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Cutting fabric wastage

by Tullah Stephen

This Singapore based startup wants to help textile manufacturers buy the right amount of fabric and use with minimum wastage. This is how.

The growth of Kenya’s apparel and fashion industry in the last few years, has meant that thousands of clothing is dumped to the environment. Globally, the textile industry is ranked second polluting industry in the world, after oil industry. It is estimated that the world today, consumes about 90 billion pieces of clothing annually. Out of this, over 21 billion tons of fabric is wasted. This means about five to 10 per cent of the fabric purchased.

For manufacturers, the wastage hits directly on the bottom line. About 70 per cent of the operational cost for any 70 per cent for any manufacturer is the cost of fabric meaning the wastage dents profits. But, with the increase competition from across the globe, stakeholders in the clothing industry are looking at ways to achieve production efficiency while reducing the challenge of fabric wastage. The emergency of technology and digitization is seen as a possible solution to unlocking the challenge of fabric wastage. A number of research, innovations and development in the sector has been carried out in a bid to bring significant advancement in textile sector and market supremacy.

Singapore based, textile solutions company ThreadSol, is among the countries looking to boost global fabrics industry by cutting down wastage and saving labor and time. Founded 6 years ago, ThreadSol provides enterprise material management technology. This according to the start-up is geared towards enabling manufacturers to buy the right amount of fabric and use that fabric with minimum wastage.  In September the start-up officially in Kenya promising to transform manufacturers to super vendors.

According to Manasij Ganguli start-ups ceo, one of the biggest reasons for exploring Africa is the evolution of the apparel and textile industry there. “There has been a recent resurgence of the industry in Ethiopia and Kenya’s textile and apparel production and export to the global markets shows east Africa has potential to become one of the leading textile and apparel hubs in the world.”

The 4 founders- From left, Bratish Goswami (VP Engg), Abhishek Srivastava (VP Engg), Mausmi Ambastha (COO), Manasij Ganguli (CEO)

The surprising part about the African industry is that though labor cost is low, low rate of efficiency and manual means of controlling the material cost hampers profits and the capability to compete with markets such as China or Bangladesh. “African manufacturers, need to be updated on the latest innovations and involve in the training of their labor resources.”

ThreadSol offers an entire range of enterprise material management solutions geared towards helping apparel manufacturers and brands to boost their top line and bottom line. First is the intelloCut an automated fabric planning and optimization solution. With the help of an algorithms, IntelloCut gives the most optimized cutplan and lay plan, in just one click.

The solutions cloud computing structure helps users access it from any point. It also offers a feedback system which works like GPS: Any variations on floor and the plan can be changed with a single button. This according to Manasij, helps in controlling prevalent wastage of end bits on the cutting floor. The advanced reporting structure of IntelloCut provides an edge to the manufacturers to get complete control over factory’s practices through IntelloMobile. This according to Manasij, is world’s first fabric utilization reporting app that provides manufacturers with real-time traceability of fabric and sends all reports on mobile phone.

The other product for manufacturers is intelloBuy. It is an automated fabric estimation solution for apparel manufacturers. It is the second product by ThreadSol, taking the enterprise material management model of the company to the next level. “IntelloBuy gives accurate buying consumption for a style which saves millions of dollars of material cost at the buying stage, every day, for manufacturers worldwide.”

IntelloBuy accesses factory historical database and allows the user to add exact wastage from factory floor to generate the most accurate fabric requirement. This can save up to 10 per cent fabric cost, ultimately boosting profit. “Through the advanced reporting offered by intelloBuy, one can get details of the consumption calculation for different style/ order, vendor details for width/ shrinkage, factory process loss and buyer’s details of size-wise order break-up.”

We have also developed automated costing software for fashion brands called intello3C. It is an AI based cost negotiation platform. Intello3C aims to reduce sourcing cost and costing lead time for apparel brands. The current market scenario is very challenging. The lead time and retail prices are constantly decreasing whereas the cost of sourcing continues to increase. “Currently vendor cost negotiations are based on merchant experience. Little focus is put on scientifically deduced cost benchmarks for various cost components like fabric, CM, trims among others for each style that is costed and this inflates the sourcing cost.”

With fast fashion, the challenges with vendor cost negotiations are likely to multiply. Normally vendor cost negotiations are carried out over email and excel that is time consuming and adds to the ever-shrinking lead time. This is already resulting in suboptimal costing. With the use of Big Data, mobility and Agile analytics, Intello3C creates scientific and fact based benchmarks for all the cost components. The system uses AI that can automatically negotiate the best cost with the vendors without needing any manual inputs from the merchant teams. Intello3C results in 3-5 per cent decrease in sourcing cost and 30 per cent decrease in costing lead time.

According to Manasij, the solutions company is yet to ink any deal with manufacturing firms in east Africa. However, it has identified a number of manufacturers who they are on the verge of signing up. “There aren’t any apparel manufacturers yet who are using our solutions in east Africa. But, we are in talks with some of the biggest companies in Egypt, Ethiopia and South Africa. The process of final sales might take some time, as is the case everywhere, because the adoption of new machinery does not take a lot of time as opposed to a new software.”

Africa currently enjoys the AGOA advantage. However, considering the Trump administration, the withdrawal of the treaty will come as a no surprise. President Trump’s administration has paid little attention to developing U.S.-Africa policy. Experts say it is risky for African manufacturers, to make export to the US.

Additionally, with recent rises in wages, ranging between 21 per cent and 37.4 per cent, Manasij believes it is going to put tremendous pressure on African manufacturers to do something to be in the competition.

He adds that ThreadSol is hopeful about the adoption of its solutions among the African manufacturers. He believes there is a keenness to learn new products prevalent in the market. “Many age-old apparel manufacturers were initially apprehensive about its success, but once we explained the idea in detail, it seemed like a cakewalk.”

Overall, ThreadSol has over 150 clients across 15 countries globally. The top countries include Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, and Vietnam. The firms staff has grown to 130 employees across the globe.

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