Seven firms participating in the Cape Clothing Competitiveness Improvement Project have had performance improvement cost savings of over R3-million since the start of the project in October last year.
Initially trained in formal problem solving techniques, the participating companies from the Western Cape clothing sector involved in the project are Charmfit, Falke, House of Monatic, Monviso Pals Clothing, Prestige and Sharmar Fashions.
The project is supported by the Cape Clothing Association, SA Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union and the Department of Labour. Funders include the CTFL SETA, the International Labour Organisation through funds made available by the Swiss Government and the Provincial Department of Economic Development.
The context to the project is the globalization of the clothing industry and the impact on the viability of the local industry in the face of foreign cheap imports especially from China.
The project is regarded as a pilot for the industry that, if successful, will be rolled out on a more extensive basis to the sector as a whole.
Underpinning the project is a strong emphasis on labour management co-operation and plant based dialogue.
Prominent amongst the projects has been an absenteeism project at Pals Clothing that has reduced absenteeism and late coming by 100% to reach the industry target of 5%. House of Monatic undertook major revision in its cutting room and upstream processes, which has increased throughput to its jacket floor by over 25%.
Each participating firm is also focusing on improving its efficiency, quality and absenteeism in their chosen pilot areas. Two firms have already recorded efficiency improvements of over 15% since the start of the project.
The inclusion of late coming into absenteeism calculations through recording total minutes lost as a percentage of total available minutes has been adopted by the sector and is being used to identify more clearly where problems exist. For many organisations, their late coming statistics have been a real revelation.
On the absenteeism front, public transport and certain train services in particular have been identified as causing the industry losses of millions of rands annually in late arrivals of staff. The CCA and SACTWU have undertaken to take the issue up with the parties responsible.
As important as the performance gains has been the project’s focus on getting the right practices in place to sustain performance improvements. Managers and team leaders have all been on extensive training in foundation best practices, that include teamwork, visual measures, 5S housekeeping and problem solving.
An important element of the project is the training of emerging service providers to offer performance improvement services going forward. This is seen as vital in the context of sustaining a rollout to the clothing sector as a whole.
Johann Baard of the CCA gave his Association’s full backing to the project on the basis that “…we have to become more competitive in the sector to compete globally…this project gives firms the framework and the tools to reach competitive performance levels and to sustain these through best practices”.
SACTWU’s Fachmy Abrahams endorsed the union’s wholehearted support for the project and commented that: “Some people do not believe that the union is concerned about issues of productivity. We are. And we are fully committed to the campaign to reduce absenteeism, to introduce performance measures and to incentivise the achievement of performance targets. At the end of the day we want to save jobs in this sector and we realise we cannot do this unless we become competitive in a way that still maintains the principles of decent work”.
The project concludes at the end of October this year.