By  on September 22, 1994

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Unit Production Systems (UPS) are undergoing major brain surgery. They won't look much different when they show up at the Bobbin exhibit in Atlanta later this month, but they'll be smarter.

Their computer software "brains" are being enhanced to handle new management programs, to reduce work-flow bottlenecks, to increase efficiency and flexibility and even to be "pals" to their operators.

"We will introduce several things that we have done to improve our system -- things that have been refined to fit the requirements of the industry today," said Steven McLendon, executive vice-president, Eton Systems, Inc. "We are designing more flexibility into the system to allow companies to have short production runs and long production runs simultaneously within the system."

McLendon said the sewn-products industry is beginning to appreciate some of the theories and advantages of synchronous manufacturing. "As a result, our computerization will have some new functionality that graphically shows how the system can be used in a synchronous manufacturing environment from a planning, scheduling and actual management point of view. We're also building in some significantly advanced planning and scheduling capabilities within the computer."

Gerber Garment Technology will introduce three new ideas with its UPS, which is called the Gerber Mover. "We've included software that supports the 'Drum, Buffer, Rope' management philosophy," said Hal Osthus, general manager of Gerber's computerized manufacturing systems division. "We've installed it in a couple of places,"

Ed Hill, site director at Clemson Apparel Research, said the "Drum, Buffer, Rope" concept is part of the "theory of constraints" synchronous manufacturing philosophy that provides the apparel manufacturer with quick production lead times in a simplified management environment. "It is a very clever concept and a significant improvement to the weaknesses of modular manufacturing and other flexible manufacturing systems that have been so popular in the last few years," Hill said.

Hill will explain the concept in a seminar during the Bobbin show. Eton has also incorporated the concept into its system. "Our system is on demonstration at the Clemson Apparel Research Center and it is a part of an ongoing project to refine the 'Drum, Buffer, Rope' concept for the U.S. manufacturing market," McLen-don said.

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