Apparel manufacturing industries require functioning in time and making timely deliveries. Failing to do so, results in increase in the cost and time of production, which any apparel company cannot afford. Hence applying various lean manufacturing tools helps streamlining the process of production, by eliminating or reducing possible wastages.
The process of lean manufacturing attempts to identify and eliminate waste through continuous improvement to make the production activities efficient. The system focuses not just on a systematic production flow, but also requires changes in the layout of the operations, time taken by employees to finish a task, and the movement of a garment from start to finish. By implementing such tools, apparel companies can measure performances and take active steps to improve them. According to Taiichi Ohno, father of the Toyota production system, "Lean Manufacturing is all about looking at the time line from the moment the customer gives us an order to the point when we collect the cash."
Principles of lean manufacturing
The lean manufacturing system abides closely to the following five principles:
- Value: To indentify and specify what generates value from the customer's /clients perspective.
- Mapping the value stream: Understanding the entire product life cycle to eliminate waste in single every step of operation.
- Flow: To maintain a flow in the production process from the sourcing of raw materials to the delivery of the products. In order to minimize waste, the flow needs to be cautiously designed.
- Pull: Let the customer pull the value and start working only once the orders are received.
- Perfection: Eliminating unnecessary steps in different levels of operation and achieving perfection.
Types of wastes in an apparel industry
Since lean manufacturing emphasizes on reducing wastages, there are common types of waste that occur in every garment industry, which can be eliminated. The following are the different kind of wastes:
1. Overproduction: One of the most prevalent problems in apparel industry is overproduction. Excess inventories will require more labor, time, storage, and ultimately remain unproductive garments.
2. Waiting: When workers remain ineffective while waiting for instructions and raw materials or due to machine breakdowns and lack of know-how, a lot of productive time is wasted which can be avoided.
3. Transport: Shifting any kind of material from one place to another also leads to waste of time.
4. Over-processing: concentrating and give more than necessary time to a piece of garment than required due to inappropriate tools or improper processing can be waived to increase productivity.
5. Excessive raw material: More than required raw material or excess stock of finished goods results in occupying storage space and increasing the inventory cost.
6. Defects: Repairing and replacing defective garments leads to loss of time and effort.
7. Unused employee creativity: When employees lack required skills and do not use their creativity at work, the time taken to perform an operation consumes more time.
Lean manufacturing tools and benefits
There are many lean manufacturing tools available, and with the help of lean experts, apparel and garment companies can implement them to suit their needs. The following are some of the widely used lean tools in the apparel industries:
5S - This methodology helps in managing the workplace of the company. It provides easy access of all required tools and materials. The five Ss stand for Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain which translates into sorting tools, arranging them in order, keeping them clean, meeting the required the norms, and following the above instructions to continue to keep things in place on a daily basis respectively.
Poka - Yoke - This tool helps in mistake proofing and eliminating errors at a very initial stage of operations. It helps detecting errors and correcting them before it reaches the next step of operations. Poka Yoke helps in preventing damages to the product and machineries used in garment manufacturing.
Kanban - It is a workflow system tool, which improves clarity of work and limits the work in progress of employees. There are two main types of kanban, withdrawal kanban and production kanban. The tool prevents overproduction in manufacturing units and thereby reduces waste.
Kaizen - Another lean manufacturing tool that comes from the Japanese word kai meaning continuous and zen meaning improvement, is a process that requires no investment. Beginning from the worker at the bottom level to the highest level of management are required to make small changes, in all kinds of operations on a regular interval, to keep improving constantly. A commitment to make steady changes on routine basis can help increase the performance of employees and increase the productivity of the company.
By implementing lean manufacturing tools, industries can deliver quality performance with lesser defects and waste. Customer satisfaction and employee morale can also be improved. The tools ensure to provide higher levels of efficiencies and fewer machine and process breakdowns, which result in higher profits and increase business. Lean manufacturing tools help the company excel by minimizing waste, maximizing value, and pursuing perfect.