How to improve efficiency of a sewing line ?

Efficiency improvement of a sewing line is a probably the most important performance indicator of apparel operations but it is also one of the trickiest. The reason for that is that all the factors that affect increase in efficiency are interrelated.

We know that Efficiency is measure of how well a line is run. It is a combined measure for performance of operators(Performance) and Utilization( how well working hours of operators are used). To learn more about efficiency , performance and utilization read this post.

Efficiency is the responsibility of managers and not operators alone because Performance of operators can only be improved marginally but to achieve a good amount of increase in sewing line efficiency utilization needs to be improved. operator performance should be improved Only when utilization is corrected .

To improve the efficiency of a sewing line you need to adopt a sequential approach. Below is the step by step approach to improve the efficiency of a sewing line .These steps can be applied to not just sewing but to increase efficiency of any assembly line.

1. Improve the line layout :

Layout redesigning is the most important and the first step because it is the infrastructure over which all the processed are based. A good layout will help us improve all the other factors which affects efficiency like:

  • Reduce waiting time by ensuring smooth workflow
  • Reduce transportation time through minimum material movement
  • Easier to identify the bottlenecks through better visualization of WIP
  • Helps in Batch Processing and line balancing – line layout should be planned in such a way that similar operations of different lines are placed close to each other so that workload can be shared. For example: if Runstitch collar operation of line L1 and L2 are sitting close to each other then if operator of L1 line is sitting idle for some time he/she can stitch some pieces for line L2 as well. This type of production balancing is very helpful specially where for one operation 1.5 manpower is required. 3 operator can be deployed for 2 lines where one operator can float and produce for both the lines. if lines are far from each other these balancing will not be possible and 4 operators will be deployed

2. Improve the Line Balance :

Line Balance is the art of setting up and assigning work in an assembly line such that the output of each workstation is the same as per the expected final output from the line.

once the layout is improved line balance should be checked and improved. Improving the line balance is a continuous process because in garment industry every style is different so everyday the dynamics keep changing. That’s why lines need to be balanced everyday dynamically as per the changing production scenarios.

To improve the line balance skill Level in the line needs to be improved. If the manpower of the line is multiskilled, balancing of line is easier as more options are available to allocate work. Good line managers ensure that they always train their operators and keep the right balance of skill.

3. Identify and remove bottlenecks:

Bottleneck is an operation whose output is less than the planned output and so it is affecting production of all the subsequent operations. Bottleneck can be identified by reviewing the production in sequence as per the operation bulletin Example : if  a line is planned for 100 pieces in an hour if production of op1 = 100, op2 = 50 and op3 = 50 after an hour then Op2 is the bottleneck as it is the first operation which is not producing 100 and because of which op3 is also not able to produce 100.

How to remove bottleneck from an operation ? :

  1. Method Study : go to the operation and observe it carefully and find out the problems
  2. Method improvement: Improve the method and train the operator in the right method. Don’t forget to document the changed method as standard
  3. Work aid development: Design and develop workaids that will help in operations like stacker, drop box, folders, zigs etc
  4. Quality improvement: find out the defects that the operator is producing, this could be one of the reason for bottleneck as most of the time is taken doing rework . Do root cause analysis and find out the solutions to reduce the defects.
  5. Change the operator: Maybe the handling or skill of the operator is causing the bottleneck . If that’s case its good to change the operator

4. Improve the Performance of operators:

Once all the other factors are improved only then individual operator performance should be monitored and improved. Low performers should be identified and method study need to be carried out to find out the reasons for low performance.

Note that if waiting time or machine breakdown is the reason for low performance then that’s not actually low performance but low utilization .In such cases first 3 points need to be improved.

Let us know if you have anything to add regarding how to improve efficiency of a sewing line in the comments section below.

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