Groz-Beckert's answer to the challenges of the digital age
The clothing industry hasn’t remained unaffected: Lean production, Industry 4.0 and digitalization entered the clothing production process a long time ago. In addition to design software for items of clothing or CNC cutting machines, it's also fully automated sewing machines and robots, as well as computer-controlled embroidery machines, that make clothing production more efficient and easier.
With the INH (Ideal Needle Handling) quality management, Groz-Beckert has been offering a way of improving the complex handling of sewing machine needles during the clothing production process since 2016 – with Smart INH, we have taken another step towards lean production, Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things.
From lean production to Lean 4.0
Lean production was born in the 1980s and originated in the Japanese automotive industry. As a systematized production organization, it follows the basic goal of avoiding waste. This is achieved by removing all non-value-adding activities and striving towards the zero-error principle. The existing processes are constantly monitored and improved – this process is also known as a “continuous improvement process” or “Kaizen”.
According to Kaizen, there are different types of waste known as Muda. These are activities and processes that do not add to or help preserve the value:
- Inventories: any materials that are stored
- Error / reworking
- Production process: inefficient methods and processes
- Unused know-how of the employees
- Transport: movement without adding value
- Movements: all walkways and footpaths
- Wait times: of employees and products
When implementing lean production, the actual focus is on processes and methods that largely take place without IT support. In the current age of digitalization, however, the Lean 4.0 approach has been developed from a purely process-oriented method: Through the use of modern information and communication techniques, processes in production are made more efficient and production and administration processes are connected. This means that processes can be streamlined even further and completed faster, which brings the company even more flexibility and additional cost savings.
The needle is becoming "lean"
With the introduction of the INH quality management, Groz-Beckert has already taken a step towards lean production. INH simplifies the handling of sewing machine needles in sewing businesses and defines a standardized process for handling broken and damaged needles. By using an INH trolley, waste is avoided by removing unnecessary wait times. Using the needle return box also prevents errors and makes use of the detailed knowledge of the individual employees. The process is simplified even further with the needle storage sheet, which creates an all-round more efficient process for the needle change in sewing businesses.
Example: In the event of a needle breakage or needle change, the responsible person accesses the machine with the INH trolley. The needle change and the complete documentation takes place there. This means that the maintenance and down time for needle changes is significantly reduced for the operator.
As early as the development stage of the INH quality management, Groz-Beckert identified its ‘smart’ potential. In addition to the basic version, where the documentation of the needle breakages takes place physically, the so-called “Smart INH” was therefore created for digital documentation of needle breakages and all other needle changes. Different evaluations can also be carried out and data managed using Smart INH.
The digital components of Smart INH
The patented Smart INH consists of two software components: the mobile app INH@site and the administration software INH@office.
Using the INH@site app, the relevant needle sections are photographed in the event of needle breakage or a needle change. Relevant data such as the place and time of needle breakage, or production order details is assigned to an image. The resulting image data set created in this way is saved digitally.
The administration software INH@office is used for entering and maintaining all relevant data, like production orders, sewing lines with machinery or sewing personnel. The saved image data sets can be called up at any time via INH@office. The dashboard also provides an overview of the current situation and different evaluations can be carried out there.
The connection of the brand owner and customer to INH@office enables an online audit to be carried out at any time. The brand owner and customer can check whether the factories are fulfilling their duty of documentation.
And where is the future heading?
The latest available version of Smart INH forms the basis for further digitalization options. A warehouse management system connected to INH@site, for example can trigger an automated order process and also avoid gray inventories in production. The collection and evaluation of data from needle changes provides valuable experience that can be useful in production to increase the productivity and improve the quality of the end products. Additional networking of factories enables the exchange of experiences with each other, thus bundling knowledge and making this available to everyone. This turns Smart INH into a comprehensive tool, that collects, evaluates and shares information in line with the “big data” concept.
Further advantages of the INH quality management
The INH quality management not only improves the process, but also offers additional benefits such as a secure evidence base and improved disposal options for needles. The occupational health and safety of employees is also increased.
A detailed outline of all benefits and extensive information on the function and available accessories is available here. Furthermore, the INH team at Groz-Beckert is always happy to help.
Even in the age of digitalization, the safety of a ‘real’ human life is the top priority. There are state-of-the-art sewing robots that produce airbags for cars efficiently, for example. Great importance is placed on perfect seams. With the SAN® 5.2 special application needle, Groz-Beckert offers a needle for this special application, with innovative properties which guarantee an optimal sewing operation and high-quality seams, as well as the safety of the operator.