Jas Purba, MD of ETC Supplies, explains why now is the time for embroidery business owners to get hands on and start making some simple changes that will help to keep staff safe, cut costs and improve efficiency once the busier times return
Business closed, no production, no income – what do I do?
Unfortunately this is the situation most of us find ourselves in during this crisis. But rather than sit at home and worry, here are some of the things I have done to seek positive opportunities in this time of adversity…
As the managing director of the business my daily role is normally office based or out visiting customers. I have a team of very good people to whom I delegate other jobs and responsibilities. So during this period of uncertainty (before the government imposed lockdown), I decided to give our premises a ‘spring clean’ – not in the physical sense, but more of an inspection. Being alone in the warehouse and factory gave me time to dig into every part of the business to see what could be improved and done better. Embroiderers are creatures of habit and they hate change. So as the senior managers or owners of the business now is a good time for you to do the same – get hands on and start making some changes for yourself.
One of my strengths (or some would say weakness) is that I pay a lot of attention to detail. So I started by going round the warehouse. I noticed many things that needed to change. I won’t list all of them here, but there were some simple things that will make a real difference, such as cleaning areas not often seen or used, improving stock management by re-locating where particular items are stored and making changes to quantity of stock held, and introducing new improved stock signage.
In the factory, for example, I noticed machines that could do with better cleaning and some hidden areas (you have to take covers off) were potential fire hazards due to the build up of fibres. This led me to change my risk assessment for these machines. I also became aware of how I could provide better equipment, tools and PPE to help and keep my staff safe.
One immediate thing I noticed was that, often as a business, we were cutting the size of our largest box down when packing. This was wasting money through additional labour efforts and the cost of larger boxes, so I decided to order the correct size of boxes. A simple change like this as a business will help deliver significant cost efficiencies.
Cost savings are going to be hugely important as we return to work
These are just a few examples of how you could benefit by using the available time now to look into tactical operational fixes in those areas that you wouldn’t not normally pay much attention to. We are all creatures of habit, but in times of change it’s essential to be prepared to view and do things in a different manner.
Cost savings are going to be hugely important as we return to work. The economy will have shrunk and, unfortunately, recession is likely. So where cost cutting measures have previously been rejected by staff – for example, using cheaper thread – why not take this time to re-assess and understand the impact of making small adjustments to processes and whether products that have previously been rejected could be made to work perfectly well.
Time to learn
This leads me to my favourite topic, thread tensions. Now is a good time for you to get onto the machine and learn about simple factors such as thread tensions that play such a crucial role in embroidery. If you ever change the thread you use, it’s vital that you check the tension on your machine before you assess whether this new product is working correctly for you. It is not something that you wait for the machine engineer to come in and do. It is something that you must feel and stitch out to know if it is correct.
Get hands on and put yourself in the place of your employees. You will find that whereas previously you couldn’t see the wood for the trees, viewing your operation with a fresh pair of eyes and open mind will allow you to make many improvements that will benefit your workplace.
As a result of coronavirus, the industry, country and indeed the world will not be the same again. Unfortunately many companies will not survive this economic downturn and lack of cash flow will lead to closure. Schoolwear suppliers are going to find the return to work especially challenging. We are leading up to your peak production period and your busy sales times are just around the corner. In the past, you may have had queues of customers out of your shops. You will have to change this business model and adapt the supermarket queue system with longer opening hours, or better still do more business online with a click and collect facility. Whatever you decide, use this precious time at home to build your business model of the future.
I encourage everyone in the embroidery sector to show solidarity and compassion during this difficult time. It’s important that we come together to support small businesses in order to ensure the survival of our great trade.
Don’t bury your head in the sand, just do things differently and better than before.
Stay Safe and look after your health.
Jas S Purba