. Bangladesh has implemented IoT with RFID based tracking system in the garment manufacturing process to increase efficiency and reduce the production cost in the textile and garment industry.

This is the output of a project of the Textile Talent Hunt 7th Season competition organized by Textile Today under the initiative of Setting Transformation Blueprint (STB).

The project has become champion of the competition. Md. Sadman Sakib (Transformation Leader), a textile engineering student from the Bangladesh University of Textiles executed the innovation project as the Transformation Leader (TL) where Engr. Anis Ansari, General Manager, Vertex RMG Division was the Industry Expert, Md. Hasib Uddin, Chairman, APS Group and Md. Eousup Novee, GM-HR & Strategy, Textile Today were the Industry Supervisors. APS Group was the industry partner of the project.

The application of the Internet of Things (IoT), including radio frequency identification (RFID), is a growing trend. RFID is one of the automated detection and data capture (AIDC) technologies that has attracted considerable attention in the supply chain and manufacturing sectors and more recently in various service sectors. Through this project, APS Group has implemented a roadmap for RFID including IoT implementation and its design, specification, configuration, and installation in the garment industry of Bangladesh.

The purpose of the project is to apply for tracing and tracking production process (WIP) items in the RMG industry with low investment. Applications of RFID technology can efficiently and effectively provide real-time tracking of production processes and problems. Bangladesh’s textile industry requires to increasing productivity and making the product’s price more cost-effective to overcome this crisis.

Figure 3: Equipment developed by Sadman to implement the project in the factory.

Bangladesh garments factories are still using manual input or barcode systems. In a barcode system, the cutting information is inserted and then the barcode is printed. The prints are manually attached to the fabric bundle and then moved to the sewing line. Operators manually write their names and other information on a piece of paper. After all the barcode tickets are submitted, the barcode is scanned and a report is generated.

However, real-time manufacturing process monitoring is not possible on barcode systems. Engr. Anisul Hoque Ansari GM, Vertex RMG Division said, “With the help of RFID technology industry can track any movement of the process and analyze the data in real-time.” RFID system provides a way to automatically capture information about items, people, and processes important to operations.

The process flow involves a cut panel with RFID tags at the cutting input. Each sewing station will have an RFID-based ETS data capture terminal and when a worker finishes the operation, they scan the tag. Each scanned tag contains specific information (e.g. process, color, buyer’s info, type, etc.) about the item. The scanning provides the software with real-time data about items and processes. After analyzing the data, the software provides a visualization of the manufacturing activities. The visualization of the production process then helps the decision-maker to respond swiftly.

Figure 4: Workflow of the RFID System.

RFID allows operators to collect data extremely quickly and accurately. Also, in RFID systems can reduce production data processes. It is also user-friendly for the workers. The biggest challenge in implementing new technology is to adapt the technology to the workers. Most of the garment workers in Bangladesh do not have access to proper education. So, new technology sometimes makes garment workers nervous.

Sadman Sakib said the project has been designed with garment workers in mind so it is mostly user-friendly for them. It will also help employees increase their performance and efficiency. Since RFID technology can monitor efficiency and non-productive time (NPT) in real-time, the industry can gain efficiency, find bottlenecks and minimize the machine breakdown thus reduce production costs.

Automatic traffic light system

The automatic traffic light system will indicate the performance and efficiency of the worker. The system will indicate 3 different lights depending on the workers’ efficiency set by the planning department. If the production process continues to slow down, the lights will change from green to red. This will make it easier to find bottlenecks in the process, workers’ idle time, and performance. Decision-makers can now respond immediately to bottlenecks or process collapse.

Subrata Shikder from APS Group’s IE and Planning department quotes that it is difficult for them to chase workers all the time, find bottlenecks and manage the production floor at maximum efficiency. So, using RFID technology can help the IE department of any factory a lot.

Figure 5: The automatic traffic light system.

Quality defect box

However, increasing productivity sometimes affects quality. But with quality defect box operators can track the defects. Sadman Sakib made a prototype quality defect box with 3 push buttons. These 3 buttons indicate 3 different defects of garments: spot, open seam and seam puckering. But the QC error box can add more defective buttons according to buyers’ requirements.

When the QC tester detects the defects, he scans the bundle card and clicks on the QC defect box according to the defects. So, production planners can find out which process has the most quality problems. The conventional process will take time to respond. Meanwhile, these quality problems will create a lot of wastage. But, the QC defect box will detect these defects in real-time which will reduce production wastage and time.

Figure 6: Quality defect box.

Using an RFID implementation roadmap, the industry can be effectively and efficiently adapt to provide real-time tracking of defects and problems in manufacturing processes. Also, the lifetime of RFID tags is about 100,000 cycles.

This project is implemented with the country’s technology. Sadman made the prototypes and the software to show the results on his own.

Companies such as Avery Dennison (US), Zebra Technologies (US), Honeywell (US), NXP Semiconductors (Netherlands), and Impinj (US) are the leaders in RFID solutions. Sadman claimed that his solution is more workers friendly and at least five times lesser price than others available in the market.

Figure 7: A.J.M Abdul Wazed, GM (HR, Admin and Compliance) of APS Group.

A.J.M Abdul Wazed, GM (HR, Admin and Compliance) of APS Group said, “This first RFID technology has been implemented and designed by Bangladesh’s project which is now seen as a milestone and APS Group is pleased to be a part of this project with Bangladesh Textile Today.”

Watch Factory Tales Episode on the project-

If anyone has any feedback or input regarding the published news, please contact: info@textiletoday.com.bd

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