With rapid turnaround time the order of the day, it is essential that every link in the supply chain be tightened to the maximum possible. It sounds surprising to hear that the supply chain in a vertically integrated set up tends to be looser than a spread-out PLM/ERP linked garment parts supplier base, but regrettably, it is so. C K Karekatti locates the choke points and suggests remedies

Garment exporters catering to high fashion markets demand a responsive supply chain with a very short lead-time. CMT exporters in India typically work with a lead-time of 75-90 days, vertically integrated plants are known to work with even longer lead-time. With turnaround time becoming a prime factor in attracting business, manufacturers are increasingly exploring options to reduce the cycle times. (Zaras phenomenon success in high fashion garments is largely attributed to its agility in responding to customers requirement). However in the absence of information regarding specific causes of delays, it becomes practically impossible to tackle the issue of longer lead-time.

In this paper an attempt is made to track the average actual time against targeted time line in a vertically integrated set up Emphasis is given to identify specific causes of delay at each stage of order execution.

    As shown in Fig 2. Garment pre production activity, time loss in getting approvals and logistics related issues contribute to more than 80% of delays.

    Since the delivery schedules are fixed, the time lines for production activities are squeezed on an average by 30 %. (Ref Fig. 1.) FIG 1. Supply chain time lines:


Table 1: - Causes for delays at various stages of order execution


Specific causes for delays

Pre-Production activity

  • Lack of clarity regarding exact customer requirement, in terms of styling, fabric specifications, trims , constructional clarity and consumption.(Between both sampling & merchandising)
  • Lack of technical understanding regarding exact customer requirement wrt. Form and Fit of the Garment, resulting in repeated communication and reworks.
  • Poor flow of buyer communication between merchandising and sampling.
  • Poor planning, especially in prioritizing the sample delivery schedules.(FIFO etc)
  • Fixed pick up time by courier service providers often result in failure in meeting the pickup deadline for ready samples arriving a little late from sampling Dept.


  • Loss in production due to non-availability of work aids, like attachments and folders, when the new style hit the bulk Production.
  • No history record of the problem faced at Product development stage is maintained to counter similar problem when the bulk production is initiated.


  • Delays caused in receiving trims due to fixed delivery time lines given by buyer nominated vendors.
  • Non availability of alternative /substitute vendor to counter contingency
  • Delays caused in approval of trims.


  • Delays caused due to manual tasks of generating hard copies for authorization


  • Delays caused due to high operator absenteeism
  • Delays caused due to Non-availability of required skill set etc.

Post production activities

  • Delays caused due to shipment clearance procedures.
  • Delays caused due to failure in meeting the shipment window. Particularly for vessels leaving to destinations on a particular day of the week. Missing the cut off date at port causes the consignment to be delayed at port .It also incurs additional cost by way of dock charges.

Since the scope of improving productivity with a given set up and skill level is limited, manufacturers should find other opportunities for reducing the cycle time.

Following measures are recommended to reduce supply chain lead-time in vertically integrated set up.

1. The garment pre production activity is significantly inefficient, any saving in time and manpower at this stage can help in improving overall supply chain efficiency. Strengthening the pre production activity can significantly help in reducing the lead time, this can be achieved by

a.       Ensuring availability of raw material details and constructional details, by means of sample requisition checklist. This checklist should cover all the constructional and trims details required in executing the request. Sample requisition shall be accepted only after satisfying the checklist. It is recommended that the merchandiser should ensure availability of required information from the buyer by means of appropriate checklist at his/her end.

Improving coordination between merchandising and product development team through seamless flow of buyer communication. Common observations are poor flow of information between merchandiser and product development team, regarding buyer prescribed tolerances for fabric shrinkage ( critical for Knitwear), tolerances for GSM variation, trims placement details, strip and check matching criteria for size set etc. This Problem can be countered by eliminating departmental boundaries through seam less flow of buyer communication.

a.       Speeding up the fit approval process by the use of buyer approved Dummies/Body Forms. Though debatable for the volume of customer and size set requirements, it can definitely help in speeding up the process.

b.       Problems encountered at sampling stage should be recorded. These problems with appropriate solution should form a style history record. This will help in tackling similar problems when the style hits the bulk production.

c.       Industrial Engineering department should work out the exact requirement of work aids for critical operations before new style hits the production floor.

d.       Pilot run for new style should be executed on same assembly line as that planned for bulk production. Problems encountered at this stage should be recorded and action plan to counter these problems in bulk run should be worked out before hand.

e.       It is advisable to tie up with courier service agencies for the delivery of samples. Flexible timings can be worked out with mutual agreement.

1. One major concern in vertically integrated set up is high rate of internal rejections and failure on the part of internal suppliers in meeting delivery schedules. This situation can be improved if individual process treats upstream and down stream operation as (internal) customer and supplier respectively. Supplier non-complying with the set specifications (Quality, Cost, and Delivery) should be panelized by issuing debit note.

2. Purchase Dept should develop reliable vendor base. No delays in order execution should be caused due to non-availability of trims. Vendor development should also be aimed towards developing import substitute.

3. It is advisable to change the lengthy approval process of authorized signature to faster means like electronic data transfer.

4. To counter seasonal absenteeism, measures like incentives for reducing absenteeism should be worked out. Multi skilling of operators will help in balancing the production line at the time of contingencies.

5. X-factory dates should be planned in such a way that the consignment catches the shipping window.

About the Author:

Mr. C K. Karekatti has done Masters in Textile Technology (M. Tech) and Post Graduation in Fashion Technology (PGFT) from NIFT, New Delhi. He has published number of papers in National and International Journals. He is currently working with The Arvind Mills LTD, Ahmedabad.

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