What is waste? To my teenage self it was rusty bicycle chains, damaged wheels from cars, the occasional battered pram, tangled in rotting fabric, all smeared with orange metallic spill from upstream, the River Calder. The river was a tip. A journey up it was an adventure – why would any go there? Because the recreation area was full of older teenage thugs from Stoneyholme, one of the meanest districts in town. Those without a white, middle class upbringing should recognise the kind of place – sink estates know no boundaries. So when I was asked the question: would I like to monitor waste? My response was to wonder what exactly I would be looking at. Was it going to involved checking whether the company dumped things on the tip – and maybe doing in situ observations; or could it be secret missions down to the local river – which in Colne was Colne Water – a tributary of Pendle Water which in turn feeds the River Calder, just 2 miles north of the district of Stoneyholme – Stoneyholme was of course where I’d lived – since I was 7.
Colourful but a bit far from the reality. True, the skip used by Bell Woven to deal with its waste was often full, but my level of interest was confined to the job cards – or loom cards as they were more frequently called. A loom card was a preprinted card on which went the technical particulars for each job. One loom card per job – the process began in production planning but the weaver’s part was as well as ensure good quality labels during weaving, to record the figure shown on the label clock onto the loom card, once the weaving process was complete. ¹
The next process saw the labels transferred to inspection who would: a) cut out any weaving flaws, piecing the remaining labels together into a continuous strip; these were counted by a rolling machine which converted this strip into rolls of preset quantities – usually 500 labels. This figure was recorded on the loom card. ²
The final process was a cut and fold finish. Not every job went through cut and fold but for those that did, the number of labels finished was again recorded on the loom card. ³
Loom cards were returned to me for waste calculation.
¹ Label clock figure x no. of strips on the loom = labels woven
² Labels rolled.
Deduct ² from ¹ to arrive at weaving waste.
³ Labels finished
Deduct ³ from ² to arrive at finishing waste
Waste varied for many reasons – no. of shuttles, design bias (distorting the weave), weavr inattention (eg weft running out), individual shuttles catching. As my brief expanded I changed the loom card design to better incorporate feedback on causes of waste.
There was waste I didn’t measure: warp ends when a new beam was twisted in; unused weft thrown away whether on cones or spooled, running in new designs – which involved on the loom jacquard changes – any labels produced absorbed loom time but the factory view was that it was better to take the time and get a good label rather than persist with an obviously poor label that might for example be distorted and thus likely to lead a customer to reject the entire batch! …
Happy days and occasionally frustrating days.