Line balancing in garment industry and how it can be improved ?

line balancing in garment industry is the technique of levelling output of every operation in a garment sewing production line.

The main objectives of balancing the line is to produce the same expected output at every process of an assembly line .There should neither be accumulation of work between two process nor absence of work between the processes. It is important to maintain this balance because in an assembly line output of one process is the input for other.

If a production line is not balanced then there would be following production problems:

  1. Accumulation of WIP– Some operations would produce more and some will produce less this will lead to increase in WIP ( Work In Progress) of production line.
  2. Reduced Efficiency – In an imbalanced line the flow of input and output is uneven. Because of this reason some operators will not get loading input as per their capacity of producing output, hence they will be underutilized. In this scenario to make matters worse more machines and more manpower will be allocated to increase the production but efficiency will fall down even more.
  3. Chaos on the production floor: Because Operators, supervisors, and managers will be pushing themselves to produce more with no results because without improving the line balance all the other efforts will be wasted. It causes stress on the production floor.

Types of line balancing

There are two type of sewing line balancing in garment industry Static and Dynamic .

1. Static Line Balance

Static line balance is done at the start of production based on the operator (tailors) availability and style being loaded in the sewing line. This is how static line balance is done :

  1. Know which operators are present for allocation from attendance system.
  2. Take the operation bulletin of the style being loaded in the line.
  3. Take skill matrix – in most cases supervisors have skill memorized but it is good practice to have a documented skill matrix as others can check the balance of line as well.
  4. Allocate operations to operators as per the planned capacity of line. The objective is to produce as per the planned capacity with optimum manpower allocation.

2.Dynamic Line Balance

Once the production starts situations may change and supervisors have to re-adapt to the situations so they need continuously reallocate work to operators.

For example : an operator doing operation “A” in a line A is performing well and producing more than the line capacity, but operator in line B is producing less. The supervisor may switch operators after there is required WIP in line A.

How to Automate or Digitalize Line Balance in garment industry ?

The big question is what could be done to optimize sewing line balancing? The answer to this is digitalization because too many combinations are involved and an automated system can compute these combinations better. 

There can be two approaches of automating line balancing :

  1. Algorithmic Approach : A logical if – else program can be made from an well articulated algorithm which should be designed to assign the right operators to the right operations. The inputs needed will be attendance record , operation bulletin and skill matrix . Therefore it is important to digitalize and integrate these data to run automatic line balancing program on the software.
  2. Artificial Intelligence : Line balancing is a complex problem and though it could be solved by algorithmic approach . It would be better if the system learns from the production trend and allocated work more smartly. This can be achieved by applying machine learning models and neural networks on the available datasets. Some companies have already developed these program. However there is a lot of work left to be done.

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