Apparel Manufacturing Process
Steps involved in garment manufacturing process
A product or manufacturing specification should be used to test against when evaluating to check whether the product is correctly made. The manufacturing specification provides all the detailed information required to make the product.
Planning for Manufacture
In industry clear instructions need to be given to all the employees to enable them to work together efficiently. Production planning is required to ensure that:
- Resources are organised
- Stages of making are detailed
- Order of making is logical
- Quality of made pieces is monitored
- Work Schedules are Met
System for Making
To make a product successfully a system is required, particularly when more than one product is to be made. A System consists of inputs, which are processed into outputs. For example, the input could be fabric and components; the process comprises the making stages, and the output is a batch of custom covers.
The flowchart is used to show the system in diagram form. The start and finish points are recorded in a lozenge-shaped box, the stage of making are shown in rectangular boxes. Arrows link the series of steps in manufacture.
During manufacture, it is often necessary to attach small components when embellishing individual section or to join smaller parts together before working on the main garment. This is called a sub-assembly. It may even be carried out in a different workplace from the main place of manufacture, for example by skilled craft workers who add beads by hand or by another company that use specialist embroidery machinery.
Sub-assembly stages feed into the final assembly during which the main parts of the product are put together. The flowchart for the skirt in Diagram A includes a sub-assembly to make the skirt lining. The lining is made separately from the main skirt, and then the two parts are joined together at the waistband.
Flowchart Feedback Loops
It is important to monitor production to see if the made pieces meet the required standard at each stage of making. The manufacturing system needs to include Quality Control (QC) checkpoints and these can be written into the flowchart.
When a check is made, if the work has been carried out correctly, the section can be passed on to the next stage of making. However, if standards are not met, the stage of making will have to be done again properly.
The flowchart in Diagram A shows the checkpoints written inside diamond-shaped boxes, to show a decision is to be made. For example, the ‘No’ feedback loop will provide the instruction to repeat a stage of making to ensure that the zip does actually fasten correctly.
The manufacturing specification describes the stages of manufacture and materials needed in order to make the product, using flowcharts, diagrams, notes and samples.
If the product is to be made repeatedly, using a manufacturing specification will ensure that each product is identical and made to a set standard. Each manufacturer will have their own style of specification, developed to suit its particular system of working. It generally includes the following:
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- Product name, description, reference number and date
- Working drawing or photo of a product
- Fabric and component details and samples
- Specific tools needed, such as particular sewing machine needles
- Pattern lay plan
- Instruction for making
- Quality control checkpoints
- Tolerance levels
- Packaging requirements
This is similar to a product specification for final design; however, the manufacturing specification will also detail how the product is to be manufactured.
Tolerance levels are given to ensure that when products are made in quantity they conform to a specified range of variance allowed on each produces. Tolerance levels might be given for the size of a product, seam allowance or for the placement of decorative motifs, pockets, buttons, etc. For example, in a batch of 45x45cm cushion covers, the actual size may be permitted to vary between 44.5 cm and 45.5 cm each side; this is a tolerance level of 1 cm.
A spreadsheet is used to list the costs involved in making a product. Direct costs include the cost of fabrics, components and the labour required to make the individual product. The indirect costs are shared out between all the products made and include costs of:
- Design and development
- Machinery and equipment
- Factory Overheads
- Cost of storage of stock materials
- Staff training
- Testing and quality control checks
- Advertising and marketing
- Manufacturing profit
When a product is made in a large batch or is mass produced, materials can be ordered in bulk and the costs of manufacturing and the overheads can be divided up between a great number of products, to make each one less costly to produce.
The selling price of each product will need to include profit for the retailer. It is important to check the budget described in the design specification, to ensure that the final selling price is appropriate for the target market to that the product will sell.
If the final design is too costly to make, then modifications will need to be made. Choice of materials and the techniques used will need to be altered to reduce the costs but without affecting the quality or appearance. Production efficiency is essential to limit materials wastage and keep to deadlines. If the time it takes to make each product is reduced, the cost will also be less for each product.
Product Cost Comparison
Designers often carry out a comparative shop to examine existing products during research. The cost of two or more ducts will be analysed as part of this.
Costs can be reduced by manufacturing the product in developing countries, where wages and factory costs and overheads are generally much lower than in developed countries. However, some of these manufacturers may not have health and safety regulations in place or policies to prevent pollutants from being released into the environment; wages may be unfair or children might be employed. It is important to consider these issues and also the costs of transport. Some consumers are willing to pay more for fairtrade or local products.
Quality Control (QC) Check Points
The quality control checks ensure that raw materials are fit for use, products are produced according to specifications and the final product is safe and conforms to prescribed standards.
Quality control checks take place at three main critical control points (CCPs) during the manufacture of a product. These checks are made on the raw materials, the prototype and on samples taken from the production run.
- Raw materials check: Raw materials are checked to make sure they are in good condition, the correct order has been delivered from the supplier, and the fabric specification has been met. Fabric should be clean and of the correct type, width, colour, weight and fibre content. Components are similarly checked; fastenings should fit together securely.
- Prototype testing: The sample maker considers the design and making details of the product as they make a prototype. They trail the design and try to troubleshoot andy potential cutting and sewing problems that could arise in production and pass that information back to the production manager. The prototype is tested against the design specification to see how successful the fabrics and components are and whether the product is safe and fit for purpose. At this stage, the costing can also be checked.
- Production Sampling: During quality control inspections, a sample product is taken from the batch to check that it meets the manufacturing specification. If a fault is detected further products will be checked to see if there is a problem in the production line. A minor fault in an indivicual product can be put right to reduce the number of substandard products overall. Members of staff inspect the product to check that no dangerous mateirals, such a spieces of broken needles have been trapped in the garment during manufactuere. A metal detection machine is used to help workers ensure that the products are safe. On the factory floor broken needs are changed by a particular worker who checks and replaces them, counting needles in and out to reduce the risk of leaving any in the products.