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The Blueprint to Attain Manufacturing Excellence

Attaining the top-notch manufacturing excellence in garment manufacturing process

Manufacturing excellence in the garment industry is the ultimate process whereby all variable parameters of the company are monitored to achieve the highest possible standards in order to maximise profit, production, quality levels, customer satisfaction, and employee contentment and to be fit for competition and make continuous progress.

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Manufacturing Excellence in the Garment Industry is the process of getting as close as possible to set aims. These aims or targets encompass a range of areas which, when combined together, guarantees the survival and success of a manufacturing company and some of these targets need adjustments with the evolution in the industry. Initially, owners got into the garment manufacturing with only one aim- to make money- and this could be achieved by relatively simple means.

Eventually, with changing circumstances, there has been a need for efficiency improvements, more adapted equipment, appropriate setup, process improvements, product novelty, improved quality, reliability, consistency and all these could only be done together with the right employees having appropriate training, empowerment and result-linked remuneration. Now manufacturing has become a passion where excellence is sought in each and every step involved and thus management is routed through a set of KPIs to gauge where we are v/s where we want to reach and accordingly, measures are taken for improvement. This whole process is what we call manufacturing excellence.

Starting from: General Organisation

In the first place, the company should be well organised and have the right product know-how. The layout of a factory must be according to the process flow. There needs to be a linear flow of garments in the factory, from one section to the other. This helps to avoid many quality problems and reduces unnecessary labour.

  • Equipment and machinery must be those which provide the best efficiency and quality.
  • Raw material input must be selected to have the most appropriate end product.
  • Employees must be well trained technically and procedurally and polyvalent were required.
  • Industrial engineering department needs to organise for the best ergonomic workplaces and an environment conducive for the best results.
  • Quality systems need to provide for the best results and minimum losses.
  • Planning needs to organise for the ideal flow and least changes and idle times.
  • The research and development team should be at par with all new product developments and even a few steps ahead of competitors.
  • Management should be such that employees feel the trust, discipline, security, result driven, content and an integral part of the company.

Procedures and Communication

One of the most important aspects of this industry is the concept of standard procedures. There is a method which needs to be followed to get a certain desired result, consistently without fail and sometimes by different groups of employees, thus everything has to be documented, standardised into SOPs and communicated properly. For example, the sample department has developed a sample and sent it to the customer and got his approval; now, once the order is received, the factory must be able to produce the same consistency of the product. There should be the procedure of pre-production meeting with all documentation and communication from all concerned parties along with the customer’s recommendations to make sure that those who are actually going to produce the garments know exactly what to do. If this is not so, then problems and losses are inevitable. In order to achieve manufacturing excellence, each and every department needs to have the correct procedures starting from marketing, raw material purchase, production, right up to shipment and customer feedback.

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Selecting the KPIs

We need to understand which manufacturing parameters are important. This is one of the most crucial exercises. There are some parameters like efficiency, where a slight change might have a big impact on the business whereas other parameters might require huge funds and effort to improve but create only a marginal change in the business.

Tools like the Pareto Analysis can be used to decide all those we need to monitor, which we will call the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Some of these KPIs in the industry are; all costs, costs per minute, shipment figures, stepwise production figures, efficiency, quality passes, raw material utilisation, rework, idle time, change over time, direct to indirect employee ratio, air shipments, customer satisfaction indices, order quotations v/s achievements, rejection levels, etc.

Setting KPIs

Some KPIs are straightforward (e.g., rework, idle time, etc.); however, others are quite complex, e.g., cost per minute or raw material utilisation. Here the whole idea is to achieve excellence and so for these KPIs one should benchmark with the best in the industry. But care should be taken to compare like with like and adjust where required (e.g., cost per minute of a 500-employee sweater factory will be quite different from that of a 2,000 employee factory manufacturing the same product type). For the chosen KPIs, targets have to be set for the year and the next three years and using this data, the P&L have to be simulated. If the simulated profits and other results are as per management requirements, then the targets are fixed and communicated to all concerned.

Manage to Achieve the Set Targets

In the first place, there should be department-wise meetings to communicate the information with respect to the KPIs assigned and the target levels fixed. There should be an extensive discussion with the staff about the actions to be taken, training to be provided, equipment required and timely monitoring needed to achieve these results. This information needs to be communicated to the direct employees who will perform the work.

At regular preset time intervals, actual performance data should be collected and compared with the set targets for each KPI. For any deviation, there should be a thorough analysis to understand the occurrence. Corrective actions need to be decided and applied and again at the next set time the same exercise is carried out.

Now a monthly management meeting is conducted and all these details are discussed with the head of departments. In case the performance on a KPI is better than the set target then we need to improve the latter. At the end of the calendar year, we again need to check each deviation one by one and the impact on the profits and reset targets for the coming year. This monitoring allows each entity of the company to focus on the parameters within its control and how well these are actually being controlled. Also, each party will be able to compare their own performance with respect to that of others and a complete synergy is developed.

The Employee’s Involvement

Everything starts from top to bottom in the organisation. The top-man commitment and motivation are what would drive the whole process; this needs to cascade down to each subsequent level of the organisation as the involvement of each employee is undoubtedly essential.

All employees need to understand the ‘why’ behind Manufacturing Excellence. They need to understand the methodology involved and more importantly, how and where they fit in. Top management needs to design simple clear-cut reward systems which range from verbal encouragement to financial benefits. If the net take-home pay of an employee (both staff and operators) is proportional to the achievements v/s targets, then their commitment would be guaranteed.

Besides individual motivation, group motivation works equally well; thus healthy competition needs to be created between sections, departments or even factories where possible. The employees need to feel one with the company and involved in decisions as much as possible for if their progress is linked with the company’s progress then we have the assurance of their support.

In short, manufacturing excellence in the garment industry is the ultimate process whereby all variable parameters of the company are monitored to achieve the highest possible standards in order to maximise profit, production, quality levels, customer satisfaction, and employee contentment and to be fit for competition and make continuous progress.

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