Eliminating extra work and therefore waste is not the sole preserve of the large exporter with dedicated Industrial Engineering staff. Neither is it only for those fortunate enough to be able to afford expensive garment transportation systems. Earlier in his first article of the series, Paul Collyer, an international garment industry consultant with over four decades of experience, discussed various methods improvement in sewing by utilizing low cost improvements to make the production process more efficient. In this second article of the series, he discusses cost reduction by minimizing the work content of operations in ways that are available to the smaller manufacturers.
Examples of poor methods and layouts are again taken from a gent’s suit-manufacturing unit, but the principles apply to all kinds of manufacturing. If the reader thinks ‘I have heard this before’, then no apologies are made. It is crucial that cost reductions are made. Production is lost through:
• Low operator performance,
• Low operator utilization,
• Poor or ineffective methods.
And all three are avoidable. If method improvements are not allied to an overall systematic approach to productivity improvement, then utilization can be adversely affected. To increase the ability of both – the operation and the operator – to produce and not to change workflow, will only shift a problem but not improve anything. A simple rule for method improvement in the garment industry is to consider the operation as being made up of two phases:
(i) Dispose of work and load the machine: Essentially, this is removing a component away from the needlepoint to storage, and bringing the next piece to the needle (iron) ready for work to begin. In this phase the transport of work between operations can also be considered.
(ii) The work/sewing method, i.e. when the garment is under the needlepoint: This phase is dependent upon the handling and sewing skills of the operator.
Let us imagine a menswear factory of 300 operators that have been producing garments for its local market but it now wants to expand into supplying the US and EU customers. It has modern machines with labour-saving devices and all necessary specialist machines and presses. Its mind-set is that of a tailoring unit but now needs to become internationally competitive on price and quality and has to implement the management practices that its new customers will expect to see. Accordingly the management orders a major review of manufacturing procedures.
A work-study exercise identifies:
• Poor garment handling: Jackets are initially produced in sections for individual components, i.e. sleeves, fronts, backs, collars and linings, and move from operation to operation in bundles from 2 to 5 pieces at any one time. The pieces are handed from operator to operator without any handling devices. There are no specialist workstations only those devices and worktables that came with machines.
• When jacket fronts, backs, collars and linings have been compiled into single jackets they travel as one item, handed from operator to operator.
• Sleeves are collated to the jackets just prior to insertion.
• Jackets are hung on an overhead transport system when they arrive at the final pressing stage and travel through the department hanging.
• Trousers travel in bundles on specialist trolleys until the fronts and backs are joined at which they are transferred into single garments onto trays, travelling along a central table.
• Trousers are then hung on an overhead transport system as singles through the final pressing areas.
The current transport systems do not allow:
Operators to work in an uninterrupted rhythm as they are unable to consistently pick up work from the same convenient point but constantly turn and take from the previous operator.
Effective workstations to be deployed: Again as work travels in singles, preserving pressing quality is impossible and handling contributes to extra pressing being needed to remove unnecessary creasing caused during assembly.
Example of manufacturing men’s jackets
Producing men’s jackets is probably the most complex of all garment manufacturing with an average garment taking over 100 standard minutes over numerous operations. Work-study investigation identified that over a period of time extra ironing operations had been included to counteract quality problems (instead of fixing the problem), and operations had been split for balancing purposes. These changes had then become a “custom and practice”. As a result there were extra operations and instances where additional work content had been created by loading and unloading the machine more times than necessary.
Additionally there were no time standards; managers had no means of measuring performance, efficiencies, lost time, or generating meaningful production reports. Without measures, operator reward was not based on output except on a few vital operations when salary was a matter of personal negotiation.
Going through the above manufacturing processes, it could be summarily concluded that there is:
• Ineffective work transporting systems,
• No bundling systems,
• Ineffective work stations,
• Extra operations causing additional work,
• No measures,
• No effective management systems or reporting procedures,
• No means of linking output to reward.
Does this sound like your factory! Actions
Any Industrial Engineer will tell you that standard times should be based upon correct methods. However, as it was necessary to quantify any reduction in labour content, time standards were initially set, (but not issued to operators), on the existing methods and operations re-measured after improvement. Operations were timed then checked and reviewed by considering:
• Was the operation necessary (primarily ironing),
• Can the workstation or ancillary equipment be improved? (These points have been described in previous editions of StitchWorld),
• If necessary, can operations be combined to reduce handling? Check operations to discover if they are performed on the same machine type, use the same thread and utilize the same skills. If so, then they can be combined.