Lean Production Planning and control in apparel industry – What and how?

Production planning and control in apparel industry is a department which fixes production start  date(cutting start date) ,allocates the style to a sewing line and controls the processes such that the deliveries are met on time. As the name suggests there are two functions of this department

  1. Planning
  2. Control

Planning:

The main objective of planning in apparel industry is to align material availability, planned Cut date (Cutting start date) and required  delivery.

A planner basically receives an order confirmation from a merchandiser, takes the expected fabric & trims In-house date from the sourcing team and allocates that style to a sewing line such that the planned cut date is comfortably positioned after all the material is in-house & the production ends before the scheduled delivery .

Production planning and control in apparel industry
Production planning and control in apparel industry

In very simple terms, production planning is nothing but aligning material availability, PCD and delivery of all the orders keeping in mind the efficiency of the sewing line (refer above diagram)

Planning is a key area which defines the effectiveness of all the teams . Good planning takes a lot of pressure off the people and increases productivity.

How a planning system can be designed in a garment manufacturing industry?

understanding planning’s core deliverable is easy but actually achieving and controlling it is quite a daunting task. Therefore the  planning processes should be carefully defined where:

  1. Right information is made available to the planner at the right time.
  2. Supported IT  and data analysis tools are well in place.

The tools that must be set up for an efficient production planning and control in apparel industry :

  1. Order Information system
  2. Loading plan template
  3. Material availability information system
  4. Production numbers
  1. Information system:

As mentioned earlier we know that to get a planned cut date we need to know when the fabric is arriving for a style, therefore a system should be in place where the fabric team commits the in-house date and this information should be available to planner on the go.

Any automated system in which merchandisers update the new order and fabric team update the committed fabric in-house date would do the job. Microsoft excel online and google sheets allows multiple users to work on a single sheet and this can be used as a useful tool to get this updates from all at once.

If this information system is absent planner will have to spend a lot of time in getting this information and there’s basically no time left for production planning or analysis or corrective actions.

Right now we are not bothered about whether the committed dates needs improvement or not. We will come to that conclusion later when we will make the loading plan. Ideally the fabric team should commit the best and shortest lead time possible

  1. Loading plan template :

Loading plan template is an excel based or other software based template where a planner will load an order, fix the PCD(Planned Cut Date) based on fabric IH, required delivery date and planning factors which affects productivity.

If a good loading plan template or software is in place half of the planning process is already streamlined. Loading plan is the most important tool which needs to be set to best level.

The objective of the loading plan is to get the best Planned Cut date (PCD) which doesn’t change too often & maintain loading such that productivity and efficiency is achieved.

This post here tells something about making a line loading plan

How to design  a good loading plan ?

Making a good loading plan is an important parameter and even if it requires investing in some software or technology  factories should not shy away from it.

There are two checks that the loading plan should plan highlight

  1. Fabric committed In-house date to PCD ( Planned Cut Date) lead time is not less than required.
  2. PCD to Required del date is not less than required.

If any excel or software is able to highlight these things while positioning an order the planner can re-position the order. If the loading plan is made without checking these criteria it is 100% sure that PCD and delivery On-time performance will be very less.

  1. Material availability

Plan is always a plan and changes are inevitable therefore there should be a system in place which checks for material availability before some days of PCD. If material is available, okay, if not the loading plan needs to be changed.

ERP softwares are very good at giving the material status and they present good option for this process. If ERP is not available smart excel sheets should be used for this.

  1. Production data:

Making the loading plan & meeting the PCD is still not the end of problems for the planning team. They need to get the daily production data such that if a sewing line has been unable to produce as per the plan the available capacity can be updated in the loading plan.

Generally factories does not amend the loading plan due to production backlog due to increased complexity but this is one thing that shouldn’t be ignored if planning has to get closer to the best.

Control

Design and implement mechanisms which highlight problems and give actionable reports.

For example: All the process targets can be set and if any of the process is getting delayed that particular style can be highlighted

To go into production planning process streamlining it is important to realise that the existing processes are not good. So here is a quick health check which will tell you how good is your planning process.

Does your fabric team has to negotiate a lot with suppliers to get fabric/Initial yardage in-house to match the PCD?

-Is your PCD hit rate lesser than 80%?

-Do you have more than one PCD dates?

-Does your planner spend a lot of time collecting and compiling data?

-Is your On time delivery % less than 97%?

-Is there a lot of duplicate reports between various departments?

-Does your merchandisers get clear production status of the styles?

Answers to these questions will probably tell you whether need to go into production planning process streamlining mode or  not.

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