A Time and Action calendar — otherwise known as a T&A calendar — is crucial for maintaining production schedules in global supply chains.
Below we look at the importance of time and action for apparel, including how such a system works, who needs one, and how to dramatically increase efficiency by digitalizing your T&A calendars.
- A Time and Action (T&A) calendar is a project management tool that is used to plan schedules.
- Every stakeholder in the production process needs access to the T&A calendar. Many tasks need to be completed between order receipt and completion, and different people may be responsible for overseeing the completion of each one.
- Traditional Excel T&A calendars are time-consuming to create and maintain, and are notoriously prone to error.
- New technology tools digitalize T&A calendars to improve collaboration between stakeholders, optimize performance by collecting accurate data for decision making, and maximize efficiency by eliminating manual and time-consuming processes.
What is a T&A calendar?
You’ve got an order ready to go into production. You’ve met with production managers, aligned on logistics, and sent the order — but nothing is finalized until you’ve agreed on a set of deadlines to ensure the process stays on course.
That’s where a T&A calendar comes in.
In its simplest form, a time and action calendar is a spreadsheet with two columns — a time by which an action must be completed, and the action itself. Such a calendar should span the entire timeline of the product journey, from the day the order is received to the day the product arrives at its final destination. In other words, it’s a detailed to-do list that includes every step, from manufacturing schedules to transit dates and beyond.The benefits of a T&A calendar are that it allows you to plan out how much time a project will take, monitor the steps at the desired level of resolution, and stay in the loop as deadlines are met or delayed.
Main challenges with traditional T&A calendars
Every stakeholder in the production process needs access to the T&A calendar.
Many tasks need to be completed between order receipt and completion, and different people may be responsible for overseeing the completion of each one.
The challenge here is one of many moving parts. If you’ve overseen product sourcing before, you know that production tasks don’t always line up tidily one after the other. One process may have to be completed for another to begin, while others can run simultaneously, creating a timeline that can quickly grow complex — particularly when you’re trying to keep up with it using a traditional Excel format.
Creating a highly detailed plan that clearly assigns responsibilities is the first step to preventing confusion and missteps. The good news is that this part isn’t terribly difficult. There are plenty of different formats available online.
The difficult part — and it can be extremely challenging with conventional Excel spreadsheets — is maintaining your T&A calendar as production moves along and sharing this information with multiple stakeholders that are part of your supply chain and are spread across the globe.
Consider that a T&A calendar’s main purposes are to improve performance and maintain a planned schedule. That means you must keep your calendar as close to real-time as possible, marking deadlines as met or delayed, contacting those responsible for various tasks, and anticipating other processes that could be affected by such delays.
In the apparel industry, collaboration must occur between brands and retailers, buyers, manufacturers, vendors, suppliers, shipping companies, and other parties. A delay can create a bad impression of the organization for the buyer and impact future business partnerships.
That’s why a T&A calendar is so important: it allows all parties to agree on an expected timeline to ensure timely product shipment.
How to maximize efficiency with a T&A calendar
Despite relying on Excel-based T&A calendars for decades, their limitations have become increasingly clear as supply chain digitization has matured.
Traditional Excel T&A calendars are time-consuming to create and maintain, and are notoriously prone to error. Additionally, the need for changes to the sequence of tasks is common as events unfold during production. It is not only cumbersome to manually make these changes last-minute, but doing so further increases the potential for error.
In other words, Microsoft Excel can’t automatically incorporate such changes into a T&A calendar — the burden is on you to do so.
That’s why you need new tools to help.
Introducing Inspectorio Tracking
Inspectorio Tracking provides visibility over all aspects of production, automating the entire process of T&A calendar maintenance. It empowers you with streamlined, real-time connectivity with all supply chain partners.
By digitizing your time and action calendar, you have the closest possible experience to being on the production floor:
- Real-time data keeps you aware of all updates
- Effective in-app communication with all stakeholders means no more long Excel files and follow-up emails
- Detailed activity logs help you identify risk, changes, or delays while maximizing accountability
Inspectorio Tracking simplifies complexity with customizability, filtering, and monitoring:
- No two production tracking forms are identical — or at least they shouldn’t be. Fully customize each one to fit different production processes and product lines.
- Make better, faster decisions by quickly locating the most relevant data in your production tables.
- Receive instant notifications of any production changes so you can react quickly.
At-a-glance monitoring of milestones
- Monitoring is intuitive thanks to an at-a-glance overview of your production plans. This gives you the ability to keep track of production while efficiently managing risks like delays, changes, and cancellations.
The goal of a T&A calendar has always been to meet deadlines. Now, Inspectorio Tracking lets you empower all stakeholders to meet their own deadlines without losing sight of the big picture — all with more automation than ever before.