A marker in apparel industry is an efficient arrangement of 2d pattern pieces for one or more garments in a rectangular way which is printed on paper to help in cutting of fabric by acting as a reference. The width of the marker is decided by the available fabric width.
There can be hundreds of combinations of pattern placements to form a marker therefore making and efficient marker which occupies less space is not an easy task.
Why a marker is needed for cutting in apparel manufacturing ?
A marker in apparel manufacturing is needed because hundreds of garments are cut at once by spreading layers of fabric (plies) one over the other and then a marker is placed on top of the lay which acts as a guide mark for cutter to cut the fabric. To know more about the industrial cutting of apparels you can read this post.
How a marker is made ?
There are three ways to make a marker:
1. Manual marker
Individual ready cut patterns are arranged on laid fabric by hand either over a paper or directly on the fabric. Different combinations are tried to get an efficient arrangement.
This process is time consuming and requires skills and excellent puzzle solving skills, but this might result in fabric saving as cutting operators can utilize the full width of fabric for each lay which can be a difficult in automated markers as width has to be entered in the software before the fabric is spread.
2. Semi-Automated markers
Most factories use Computer aided design (CAD) software for making patterns and markers. In semi-automated system, marker maker can visualize a marker with all pattern pieces on a computer screen and drag and drop to arrive at an efficient marker. An efficient marker maker can make better markers than a fully automated marker if automated system is not the latest. You will have to run few tests to find that out and I believe very factory must check this occasionally to know if their CAD system is giving the right result.
3. Auto nested (automatic) markers
CAD systems are capable of automatically arranging patterns and arriving at an efficient marker. The efficiency of marker can be increased if more time is allocated for auto nesting as that means that more combinations are tried by the system.
As a practice marker maker often make minor adjustments in the generated auto marker to check the possibility of saving some extra fabric.
Auto nesting also has a newer version which can arrive at the efficient marker in lesser time and can analyze more combinations. These systems require powerful computers.
What is Marker efficiency?
Marker efficiency is the measure of how compact the arranged of patterns on a marker is.
The formula to calculate marker efficiency is :
Marker Efficiency = Area of pattern pieces on the marker/ Total area of marker
Area of pattern pieces on the marker is calculated automatically by CAD systems. If manual marker is made it can’t be calculated. It can also be calculated by the weight of the fabric if you measure the weight of lay before cutting and after cutting and substituting the value in the same formula.
Total area of marker is the Length of marker * width of the marker
Once you have a marker efficiency for each lay for an order you need to calculate weighted average marker efficiency to find out marker efficiency of the complete order.
What is a mini marker in apparel industry ?
When a scaled down version of a marker is printed on an A4 or A3 paper it is called a Mini marker. Mini marker is used to analyze the marker by production staff since not everyone has access to CAD Systems and a physical reference is convenient on production floor.
Marker efficiency and profitability
Marker making process is usually an ignored KPI from a management perspective as it is assumed that software are doing their job right or it is just ignored because it is too technical.
In reality there is always a good room for improvement in marker making process and even a little improvement in marker making process can help save a lot of fabric which helps save a lot of money.
A reporting and control system which allows to monitor if the markers are made in the right width , maximum number of garments on a marker , efficiency of the marker is as per the target and if shrinkage grouping is done correctly can help improve and control the marker making process. This eventually will help improve the profitability as fabric is the money in the apparel industry.