The single storey high roof industrial shed type of building and layout are by far the best as long as factories are made in sprawling acres of lands where rolls of fabric is arrived at one end of the unit, progressed through warehousing, cutting, sewing, finishing, on to the finished goods and dispatched either in a straight line or a U-shaped flow and then left through the same door or one sited at the opposite end. Most of the single storey buildings also have mezzanine floors built in to give additional floor space commonly used by managers to keep a hawk’s eye over the entire production floor below. But as many of the factories in developing countries are in metro cities where land cost is high, factories are being made in multi-storied buildings. Paul Collyer, Independent Apparel Trainer and Consultant, discusses the most optimal workflow in a multi-storey factory.
While industrial sheds offer advantages towards layout of steam and/or compressed air line to every workstation without interrupting environment and workers manoeuvrability (using the vertical space due to high ceiling), the multi-storied buildings offer compactness, security, use of gravity for intelligent material movement. However, for successful workflow some critical questions need answers…
Should the work flow up or down?
Should we place the cutting room on the top floor and move the material to a warehouse located on the ground floor?
Or should we reverse the order and start from the bottom and finish with completed goods on the top floor?
With more than 4 decades of experience of working with the global apparel and textile industry, Paul’s career started in England back in 1969 as a work study officer. Paul has widened his expertise from suits to kidswear, shirts, womenswear and outerwear, with experience of working in England, India, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, North Africa, Middle East etc. Paul’s expertise lies in apparel manufacturing-related training programs not only for the sewing operators but for packers, pressers, quality checkers, etc. Some of his most talked about programs has been the ‘Training the Trainer’ project as 40% to 50% online efficiencies have been registered after a session of 5 days. – Paul Collyer
The dilemma between cutting and finishing site
Historically the most commonly used option is to site the cutting room at the top and flow work downwards. This system needs recommendation because of the fact that mostly finished garments need pressing. Presses, particularly modern carousel units, are heavy and bulky and it is not necessary that all buildings will have the structure and the required strength to accommodate heavy equipments on interim floors. Additionally, the steam and vacuum generation plants ideally should be sited on the ground floor, nearer to the fuel supplies, with minimum pipe runs.
Cutting rooms have traditionally been placed on the top floor allowing the flow of cut panels downwards. However, there is no hard and fast rule as different circumstances dictate different solutions. The change from hand fabric spreading and cutting by straight and band knife to computerized laying and cutting in which heavy equipment is moved from table to table has forced many companies to locate cutting rooms on the ground floor.
Additionally many companies use a central cutting facility to feed satellite make-up units and locating cutting anywhere other than a lower floor involving extra work.
Why ground floor is preferred
However, when other units are being serviced it is not uncommon for garments to be returned for finishing and packing, so several departments vie for the preferential ground floor space. Again there is no set rule as garments from outside factories are often placed into the workflow for finishing etc. Managers should work with simple flow charts and approximated times for moving materials to determine the optimum layout for their factory and not rely on convention or “gut feeling”.
Talking of knitted fabric, should it be taken out of the premises for brushing or dyeing or can the floors handle the weight of the knitting machines? Such queries need to be pre-planned thoroughly.
Thus we can conclude that there is no perfect factory layout for the smooth flow of work, and that a practical compromise is the best the manager can achieve. As long as the flow of work is sensible and does not move up and down between the floors, we can allow the material to flow through the sewing floors.