By  on May 19, 1994

NEW YORK -- Simplicity Pattern Co. is bringing the benefits of computer-aided design to the home sewer.

The company is a relative latecomer to CAD, and for good reason. Karen Burkhart, vice-president for product development, computerized systems, at the New York-based patternmaker, said her company needed a system that could produce both the patterns themselves and the written instructions that accompany them.

"The pattern industry is kind of like the stepchild of these systems," Burkhart said. "They didn't include text capabilities from the start."

When the company finally made the move to CAD in 1992 it was with a system from Research Triangle Park, N.C.-based Assyst. The full system was up and running early last year. It has since allowed Simplicity to cut staff by 20 percent while drastically reducing the time it takes to produce patterns. Burkhart said the system will pay for itself in about a year. The total capital outlay, including hardware, was roughly $2 million.

What Burkhart refers to as the company's CAD system is actually several systems linked by an Ethernet network. A color Macintosh system is used to produce the catalogs that sit next to pattern displays in retail stores. One CAD system is used to produce and grade the patterns and another lets Simplicity produce press-plate layouts and film. Both operate on UNIX platforms. The fourth is a publishing system used to produce the guide sheets that accompany the patterns and the envelopes that house them.

Burkhart said that before the new systems were implemented, many different departments returned to work on a single pattern at different stages in its production; the creative writing, mechanical and typesetting departments were among them.

"We counted as many as 43 steps to create the mechanical portion of our product," she said. "Now, there are seven. We wanted to take the redundancy out of the process and decrease the production time."

Burkhart described the problems that plagued Simplicity before the new systems were implemented.

"There was constant movement of information back and forth between departments," she said. "Information was input and reinput. We had so many repetitive steps. Work was done two, three, even four times. And the potential for keying in information incorrectly was high.

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