By Katelyn Karney
It is no secret the denim industry can be a very ruthless marketplace. In order to stay competitive, the American Cotton Growers (ACG) denim mill has developed a “Truck to Table” initiative with the goals of becoming more profitable and efficient while producing a highly sought-after product. ACG is part of PCCA’s Textile and Apparel Division.
The only requirement for success of the program is trust. Cut and sew facilities have to believe in what ACG has to offer, and the program is a far cry from anything the mill has done before. The name of the program pretty much gives it away; ACG is proposing cut and sew facilities take fabric directly from the truck to the table and begin making garments.
Typically, a cut and sew facility will receive a truck load of denim (about 80 rolls of denim equaling about 25,000 yards). They will proceed to cut two yards off of each roll and evaluate the fabric in a barrage of tests in order to predict how the fabric will behave in their operations. They are primarily concerned with fabric physicals, shade consistency, and shrinkage consistency. Under the new Truck to Table initiative, none of the “re” testing is necessary. Basically, ACG has done this work for them and will guarantee that the denim is ready to use.
“Right now, to my knowledge, ACG is the only place in the world that has this technology,” Lori Sierra, ACG Quality Control, explained. “Because we, ACG and Denimatrix, are part of a vertically integrated company, we’ve partnered together, tested the theory, put it into practice, and proved it works.”
Talk of this new program began more than a year ago when ACG developed technology that is able to monitor shrinkage in fabric every three yards. Previously, shrinkage was tested at the beginning, middle and end of a 2,000 yard roll of fabric, which for obvious reasons isn’t always accurate. This technology has eliminated the need for cut and sew facilities to test fabric before making patterns for denim sent to them by ACG. Denimatrix is now participating in the program.
“Basically, our system and software can tell us every three yards how much shrinkage is going into the rolls,” Sierra said. “We take this information, evaluate it and make sure we stay consistent cloth roll to cloth roll to cloth roll. To verify that our system is working and accurate, we perform a full lab test on each loom roll of the dye set (which yields about 25,000 yards of denim). If the shrinkage standard deviation is 1.0 or better, we rock and roll.”
In fact, during a three-month period where 235 shipments went out, 95 percent of those were shipped without making changes. This undoubtedly saves time considering the fabric doesn’t have to go back through shrinkage machines to make the material consistent. According to Sierra, even when fabric does show some variation in shrinkage tests, in most cases it can be used without any issues.
“The great thing about this is the time saved,” Sierra said. “Denimatrix receives all of the important information about a load of fabric long before it arrives at their facility. They can assign it to patterns and cutting orders and be ready to consume the fabric directly out of the truck.”
In order to make the program work as it is designed to though, trust and communication is key. ACG provides the cut and sew facility with a specific cutting sequence, and as long as the facility cuts the fabric in that sequence, ACG guarantees the quality of its denim.
“What we have proven to be true and what we have known for many years is if the cut and sew plant will spread the fabric in the exact same order we dye it and leave it that way, it is more consistent and there will rarely be a problem,” Bryan Gregory, PCCA’s Vice President of Textile Manufacturing explained.
Denimatrix has seen huge success with this program. By not cutting test swatches of denim, the company has saved 9,000 yards of fabric which equates to over $33,000 in savings. The company’s total savings from the initiative adds up to $104,000. It also has been able to cut out as much as a week of the processing time. Through the success Denimatrix has experienced, other companies have begun inquiring about the initiative.