Smart Machines & Factories
Manufacturer sewing seeds for 40% productivity boost with tech investment 
Published:  11 May, 2021

A heritage textile manufacturer, supported by Made Smarter, is expecting a 40% productivity boost through a transformational technology project.

Over its 160 year history, Cookson & Clegg (C&C), based in Blackburn, has gone from producing leather products and manufacturing military apparel to premium brand clothing and protective wear such as medical scrubs, gowns and reusable face coverings.

When TV sewing expert and tailor Patrick Grant and his sister Victoria rescued the business from collapse in 2016 they recognised digital technology was the key to survival and growth.

C&C is now embarking on a major data and systems integration project which will capture real-time data from every part of the production process and enable the leadership team to make informed decisions to identify efficiencies, generate more accurate pricing, and increase profitability.

The new system also aims to stimulate a cultural revolution within the business, improving the pay and job satisfaction of its skilled team machinists, a key part of its 40 strong workforce.

C&C has been supported by the Made Smarter North West Adoption programme which for the last two years has worked with 1,200 makers in every corner of the region providing advice, expertise and financial support to help them grow their business, increase competitiveness and reduce inefficiencies through digital tools and technology.

Patrick Grant, managing director of C&C, said: “With the support and advice of Made Smarter we have been able to pursue our ambitions of improving both productivity and cost control across our operations by adopting digital technology.

“At the heart of this new system is the introduction of well-informed decision-making based on accurate and real-time data. By combining better production control and incentivising our workforce we believe we could increase productivity by 40%, while maintaining the highest quality.”

Donna Edwards, Made Smarter Adoption Programme Director, North West, added: “C&C are the perfect example of a heritage business who are moving with the times while maintaining their identity as a traditional manufacturer.

“Data and systems integration is central to the 4th Industrial Revolution, so I am extremely pleased that C&C, like so many SME manufacturers, are putting data at the heart of their own digital journeys and recognising that using these tools can empower them to grow their business and increase efficiency.

“C&C is among hundreds of manufacturers in the region grasping the opportunities offered by Made Smarter which include expert, impartial technology advice, digital transformation workshops, a leadership programme, and funded digital technology internships.”

C&C’s first step with Made Smarter was to complete a digital transformation workshop, a fully funded, practical session which identified key business challenges and digital tools to overcome them.

It created a bespoke roadmap involving some key projects including adopting a digital workflow system, future phases of automation, and introducing a smart factory layout. 

Victoria Grant, operations director, explained: “We acquired C&C because we believed it was a quality business with some extremely skilled employees. However, the traditional ways of doing things and embedded inefficiencies have held back the business from keeping up with the rapid changes in textile manufacturing.

“The digital transformation workshop process helped us acknowledge that the shop floor was a black box and the first vital step for our business was to get hold of all that valuable data, so we could understand and control better the inner workings of our operations.”

C&C is now implementing Galaxius, a production management system that documents the whole journey of a garment from sampling to delivery. 

Data is transmitted, processed and then displayed in real-time on a web-based management platform, which gives the leadership team visibility of the production line.

By breaking down a garment’s production into separate elements and applying a timing for each part, the business will know exactly how long it will take to produce a set number of garments and the manufacturing cost.

C&C will be able to plan its production effectively, accurately assess factory capacity and provide customers with realistic delivery dates.

The simpler production planning system will enable the factory manager to focus on improving processes further.

The improved efficiency will remove the need for overtime, reducing factory running costs by up to 20% during peak periods.