Family-run uniform manufacturer and supplier Tibard Ltd have always maintained a manufacturing presence in Britain. But unlike so many others in the industry, they have fought to preserve and expand their UK production.
Last week Operations Director Andy and Cutting Manager Alan went to visit Lectra at one of their International Advanced Technology Centres in Bordeaux to look at our latest innovation project. A significant investment in Industry 4.0 manufacturing technology, Lectra’s latest fabric cutting machine. But before we dive into our most recent project, we’ll provide some context into why we are continuing to commit to British textile manufacturing.
At present Tibard make 10,000 garments a week at our facility in Dukinfield, Manchester. Their manufacturing capabilities employ 60% of their local staff, all of whom bring decades of experience in the textile and clothing industries. Having a strong British manufacturing option gives a tremendous amount of flexibility. It allows them to not only produce clothing of the highest possible quality but also facilitates greater responsiveness to order changes or any items needing to be created quickly. As well as the practical reasons, their Senior Management Team also feel a strong cultural responsibility to maintain Manchester’s rich textile history as sadly there aren’t too many businesses in that historic region producing cloth or clothing left.
Their old Lectra fabric cutting machine has served them well over the past 10 years or so. However, with time and heavy usage comes reduced efficiency, quality and support for repairs and general maintenance. So in order for Tibard to remain competitive and improve their clothing quality, it is time for an upgrade, specifically their new Vector IX.
The benefits of this fabric cutter are innumerable, but we shall have a try at it nonetheless. Firstly, is improved production output. At present, our present cutting machine achieves 85% uptime (time working) whereas the new Lectra machine is expected to be able to reach 98% after a brief installation period. The Vector IX will also be able to increase our British manufacturing output by 30%, which in real terms means over 3,300 extra garments a week. The final mechanical benefit of this new cutting machine is that stock held as “Work In Progress” will reduce by 50% within 6 months of installation.
But as well as the increased production capabilities the Vector IX, being Industry 4.0 machinery, has several technical, service and digital advantages. One which is particularly useful for Tibard is that maintenance and service can be achieved remotely, without the continual need to contact and book an engineer to come to our site. Lectra state that these remote services will account for 70% of fixes which is excellent and shows the future of how manufacturing maintenance will be achieved in the future.
In preparation for the new machine, Tibard has modernised their marker making software which now automates a large amount of the patter setting process and improves our machine’s efficiency. It will also allow more complex cutting patterns to be produced due to the improved CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) software. In order to best utilise the Vector IX and develop their staff skills, their Cutting Department will receive the finest training available so the Tameside area will retain skilled textile manufacturers.
As you may have seen through our Uniforms Shouldn’t Cost The Earth campaign, we have truly embraced a more sustainable outlook. This investment was also influenced by our environmental awareness, and our new cutting machine will be 20% more energy efficient than our present one.
Operations Director Andy had this to say about their latest industrial project:
“Tibard has always committed to British Manufacturing! This new cutting machine facilitates greater output and efficiency in clothing production, and we think that it is a fantastic platform for us to expand our manufacturing capabilities even further. Our customers will really see the benefit in both their physical uniform and our wider services.”
We have referenced the term Industry 4.0 a great deal in this short article, but we are sure that for most of you, this means very little. Described by some as the “fourth industrial revolution”, in short, it is about the automation and digitization of the manufacturing sector. It is the expansion of the use of computers in the industry by applying smart technology, machine learning and wider AI to improve the process, quality, consistency and experience. Be that uniforms, cars or anything else!
Tibard’s excitement for this latest innovation is tremendous. They have always been early adopters of technological changes, see Tibard Cloud, and they think this CAM Lectra machine is the next step in taking their manufacturing efficiency and production to the next level. They are confident that once the installation period is complete, we will be able to enhance our competitive advantage by achieving a sub-10 week lead time on completely bespoke uniforms. After all, we all want style, consistency, reliability and quality with our workwear and with the Vector IX Tibard can enhance all of these aspects.