“If a process is not under control then it cannot be managed; without measures the process cannot be controlled” Everyone working in the garment industry is extremely aware that it is in the forefront of globalization and consequently subject to the pressures created by ever more demanding customers and consumers. The industry has the dual disadvantages of using both unstable materials, varying in structure and behaviour during manufacture and the most unpredictable resource ever used: The Human Being! Therefore, as the garment manufacturing is very people-intensive, it is essential that, to be competitive, the labour force has to be closely controlled to minimize waste and cost and to ensure that there is no variance from required standards. Paul Collyer draws from his vast experience in the industry to tell us how.
To manage a production unit effectively, it is clearly necessary to both establish the required performance standards and monitor adherence or variance. It is the role of the Production Manager, or any person engaged in managing manufacturing at any level, to maximize the use of resources of equipment – people, money and material – to remain within prescribed limits. Accordingly the managers need to establish plans for achieving targets and then monitor and control the production process and make adjustments as necessary. Those of us who have managed clothing factories or sections will be able to relate the hundred and one things that can go wrong and cause standards to be missed.
Managing garment production is a complex operation and yet it is astounding how many companies handicap themselves by working ‘blind’; that is, they do not have performance standards or, if they do have them, they do not regularly monitor activities. Also a great number of companies monitor performance on an hourly, daily, weekly or on a monthly basis but do not use this data to take effective action, neither do they have standards for comparison.
To summarize, the garment industry manager is attempting to keep a process subject to many variables under control and is, in many instances, trying to do so without any effective standards, measures or monitoring.
In such a complex environment as a garment manufacturing unit, there can be countless measures used; however, to enable information to be useful on the production line, limited monitoring is necessary.
A labour cost control system is a start to managing a factory. The management and supervisory staff must be fully trained to interpret the information generated and take effective action in terms of production balancing, systematic operator training and retraining and correct support services.
It is necessary to establish measures of performance so that effective planning can take place. It is, however, inevitable that any plan, no matter how well prepared, will at different time and situations become outdated and need modification. The manager can only take action if he is aware of any variance from the plan! Any decisions made without the benefit of relevant information are a guess and have a greater chance of being incorrect!
How to measure There are many purpose designed software packages, some with SMV generation available for the garment industry. These systems make monitoring easier and give detailed information that encompasses most or all of the major measures previously described.
These systems may not be available to smaller companies because of cost. This problem does not, however, preclude them from monitoring performance standards. It is feasible to use a spreadsheet to give accurate section, department and factory performance data. Although this situation will make the task of compiling data more labour intensive, it must be remembered that it is essential that the “nearer to real-time” the information reaches managers, the more useful it is.
An example of a simple labour cost control sheet is shown in Table 1. It gives, on a daily basis, enough information to the manager and supervisor for them to take corrective action. It highlights:
• Section efficiency (against target)
• Individual performances (thereby showing low performing operators in need of help and corrective action)
• Operators (and therefore operations) incurring off-standard time. What is the problem? Balancing? Quality, etc.?
• Where individual operators have both high performance and high off-standard time. A situation in need of examination.
It is only an example and pay is not expressed in any currency, but imaginary monetary units. Each company should modify to their own requirement.
Guaranteed minimum pay level is 15 money units per hour. Any off standard time is paid at this rate. Fadiyah, being a trainee, has her pay made up to this level, as does Nusrat, who is undergoing retraining.
A labour cost control system is a start to effectively managing a factory. Management and supervisory staff should be fully trained how to use this information. They must be able to interpret what the information is telling them and to be able to take effective action through production balancing, systematic operator training and retraining and correct support services.
Companies may wish to proceed further by monitoring quality costs and measuring the costs of training.
Information is the key to starting to manage an efficient, profitable factory.
The 7 Measures useful to the production manager or supervisor are:
1. EfficiencyCalculated daily. Meant for sections, departments and factories.
Efficiency (%) is calculated as
Standard minutes earned x 100.
2. Individual Operator performance Calculated daily. It is a measure of both the skills and motivation of the operator.
Performance (%) is calculated as
Standard minutes produced x 100
Time on standard
Individual companies should set their own minimum performance standards both for operator performance and efficiency. However, the author has for many years worked in the Apparel Industries throughout the gamut of the work involved and proposes that, as a guide, 85% efficiency should be strived for in an effort to be internationally competitive. It is assumed that SMVs are set to international standards.
3. Off-standard time Calculated as a percentage of operator attended time (utilization) and reported in categories, e.g., wait for work, machine breakdown, sampling, undergoing retraining.
Off-standard time is that time utilized on performing tasks to which SMVs are not allocated. Alternatively an operator earning SMVs is working ‘on-standard’.
Utilization is a measure at how well the manager and supervisor control the section and keep the operators working, i.e. “on-standard”.
Utilization (%) is calculated as
Time spent on standard x 100,
4. Make up pay The difference between ‘piece work or similar’ earnings and that paid, i.e. payment to any agreed minimum level or ‘average’.
5. Output Daily and weekly. Measured in units by operator and operation on a regular basis during the working day and in standard hours produced on a daily and weekly basis.
As part of the production balancing process, the output of each operator and operation should be monitored on a regular basis during the day. At the end of the day individual operator output totals and time spent ‘off-standard’ should be submitted for calculation and analysis. From this information on standard hours produced, time on- and off-standard and salary earned can be calculated.
6. Labour Cost per standard hour produced. Reported weekly. Departmental and factory basis.
As both total labour costs and standard hours produced can be summarized weekly, it is a simple calculation to determine cost per standard hour.
All the above measures are dependent upon accurate collection of data. It should be remembered that much of the information will be supplied by operators whose salary is directly related to both their output and time spent ‘on’ and ‘off-standard’.
• It may be in the operators interests to influence the reporting of output or off-standard time or to pressure supervisors into giving additional ‘off-standard’ time, particularly when this is paid at premium rate.
• Operators may, when SMVs are loose, decide to conceal this fact by ‘holding back’ on reporting actual output and using this production at a later date. Any labour cost control system must ensure that all factors are accurately reported. This can be achieved by rigorously monitoring actual achievement against established standards of performance and holding managers and supervisors accountable for their performance.
The need to closely monitor achievements also works for the principal requirement of any reporting system.
7. Quality data Daily. Reworks by operation, the operator as required, during the day and together with rejects or ‘seconds’. This can be further reported by cost.
Reworks by operation and operator information should be used for practical problem solving and for measuring improvement. Quality costing is a more complex management procedure that should be addressed as a separate issue.
All of the above measures can, of course, be modified for individual circumstances, e.g., a cutting room may also be monitored for performance of actual fabric usage against costed. They do, however, give a platform on which the production units can be measured and actions taken.
Absence and labour turnover must of course be measured, but will not be used by managers at the sections on a daily basis.