An assessment of a quick response case study in an apparel textile pipeline in the Western Cape

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The aim of this thesis was to establish whether South African companies implementing Quick Response in an apparel textile pipeline moved towards flexible specialisation and post-Fordism or a neo-Fordist method of production. I also determined whether these companies implemented Quick Response according to the theory or to suit their environment. Manufacturing 6 Fordism or mass production became the most important manufacturing system in the early 20th century. When it was in crisis a new era, post-Fordism, was born. The change in manufacturing in post-Fordism was labelled flexible specialisation. It utilises new technology and flexible ways of organising work to help companies become more competitive. However, some people believed the new era was not new, but rather a modification of Fordism. They called this modified system neoFordism, consisting of both Fordist and post-Fordist features. The clothing and textile industries South Africa's textile and clothing industries are faced with increased competition due to the country's re-entry into the world economy and the subsequent drop in tariffs. One way for textile and clothing companies to compete is by developing a Quick Response approach - a type of flexible specialisation. It could help these companies fight cheaper imports as it cuts lead times and allows companies to use their local proximity to deliver the right products at the right time. Methodology using qualitative research methods I attempted to describe Quick Response in this pipeline by finding out what it is, what its features are, how it is implemented and what its effects are. I combined descriptive and explanatory elements in my study. I used semi-structured interviews with open-ended questions to interview workers, middle and upper management of the companies in the pipeline. I also used nonparticipant observation by attending meetings these companies held. Quick Response or not? The system that this pipeline implemented has some of the main trademarks of Quick Response. The companies improved their relationships, shared some information, cut the lead times, and relied on sales figures to determine production. All of this resulted in an increase in sales, Quick Response's ultimate goal. However, this system lacked many features of Quick Response such as worker involvement, full information sharing, Pareto improving measures to ensure no company is worse off than before, and cutting lead times constantly. Despite this I still believe this system could be classified as Quick Response as it was mainly about cutting lead times and this pipeline did that in a small way. Post- or neo-Fordism? Although these companies introduced elements of Quick Response, Fordist production features were still evident. These include manufacturing with long runs, just-in-case or safety stock, power differentials, mistrust, managerial prerogative, and large wage gaps. It is clear that Quick Response as described in the theory is a type of flexible specialisation, which is the change in manufacturing in the post-Fordist era. However, the version used in this pipeline contained many elements of Fordist production combined with post-Fordist methods. So the conclusion is that the companies who implemented Quick Response moved towards a neo-Fordist method of production. Only when they import Quick Response as an integrated package might their methods be described as post-Fordist.

Bibliography: leaves 165-172.