Information Technology - EPZ Textiles & Clothing
Study on the Use of I.T. in Textile Industry in the Mauritius Export Processing Zone Association
Conducted By : National Computer Board &
in Collaboration With : Mauritius Export Processing Zone Association
© National Computer Board. 1993
What has emerged from this IT survey is an integrated perspective on the penetration of IT in the EPZ textile industry.
The study shows that IT penetration has progressively increased from 22% in 1987 to 35% in 1991, and to 48% in 1992.
The statistical figures obtained from this survey confirm that the degree of IT penetration is at a fairly elementary level :
- 17% of the companies use 1 microcomputer only, 18% use 2 to 5 microcomputers, 6% use 6 to 10 microcomputers and only 1% use more than 10 microcomputers.
- 6% of the enterprises use integrated computing environment based on mini and microcomputers.
- Only 11% of the companies use Local Area Network (LAN) systems.
The findings suggest that the penetration of IT is influenced by the size and financial achievement of the companies :
- Large companies use IT more widely than small ones.
- There is a great tendency for companies with high financial turnovers to use IT than those with low turnover .
The Current Status of IT within the textile companies showed that :
- The primary applications of IT is still confined to the standard data processing and administrative areas. It has not yet found widespread use in the areas of Design, Manufacturing, On-Line Control, Integrated Production Control & Management, and Management Information Systems
- CAD / Marker Making has emerged as an essential technology in the textile garment industry, due to the various facilities that it offers : the minimisation of losses in fabrics (about 10% saving is achievable), the significant reduction in the time required (about 65% of time saving is possible) to produce designs and cut plans for the new style garment.
- About 12% of the companies make use of CAD / Marker Making and a further 8% have expressed their intention of using this technology in the future.
- On average, it takes about 3.6 years to recoup the initial investment costs for the CAD system. Since the pay-back period for small and medium companies would be much higher, their economies of scale may not allow them to make use of in-house computerised marker making.
- Computer Aided Design and Computer Assisted Manufacturing (CAD/CAM) comprise another important application of IT in the textile industry. This technology enables companies to cope with complex designs, increasing number of styles and with rapid changes in the market trends.
- Only about 4% of the companies in the textile industry possess CAD stations and CAM is used by an even smaller percentage of companies.
- The capital investment for the CAD/CAM system is quite considerable and according to the survey information, it takes about 5 years on an average to recoup the investment costs. The pay-back period could, however, be reduced by making greater utilisation of the facilities.
The business value of using the CAD/Marker Making and the CAD/CAM systems are found in three distinct forms :
- As an essential tool for increasing productivity
- In reducing the unit cost of production
- In reducing the time lag in the production of new design garments.
The value of IT as applied to management systems is somewhat a neglected subject in Mauritius. This accounts for the difficulty in making any quantitative assessment of the benefits accrued from the use of IT. Nevertheless, the study revealed that :
- About 70% of the textile companies consider IT to be important in reducing errors.
- Another 51% consider it to be important in dealing with more detailed product information than it is possible with manual systems.
- Cost and labour reductions are not highly prized in the list of IT benefits. This could be due to the fact that only a very small percentage of companies makes intensive use of IT to acquire such benefits.
- Still, 24% of the users consider IT as an important factor in reducing costs and 29% perceive its importance in reducing labour.
The perception of IT as a strategic tool :
- IT constitutes a strategic tool in the second phase of the industrial development. In view of the rising global competition , the Mauritian textile companies will have to integrate IT in their systems in order to gain competitive advantages.
- Unfortunately, only a small percentage of the textile companies which are already on the leading edge, perceive IT as a strategic tool for survival and growth.
- About 16% of the companies using IT consider it to be important for gaining competitive advantages and 26% consider it to be important for survival.
- Nearly 85% of the companies use IT for improving business efficiency and another 65% use it for improving business effectiveness.
The findings on the use of the telecommunication technology are rather apprehensive :
- The Mauritian textile companies are not taking full advantage of the telecommunication technology in view of getting instant access to information about sales, resulting reorders and market trends.
- Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) , which is considered to be a crucial technology for achieving a competitive edge, is not used by any of the companies.
- Nobody is yet making use of the data communication network.
- Apparently, there is very little demand for telecommunication services required for data transmission. Most of the companies are quite satisfied with the existing communication services such as Telephone, Fax and Telex.
- However, a small number of leading companies are moving towards more integrated information system environment and are looking into the possibility of adopting EDI for quick response. The existing telecommunication infrastructure will be a definite barrier to these companies.
The major constraints reported during this study are noteworthy :
- According to 48% of the companies in the textile industry, the scarcity of IT manpower constitutes a major constraint regarding the spread of IT.
- According to 45% of the companies, the inadequacy of financial incentives represent another severe constraint.
- Both, the insufficiency of IT knowledge among most of the companies in the textile industry and the inadequacy of information on the availability of specific technology are contributing factors that prohibit the spread of IT.
- According to 40% of the Knitting companies , the lack of good data communication system will definitely be a problem in the future.
In the light of improving the current state of IT in the textile industry, several recommendations appear to surface repeatedly :
- The sharing of resources between a number of companies may reduce the cost of using IT applications such as CAD/Marker Making and CAD/CAM system.
- An alternative way of tackling this difficulty would be to set up a specialised service centre that would offer CAD/Marker Making service to those companies in need of it.
- It is suggested that a specialist consultancy service centre be set up to promote IT in the textile industry.
- It is postulated that a textile design service centre be created with a view to develop design skills and also to offer design and marker making services to those who require them.