Laxtons is a name that has been synonymous with the spinning of fancy and worsted yarns for over a century, with roots dating back to 1907. Enjoying a long-standing reputation of being innovators in the sector, the fancy and worsted spinner specialists make a natural fit for collaborative partners in what was one of Future Fashion Factory’s earliest R&D projects.
About the Project
Today, Laxtons offers a premium yarn product that prioritises not only quality and traceability but is customisable upon request. This requires a high level of expertise amongst its workforce, where staff-members are tasked to not only produce bespoke yarns but do so at pace with ever high demand.
Typically, it has taken between 6-8 months to fully train a staff member from induction to the point where they can independently manage a spinning machine. The reason for this is often societal –higher education courses rarely provide the necessary structure and rigorous training to prepare graduates to take on roles in the textile manufacturing sector as it functions today (read more about the new Textile Innovation and Sustainability BSc at the University of Leeds, which is designed to upskill graduates in this area).
To best train and retain a skilled staff, Laxtons has therefore produced an immersive bespoke training tool to not only upskill its existing workforce, but to aid in the training of new employees. The tool has been built to reduce the time it takes to ensure proficiency in every area of operations, providing a comprehensive digital training record for all its users.
The collaborative project, which brought together Future Fashion Factory, the University of Leeds’ Dr Muhammad Tausif (Associate Professor in Sustainable Textile Manufacturing) focussed on harnessing new augmented reality (AR) techniques to develop exciting new immersive training packages for Laxton’s staff, allowing them to gain virtual hands-on experience of complex production processes, cutting average learning times, as well as providing unrivalled access to high quality training provision.
We are really excited about the outcomes of this project which will enable us to take our training and multi skilling to the next level, not only improving productivity but also improving staff engagement in the whole process. On top of which we have now secured the skills for life, which is a huge issue within the industry as more skills are lost due to retirement”James Laxton, Managing Director
To enable the delivery of this tool, Laxtons have produced a data pool that consists of video, audio, and AR/VR components, that utilises digital devices (such as tablets) setup at each spinning machine. As a result, the bespoke tool is not only useful for Laxton’s own training purposes, but is scalable, and can be picked up by other industrial players.
An additional use of the data pool would be for fashion & design students and for educational use with buyers & designers who are direct clients of industrial spinners. This would mean that these groups would be better educated in what they are buying and mean that sales teams for spinners, weavers and textile manufacturers will be able to spend less time explaining their products, their manufacturing processes and lead times, thus freeing them to have the capacity to follow up more sales leads and enable these businesses to grow. Critically, the tool could help secure the relevant skills for life, which could help address the current skills gap in the UK textile industry and thus help provide a new generation of textile technologists.