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Investing in Britain: How we are expanding our production in Tameside

Last week our 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 latest project, we’ll provide some context in to why we are continuing to commit to British textile manufacturing.

At present we make 10,000 garments a week at our facility in Dukinfield, Manchester. Our manufacturing capabilities employ 60% of our local staff all of whom bring decades of experience in the textile and clothing industries. Having a strong British manufacturing option gives us a tremendous amount of flexibility. It allows us to not only produce clothing of the highest possible quality but also facilitates greater responsiveness to order changes or any items needing to be produced quickly. As well as the practical reasons, we also feel a cultural responsibility to maintain Manchester’s rich textile history as sadly there aren’t too many of us left.

Uniforms Manufactured in Great Britain

Our old Lectra fabric cutting machine has served us exceptionally 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 us to remain competitive and improve our 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% up time (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.

New Cutting Machine

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 us is that maintenance and service can be achieved remotely, without the continual need to contact and book an engineer to come to our site. We have been reliably informed by Lectra that these remote services will account for 70% of fixes which is excellent.

In preparation for our new machine, we have modernised our 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, our Cutting Department will receive the finest training available so our local area will retained 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. In addition, being able to produce so many garments on these shores saves on both finanically and environemtally costly transportation by air or ship.

Tibard's British Manufacturing Facility, Dukinfield

Our Operations Director Andy had this to say about our 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 industry by applying smart technology, machine learning and wider AI to improve process, quality, consistency and experience.

Our excitement for this latest innovation is tremendous. We have always been early adopters of technological changes, see Tibard Cloud, and we think this CAM Lectra machine is the next step in taking our efficiency and production to the next level. We are confident that once the installation period is complete, we will be able to enhance our competitive advantage. We will be able to achieve a sub-10 week lead time on completely bespoke uniforms. After all, our customers want style, consistency, reliability and quality and with the Vector IX we can improve all of these aspects right here in Great Britain.