Alternative scenarios for assembly manufacturing: automation and outsourcing in the garment industry
Yuen, Chui Chi
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The objective of this research was to investigate the assembly manufacturing strategy for the future European garment industry. Outsourcing and automation were the strategic selections to assembly manufacturing for alternative scenarios. An ultimate goal was to find out whether outsourcing could be replaced by automation as a manufacturing strategy of garment assembly in the future. The research was carried out by literature reviews and scenario approach to examine the future of garment assembly. First, the two strategic alternatives: outsourcing and automation were reviewed in addition to the theory of manufacturing strategy. Besides, the driving forces and consequences were studied in respect of the two strategic alternatives. The contradictions between them were further analysed in accordance with the manufacturing objectives: cost, quality, delivery and flexibility in the garment industry aspect. Subsequently, the scenarios were developed based on the uncertainties derived from the similarity and relationship of the two strategic alternatives for assembly manufacturing. The future scenarios of garment industry were then illustrated with the two uncertainties: availability of labour and technology. With different level of labour supply and technology, the four scenarios were generated with the GBN matrix technique. Four strategies: other options, outsourcing focus, automation focus and combination strategies were recommended for the scenarios. The final conclusion to the research question was that for garment manufacturing in the future, the combination of outsourcing and automation is a more viable strategy than completely substituting outsourcing by automation.