In the past, apparel manufacturing has generally been a labor-intensive industry. The rising cost of labor and the falling cost of computers and their application to businesses have begun to change the industry.
More of the manually performed apparel manufacturing functions are being computerized and/or automated as computers become cost-justifiable. Some examples of functions that are commonly computerized are planning, design, inventory, payroll, accounting, and Electronic Data Interchange (EDI).
The problem is that most of the computerized functions within a plant/factory become "islands of automation." The function is set up on a particular computer system, and that computer is not able to communicate directly with any of the other functions or "islands."
There needs to be a centralized means of storing and communicating the information for all of the functions of an apparel manufacturing enterprise in order to realize the full benefits of computerization. Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) is a possible solution. CIM could bridge the "islands" by automating the information flow.
This thesis deals with the issue of CIM for apparel by first examining several sources of literature on CIM. The literature originates from a variety of disciplines including industrial engineering, computer science, apparel research and examples of state of the art CIM installations.
The literature survey develops a definition of CIM for the context of the thesis and several research projects are studied. These projects are in the areas of CIM systems planning, CIM standards and CIM databases. Three examples of actual CIM systems are included and the advantages of each are described.
The goal, or objective, of this thesis was to integrate the information flow in a prototype CIM system for apparel; not to automate or link machines.
Chapters three and four describe the experiment portion of the thesis research which was to implement a prototype CIM system at the Textile/Clothing Technology Corporation (TC)2. The method of approach utilized the IDEF (Integrated computer aided manufacturing DEFinition) method of modeling and planning, and a Relational Database Management System (RDBMS) to automate the information flow and integrate the manufacturing enterprise.