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Process Manufacturing: Industry Specific Requirements Part Three: Textiles

Written By: Olin Thompson
Published On: May 28 2004


Traditionally, manufacturing is categorized by two methods: process and discrete. Many differences exist, but most can be grouped into two areas: those derived from material issues and those derived from production issues.

Process materials are different than discrete materials. Process materials are powder, liquids or gases; they must be confined; and they are more difficult to accurately measure. Process materials are close to their natural sources (farms, mines, etc.) and therefore, are of inconsistent quality. Inconsistent quality means extensive quality procedures, segregation (lot control), restriction of use (this lot is okay for one customer but not another), and usually the inclusion quality attributes as part of their inventory definition. Process materials vary with time. They get better; they get worse; and they change their identity.

Production issues give us the simplest definition of process manufacturing. Specifically, once you produce your finished product, you cannot distill it back to its basic ingredients. Have you ever attempted to return orange juice back to its original water, sugar, sodium, and, of course, oranges or extract the pigments out of paint? Conversely, you can disassemble a car back to its tires, spark plugs, carburetor, and engine block. There are similar components in process and discrete manufacturing: ingredients versus parts; formulas versus bill of materials; several units of measure (i.e. pounds, ounces, and liters) versus EA (each).

There are, however, subtle differences. Process manufacturing is scalable. For example, if the formula calls for a 1,000 pounds of oranges but you only have 500 pounds, you can still make orange juice, just not as much. If you only have three tires, you are going to have wait for the fourth tire before the car can start rolling off the production line. In process, you tend make product in bulk or batches as in a vat of coke or a 500-gallon tank of solvent and then pack it off to fulfill customer orders. On the other hand, in discrete manufacturing you would expect to see one computer at a time coming down the production line.

For a quick refresher on process manufacturing, peruse the articles, Process Manufacturing: A Primer or What Makes Process Process.

The remainder of this article focuses on process manufacturing. However, to say process manufacturing functions are the same in all industries is tantamount to saying that a Ferrari and a Ford truck are simply means of getting from point A to point B. Just as you would not use a Ferrari to haul lumber, aspects of process manufacturing cannot be applied equally and with the same importance to all industries. This article looks at the unique requirements of process manufacturing in three industries: food and beverage, chemical, and a hybrid industry, textiles. One way or another, these requirements must be satisfied. If a software vendor can provide this satisfaction, your organization's anxiety level concerning the implementation of enterprise-wide systems can be significantly reduced.

If you are not in these industries, you can stop reading No, wait! Perhaps understanding how a particular requirement or aspect of process manufacturing relates to one of these industries may give you better understanding or insight on how it can be applied in your company. Whew! Thought that I had lost you! Glad you're back.

Editor's Note: For the purpose of this article, process and continuous-flow manufacturing are treated as synonymous. Continuous-flow manufacturing is the eradication of product stagnation in and between processes. Once a product has entered the manufacturing process, it moves on without having to be stored. Special considerations, such as one-piece-at-a-time production and multi-process handling for establishing a continuous-flow operation, will not be addressed in this article.

This is Part Three of a three-part note.

Part One discusses process manufacturing requirements for the food and beverage industry.

Part Two discusses process manufacturing requirements for the chemical industry.

Textiles Industry

The textiles industry, which includes upholstery and carpeting, is a hybrid of process manufacturing. It is process insomuch that you cannot break a piece of upholstery or carpeting down to its basic, reusable components such as tow (a rope-like band of filaments), or flock (the finely minced filament that makes up the cloth of upholstery and carpeting). It resembles discrete manufacturing insofar as some of its ingredients are comparable to parts. Textile ingredients that resemble parts include the substrate and basis material that makes up the cheesecloth or mesh backing for the fabric, and core, the solid cylindrical tube upon which fabric can be wound.

The textile industry shares the catch weight concept with the food and beverage industry, but that is where the similarity ends. Of course, you need the total weight of the order to calculate the shipping charges. The invoiced price is calculated based on the actual weight of the fabric. The reason for this will become apparent later. Even though a roll of fabric can be up to 500 yards in length, what's the problem? Just get a bigger scale. However, the problem is that dispersed amongst the good yards of fabric can be imperfect yards due to discoloration, pattern runs, or color blotches. As you might imagine, customers will not want to pay for imperfect yards they cannot use. Since the width is usually an industry standard of sixty inches, we only need to capture the length of the fabric or linear yards. Accordingly, the first requirement of the enterprise-wide software is to record the actual useable linear yards. Let's assume that the software can accommodate the catch weight and this field can be used to record the actual useable linear yards. Problem solved? Not so fast, Sherlock.

We still need to convert the actual usable yards into a weight. This is simple arithmetic: multiply the number of linear yards by the weight of a linear yard (remember the width is a constant sixty inches). Case closed? Not so fast, Mycroft (Sherlock's literary brother). In textile, there is a term and a concept called denier. This is referred to as the tex system outside of the United States. Technically, denier is the weight-per-length measure of any linear material. Officially, it is the number of unit weights of 0.05 grams per 450-meter length. In layman's terms, it measures the thickness of the fabric. The logic flows something like this.

The higher the denier, the larger the fibers and the thicker the fabric.

  • The thicker the fabric, the heavier the fabric.

  • The heavier the fabric, the higher the weight.

  • The higher the weight, the higher the cost of the product.

To be able to accurately calculate the weight of a roll of fabric, you need to know the specific weight per linear yard of the product being shipped and, because the denier varies by product, the software must capture the linear yard weight for each product. Typically, this would be recorded in the product database. To calculate the true catch weight, the software would have to retrieve the specific linear yard weight of the product and multiply this by the useable liner yards and then multiply this result by the cost per linear yard per weight. Algebraically, the invoiced price is represented by the following expression:

To support the textile industry, enterprise-wide software must have the capability of recording useable linear yards such as catch weight, which, together with the cost factor, is expected to be standard functionality. In addition, the software must be able to record the product specific weight by linear yard and perform the extension expressed above, which is non-standard functionality. There is not much "wiggle room" if the non-standard functionality cannot be accommodated since it is an accepted way of doing business in textiles. Accordingly, assurance must be made in advance of signing the contract that this requirement is known and understood by the software vendor and it can be satisfied.

Dealing With Second Quality Fabric

A concern and ongoing production problem in the textile industry is the matter of second quality fabric. A second quality piece of fabric or second for short is off QC specification in terms of color, consistency, pattern design, or any combination of all three. However, due to the process manufacturing attributes of this hybrid industry, seconds cannot be returned to their original ingredients. We will discuss how seconds are dealt with in the next paragraph. Let's consider one real example of how difficult it can be to work in textiles and how seconds can be created. One method of creating a pattern on a piece of fabric is to permeate sections of the fabric with a chemical solution, where you do not want the pattern to appear. Unfortunately, this can turn the entire production run of the fabric black. It is not until the final washing cycle that the pattern is apparent and verified to be good or not. This process is definitely not for A-type personalities. Other problems can create seconds during the production run.

A critical need in the textile industry is the as-soon-as-possible notification as to when production yields will be less than forecasted. In doing so, the pipeline can be refilled so customer orders can still be met by the date promised. This type of notification and reporting is typically found in manufacturing execution systems (MES). It would be beneficial if these attributes of an MES application were incorporated in an enterprise-wide application. If not, a heavy, and most likely, impractical recording burden will be placed on the production line personnel. Reliance on this manual recording is not suggested.

Ordering of seconds is handled in an entirely different manner than the ordering of first quality goods. For example, a prospective buyer of seconds would be interested in fabric in all shades of green. Unless your product nomenclature is designed to include this attribute and the software supports it, locating seconds will be extremely difficult. The problem is that this is not normally how you define first quality goods. Consequently, the software must be flexible to support both ordering approaches without making warehouse personnel perform transfers and reclassifications.

QC specifications play a rather unique role in the textile industry. Typically, the key QC test is based on visual inspection in terms of shade and coloring. This is important because customers will underestimate their order of fabric or create too much waste, requiring a re-order. It is essential that the re-order of the fabric be as close as possible in shade and color as the original order. Think about it. You have just completed upholstering the couch and run out of fabric for the matching chair. As a furniture-buying consumer, would you purchase a matching couch and chair where the color was even degree off?


This series of articles has looked at the special requirements for three industries: food and beverage, chemical, and textiles. This is not to say that these are the only process manufacturing industries that either have special requirements or place particular emphasis of standard functionality. As has been said by the authors of this article and by others, focus on the unique characteristics of your industry and your company when evaluating enterprise-wide software. You would expect a general ledger, ordering, or invoicing component that can perform the basics. It's your uniqueness that should make you afraid very afraid.

This concludes Part Three of a three-part note.

Part One discusses process manufacturing requirements for the food and beverage industry.

Part Two discusses process manufacturing requirements for the chemical industry.

About the Authors

Joseph J. Strub has extensive experience as a manager and senior consultant in planning and executing ERP projects for manufacturing and distribution systems for large to medium-size companies in the retail, food and beverage, chemical, and CPG process industries. Additionally, Strub was a consultant and Information Systems Auditor with PricewaterhouseCoopers and an applications development and support manager for Fortune 100 companies.

He can be reached at JoeStrub@writecompanyplus.com.

Olin Thompson is a principal of Process ERP Partners. He has over twenty-five years experience as an executive in the software industry. Thompson has been called "the Father of Process ERP." He is a frequent author and an award-winning speaker on topics of gaining value from ERP, SCP, e-commerce, and the impact of technology on industry.

He can be reached at Olin@ProcessERP.com.

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