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The voices of our users  Vol.1 “Digital Process Analysis System„

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Mr. Akio Matsushima CEO
Yokota Apparel Co., Ltd

Direct Link to Revenue Increases Objective Elimination of Unnecessary Tasks

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Achieving the Height of Gunze’s Quality Yokota Apparel (Shimane Prefecture)
Articles from the August 15th, 2015 edition of the Japan Sewing Machine Times

“The sewing industry is often seen as a representative for labor-intensive industry, but the reality is that each company has amassed their own unique technical know-how. Back in 1973, our company was comprised of 140 employees, and was able to work together to make 14,000 pairs of briefs on a good day. There were days when no matter how fast we sewed, we weren’t able to make enough. But now, even with only 32 employees, we are working towards becoming a factory that can handle small lot production of a wide range of items at any time, for any product,” Mr. Akio Matsushima stated. Mr. Matsushima is the CEO of Yokota Apparel Co., Ltd., an apparel company. Yokota Apparel is based in the town of Okuizumo in Shimane prefecture, and has grown into a distinguished domestic factory member of Gunze, a representative textile manufacturer in Japan that handles men’s underwear and innerwear.

In order to improve work productivity in factories, Yokota Apparel started introducing software into their company approximately 20 years ago, in the middle of changing times. With a desire to “increase factory work efficiency” and “make a change”, Mr. Matsushima had set his eyes on software and had started using it as a multifaceted approach to coordinate human resources, equipment, and technical skills more than 10 years ago. However, work comparison videos using VHS equipment from a decade ago proved to be cumbersome; it was impossible to immediately jump to a desired scene, nor was it possible to conduct slow-motion verifications. As a whole, it proved to be unsatisfactory. And in his days of searching for more rigorous software, Mr. Matsushima set his sights on the early model of “DPA,” as an innovative support software. DPA is currently being used in and being disseminated as factory support software developed in Pegasus Sewing Machine Manufacturing. His discovery of the software happened approximately 10 years ago.

In an age where the sewing industry looks overseas and branches out for new production bases, business managers have taken various measures by consolidating domestic factories, reviewing their equipment, and accepting overseas trainees. Within labor-intensive industry, the textile industry is especially noted for its constant need for reform.

Yokota Apparel has also long been battling against each and every hardship it’s been presented with, saddled with both the advantages and the heavy expectations that being a subsidiary of Gunze bring. Around 1973, when the company was considered as a sewing manufacturer with 140 employees, it conducted mass production every day. Mr. Matsushima reflects upon the difficulties of these days with a smile, such as the quote he provided at the beginning.

However, Mr. Matsushima claims that he had been seeking for ways to heighten the value of Yokota Apparel as international division of labor for production also accelerated within Gunze. More than 10 years ago, a factory support software provided by a certain manufacturer among 2 to 3 other companies had caught the eye of the industry as critical software. Yokota Apparel also installed this software and eventually mastered its use. However, Mr. Matsushima reports that at a certain point, he felt that he’d hit the glass ceiling.

“We would be sewing from morning to night, every day. And when the product changed, we would have to make changes to our equipment settings and start sewing anew. It was during this time that we’d always run into some sort of work trouble. We couldn’t stop them from happening. We’d talk to the operators again and again, on-site— we’d ask ‘why is this happening?’ as we checked the equipment, checked employee hand motions…”

Previous software involved using video cameras, which were costly at the time. There would be 2 VCRs and 2 monitors situated side by side, and videotapes would be played at the same time to compare Operator A’s work to Operator B’s work. Mr. Matsushima recounts that he took the process very seriously, that he would try to find out differences in work, why one operator was slower than the other, why there were problems in product quality.

“I was frantic. We had to do our job, after all. We had to get passing grades regarding quality and delivery. And while we were trying to get that done, some production line would suddenly stop. So then we’d have to use the software, to investigate using split-screen comparisons. The equipment that we had back then would just take videos using the cameras, and we’d convert them on the computer. But the conversion process took the same amount of time as the amount of video time we wanted to convert. On top of that, we’d have to section off segments of video that we needed or didn’t need. This might have been fine if we had several people to manage this sort of work, but without that number of personnel, it was incredibly cumbersome and basically impossible. We wound up only using the software 5 or 6 times before it was lost to storage.

Afterwards, I acquainted myself with the president of a certain software development company and got personally involved with development of software that would make up for the dissatisfaction I’d felt with the previous software. By a stroke of good luck, said president of the software development company was involved in the sewing industry through his family business, and understood my desire to achieve mastery in the domestic sewing business from a very similar viewpoint. This led to the creation of the Pegasus DPA.”

Afterwards, I acquainted myself with the president of a certain software development company and got personally involved with development of software that would make up for the dissatisfaction I’d felt with the previous software. By a stroke of good luck, said president of the software development company was involved in the sewing industry through his family business, and understood my desire to achieve mastery in the domestic sewing business from a very similar viewpoint. This led to the creation of the Pegasus DPA.”

“Ageing had started occurring in our company as well, and there was difficulty in securing workers from younger generations. Our region itself has a limited population, which makes it hard to find human resources. Work was steadily shifting towards small lot production of a variety of products. Even as we began getting more seasoned workers in the field, there were also more and more new materials and products. And in these changing times— though this applies to everyone— when you tell a seasoned worker to ‘change something’ or ‘be more creative’, they have their own pride and confidence in the skills that they’ve cultivated for themselves over the years, for better or for worse. So sometimes it took time for them to respond to change. Even in these situations, DPA objectively reminds these workers of what kind of work actions are unnecessary, how these workers should move items, maneuver their hands, and operate equipment, all without being influenced by external factors such as personal compatibility with the operator. There is always some sort of subjectivity involved when I or an operator tell a worker to ‘change their work methods’ or that what they are doing can ‘cause problems’. Sometimes, there are difficulties in figuring out how to soothe heightened emotions on-site. That’s why the Pegasus DPA software, an objective software that can analyze work impartially and without emotion, is so useful when critical work operations have stopped and the problem cannot be identified. People have emotions. However, both seasoned and unseasoned workers can perform inspections earnestly based on the software’s analysis.”

The improvement in efficiency that Mr. Matsushima was so insistent upon was mastered, he claims, through the use of DPA. With a smile, he tells us that the proof is in the numbers. This result was eventually relayed to the Gunze Group, and Yokota Apparel’s high labor productivity was held in high regard at the Gunze Group’s improvement result presentation meeting. The results of DPA installment were evaluated highly and earned recognition, and this sparked internal and external Gunze Group affiliates to follow suit in stalling DPA.

“Our company has also received help from overseas trainees, as a result of the changing times. It is not easy to start teaching these women from step 1, especially considering that the do not speak the language or know the technical terms. They are working because they need to do so to live. They’re not here to play around. We are teaching them that every second of every day counts. There’s no way that they can just start working the moment they step in front of the sewing machine. So we have them look through the DPA videos thoroughly— no words are necessary. We go through the motions together, and watch the videos over and over. Once one of them learns how to do the work, she can start teaching the others. Then they can refer to the videos again, and eventually they’ll start being able to sew on their own without so much as a millimeter of an error margin. DPA is a software that has all the functions it needs to be convincingly useful to everyone: a stop function, slow-motion function, and numerical conversion functions. It allows foreign trainees who do not speak Japanese to understand and conduct work with a smile, which is further proof that this software works.”

Mr. Matsushima concluded with a declaration that this software is useful for all manufacturing in Japan, without limiting itself to the sewing industry. “We’ve come this far as a member of the Gunze Group. We are proud to be a part of a top brand like Gunze, and we are always striving towards achieving mastery in both quality and delivery for the faith that customers have in the Group. But I also think that it would be a waste to limit this software to use in the sewing industry. Be it the metal processing business or any business at all, there must be issues where improvement in work could contribute directly to more revenue. Even companies that have fully-automated processing are bound to have some unnecessary steps in the material input stage or during the movement of items. I think that Japan approaches manufacturing with an earnestness and a sensibility that no other country has. I would like to continue to flush out unnecessary processes, and work towards creating a company that actively solves problems and tasks while fostering mutual enjoyment and understanding between employees.

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