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HISTORY OF UK GARMENTMANUFACTURING
The apparel and textile industry is afascinating example of manufacturingand the supply chain. This sector isunder constant pressure, competitionis fierce, and there are always rival firms waiting to challenge.Competition will increase still more in2005 when countries with exportquota restrictions to Europe and USAare freed from those constraints.
In the heyday of garment production in this country in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s, manufacturers named their pricebased on their costs plus profit. Theyoffered ranges of garments to theretailer or wholesaler. After the latterhad made their selection, they placeda firm order for a substantial quantityand expected one large delivery a fewmonths later.
This scenario has completelychanged. The retailers now drive thegarment supply chain:● they know exactly what they wantin terms of actual merchandise● they dictate price according to consumer pressure and expectations(designers must work to price points -costing is done on a price minus basis, squeezing the manufacturer’s margins)● they decide when they want it andin what quantities - not all at once butas per a pre-determined deliveryschedule, that could last over weeks,and change at any time!
The retailer wants to remain as
flexible as possible, responding toconsumer demand as accurately andas quickly as possible. They use technology (such as EPOS - ElectronicPoint of Sale) to gather this information and seek suppliers whocan respond to their needs. It is thesame in many other sectors such asthe food chain for example.
The main problems in clothingmanufacture include:● Strong traditions, for instance inthe culture of organisations, jobdesign, work organisation, and theway operators are paid; it is the samefor their suppliers● Unresponsive and inflexible production systems ● Fabric/cloth purchasing difficulties:due to the nature of the process thistakes at least two weeks to produceand often much longer.
Many companies, such as theSpanish group Inditex (who own theZara retail chain), reduced this problem by restricting the base fabrics their designers can use. Few retailers work like this and aretherefore faced with anythingbetween 4 and 12 week lead times,immediately restricting responsive-ness and flexibility. Bennetton werethe first to pioneer this flexibleapproach with their grey state garments that were dyed. Jaeger thenadopted the same approach.
The UK clothing and textiles supply chain has responded slowly to the changes demanded by retailers, especially in the fabric and clothing sectors. Domestic
manufacturers offered neither a costnor a responsiveness advantage toretailers. Not surprisingly, they tooktheir business overseas, and theindustry as a whole has suffered overthe last 15-20 years.● 1977 - 900,000 employees in thesector● 1999 - 130, 000 people employedin 4880 firms (average 27 people perfirm; small manufacturers servingniche, specialised markets).
Global sourcing in the clothingindustry brings cost advantages aslabour costs can be drasticallyreduced. In an industry that is still very labour intensive and withretailers squeezing margins, this isvery important. But lead times,responsiveness, and control cansometimes suffer as a consequence ofdistance.
The pressures in this dynamicmarketplace include:● Customers demanding more newfashions than ever before at lowerprices● More styles per season leads to fragmentation - more styles to control in smaller quantities● Smaller order quantities lead toincreased volume of orders● Small orders need smaller sewingteams, which leads to increased management and planning● Shorter lead times - commitmentto production takes place later eachseason● Changing customer requirements ● Demands for accurate order information.
Production Planning in theClothing Industry: Failing to Plan is Planning to FailPhilippa Collins and Sarah Glendinning,
Heriot-Watt University – School of Management and Languages
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As in any other industry, toremain competitive manufacturersneed to:● Deliver on time● Improve productivity● Respond quickly● Reduce WIP● Deliver to a price● Reduce excess costs such as overhead● Introduce best practices ● Achieve accurate and consistentinformation.
Fire-fighting is no longer anoption. Change is essential in order to survive, and good control is fundamental. Failing to plan results in bottlenecks, unnecessary stylechanges, lack of prioritisation, andunclear order status. The result is lossof customer confidence and loss offuture orders.
“The key word is value. Howcan a company create themost value for its customersand thus reap the profitgrowth needed to sustain thecompany?”
The solution is to install a systematic and detailed approach toproduction planning, but the textileindustry is notoriously traditional. Intoo many businesses, departmentsstill operate as functional ‘islands’.Managers may talk to each other but work is unco-ordinated and ineffective.
THE PLANNING PROCESS INCLOTHING MANUFACTURE
The basic process includes the following stages:1. Receive the order2. Plan to check if there is availablecapacity in sewing to achieve thedelivery date required3. Plan to check the available capacity in non-sewing areas (cut,embroidery; print, wash and pack)4. Plan to check sufficient lead timeto order and receive fabric, trims,approve sample, carry out lab tests5. Confirm delivery date to customerand reserve capacity6. Communicate plan to all departments
7. Monitor progress against plan8. Re-plan as required and return toPoint 5.
In an ideal world, this cycle wouldbe carried out in a systematic way. Noplan is ever perfect, but all that wehave learned about total quality management reminds us that we mustaim at the ideal rather than settle for‘Acceptable Quality Levels’ that havea built-in failure rate. Although thefirst priority is the customer deliverydate, the factory must also considerthe best place to make each product,taking into account both skill and machine constraints. Productionefficiency depends upon this. In the clothing industry, planning willtypically focus on sewing, as it canaccount for up to 80% of the skill andresources required. However, thecapacity constraints of supportingareas also have to be assessed. In particular, the pre-production eventsmust be planned to ensure that production begins on schedule.
In the clothing industry, most companies still work to standard minutes, which is the calculated ormeasured standard time to produce agarment. A basic calculation may beas follows:● 8 working hours per day = 480minutes● 10 operators per team● Capacity = 4800 minutes per day● Standard Minutes for T-shirt stylea = 12 std min @ 100% efficiency =4800/12 = 400 pieces per day
However, it may be necessary totake into account the skills and efficiency of different teams, or theability of a team to make differentproducts. For instance, if a team normally make woven garments, tochange to a knitted T-shirt means thatthey are less skilled at handling thatitem of clothing. If they can onlyachieve 75% efficiency, the output isonly 300 pieces per day. The impacton the production plan is huge.
Many readers will be used to volume manufacturing of widgets
and know about the steady automation of their industries. The clothing industry is still veryheavily dependent on human labour,despite increasing use of automatedprocesses. Add to this the whims ofthe fashion market, which cause constant style changes (equivalent tothe constant engineering changes thatmanufacturing engineers so hate),and you have huge difficulty inachieving efficiencies and optimisingoperator skills. If you can keep a teamof operators making the same type of product as long as possible, production loss is minimised.
The plan must also consider thespecialist support areas. Workingback from the sewing plan, it is necessary to calculate where the loading will impact resources. Theplan must then allow for post-sewingoperations such as garment washing(where relevant), otherwise thesewing plan will be acceptable butWIP builds up in the other areas.Critical path analysis is a vital tool inthis process – if the plan moves, somust the priorities.
COPING WITH PLANNING
Most business systems offer somecapacity planning, often limited torough cut capacity planning. Many ofthese systems are not graphical, arecomplex to use, and not user-friendly.Many use spreadsheets, which areoften well-applied but they have several drawbacks:● They are designed by one personand not transparent● They are not visual● They cannot be shared on a network and therefore limit co-ordination● They do not highlight problemsclearly● They are cumbersome and difficult to manage with large numbers of orders● They are very difficult to amendwhen customer requirements change.
These systems therefore do notgive answers quickly enough for the dynamic world of the fashionindustry. A system named Fast React
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designed to overcome these problemsis now used in over 25 countriesworld-wide. The case study describedhere demonstrates how the implementation of a comprehensiveplanning system can contribute toefficiency and productivity gains.
CASE STUDY: A MANUFACTURER OFLADIES WEAR FOR THE UKRETAIL SECTOR
The company, which produces ladieswear for a well-known high streetretailer, has 3 manufacturing sites in Scotland and 1 in Turkey. In Scotland they employ 450 direct staff and around 300 in-directs inmanagement, design, technical, cutting room, warehouse etc. InTurkey 125 operators and 45 in-directs are employed. The companyalso owns a UK clothing retail chainthat supplies low end of the market,factory seconds.
The continued success of thiscompany in this country (against thetrend) is largely due to the nature oftheir planning and control activities.These activities form the basis of avery flexible and responsive relation-ship with their main customer. Thesupply of a quality product goes without saying: you are not in the market without guaranteed quality. The company must also provide a quality service, facilitatedthrough their commitment to planning and control issues. It is the company’s service, responsive-ness and reliability that keeps them inbusiness. Together with the factory inTurkey, it has an ideal combination:● Turkey - for high work content,less fashionable garments, where leadtimes are not as crucial● Scotland - responsive and flexiblefactories for the more fashionable,quick turn around garment, smallorders.
In the early nineties the companyunderwent huge changes, respondingto the changing needs of their main
customer (to which they at that timesent about 70% of production), with 3other main customers. Now they onlysupply one customer. The changesincluded:● From flow line production to production cells, with team-workingand multi-skilling● JIT approach to inventory ● Strategic partnerships with fabric suppliers to gain shorter lead times ● Service orientation rather thanproduct orientation● Changed emphasis from volumeof output to accuracy of output.
These changes were facilitatedthrough increased emphasis on planning and control activities.Planning and buying activities havebeen merged and in 1997 FastreactPlanning Software was introduced.Lead times and margins had become even tighter, and the need forreally effective control became critical.
The Planning and Control activities at this company include:● Long term capacity planning, upto 18 months ahead● Short term detailed planning offactory units1. Planning of cutting room activities2. Planning of sewing room activities● Production Control● Inventory Control - raw materialpurchasing, finished goods; Call off etc.● Critical Path control.
The management structureincludes a Planning Executive (PE), Merchandising Executive, 4Factory Planners (one for each factory), and 2 Planner/Buyers ineach factory. Huge amounts of humanresource are devoted to planning and control activities - which isunusual in traditional manufacturingorganisations.
Duties of the Planning Executive
● Liaise with Customer andMerchandising Executive to establishrequirements for this season and next ● Agree delivery schedules● Respond when changes need to
be made as a result of changes in consumer demand● Allocate garments to appropriatefactories to achieve customer requirements (even though the PE islooking at planning at an aggregatedlevel and looks at every operator as2200 minutes per week, they mustconsider the skill levels in each factory)● Control of Critical Path.
Duties of the Factory Planner
● Take information from PE and loads factory appropriately,scheduling and sequencing work inline with delivery schedule● Work closely with FactoryManager to ensure production efficiency● Liase with main fabric suppliers toorder fabric.
Duties of Planner/Buyers (uniqueto this case)
● Detailed planning of work for eachline, using customer information-SMS (size management system) instore stock replenishment● Purchasing of unique fabrics andtrimmings● Loading of cutting room (which inturn dictates the work of the sewinglines)● Use MRP to schedule deliveriesand control inventory. Hold a maximum of 2 weeks stock, which islow for the clothing industry.● Production Control - ensure thatquantities booked into warehousematch cut quantities – the cuttingroom is where the statement of intentbecomes a reality.
● PLANNING EXECUTIVE: We needto make 1000 of style 9966 by the endof June. Which factory can do this?
● FACTORY PLANNER: We need tomake 250 of style 9966 each week,for 4 weeks. Which line will we use?
● PLANNER/BUYER: This week weneed to make 50 size 10s 100 size12s etc.Is the fabric in? Are all theother accessories in? When does thecutting room need work? Did every-thing we cut go into the warehouse?
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A typical apparel manufacturing planning board will look like the image above. All of the
essential information on loading, order delivery, pre-production issues, work in progress, efficiency etc.
are immediately visible to all security cleared users. A planner no longer needs to spend 50% of their time
answering queries from sales, purchasing, finance or buyers, the information is clear and accessible
USING FASTREACT TOFACILITATE PRODUCTION
The most extensive use of this soft-ware is at the level of the PlanningExecutive and Factory Planner, where supply and demand must bereconciled. The software facilitates:● Loading and scheduling of the factories appropriately to achieverequired customer delivery● Operator reconciliation● Financial reporting● Critical Path Management.
Each factory has a planning boardwhich when loaded with styles lookslike a very colourful Gantt chart,each colour giving the Planner important information (see Figure 1). Key features of the system include:● Transparency: it is a very visualsystem that makes it easy to see whatis going on, layout, colour● It ties a huge amount of information together
● It is very easy to explore ‘what ifs’with this software. By moving products around to see delivery consequences, the system supports asimulation process. Information andrequests from the merchandiser(directly from customer) can be easilyand quickly explored, and accurateanswers can be given to the customer,after having explored the optionsthrough the simulation.
Before the introduction of thistool, planning was done using ExcelSpreadsheets. This precluded theintegration of information. The factory plan was separate both from the financial plan and from the operator reconciliation. Makingchanges and exploring ‘what if’ scenarios was a lengthy and compli-cated business. At the time, orderswere larger, returns in general werehigher, changes were less frequent,but this is certainly not the case now.A new system was essential to copewith the changes in the business.
It is very easy to make extravagantpromises to customers, but at the endof the day the business still has tomake a profit. To ensure customersatisfaction it is essential to know theimplications of bringing productionforward, stepping up production,slowing down lines and so on. If thesimulation has been carried out, thecustomer can be given a confidentanswer.
SETTING UP THE SYSTEM
To set up production, certain information must be entered:1. Product reference2. Order reference3. Order quantity4. Delivery schedule required by customer- dozen garments per week5. Selling price per dozen6. Cost per dozen7. Return per dozen8. Work content- standard hours perdozen.
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This order then appears in a loadlist (an order book) listing the orderreference and the quantity to beloaded onto the plan. The order canthen be lifted from the load list and placed appropriately onto the planning board. This board is set outas per the factory ie. line 1, 2, 3 etc.,with the number of operators on eachline specified. As the order is droppedonto the board, the system works outautomatically the rate of production,based on the information already inthe system. The strip will then turn acertain colour, giving the Plannerinformation about the implications of their actions. If the strip colour isgrey, no delivery problems are forecast. The colour changes asappropriate indicating potential lateand very late schedules. The displayon the board can be changed, andinstead of delivery information beingrelayed via colour, it can be productinformation, or customer informationfor example.
Once the board is loaded up completely, an operator reconciliationis completed, showing how manyoperators are available against thenumber needed to complete the plan.A plan can then be printed, whichprovides the work instructions.Responsibility then devolves to the factory manager and the planner/buyer to ensure the plan isachieved.
The factory works until 11:30 on aFriday, at which time all productionstops and a weekly total is calculatedfor each line and style. This information is then used to update theplanning system. The strip size willthen be reduced to take account of the previous week’s production andthe whole process then starts again,responding to the ever changing customer demands.
MANAGEMENT OF THE CRITICAL PATH
Before a garment can go onto a production line, there is an enormousamount of pre-production activitythat must take place. This is some-times dictated by the customers’ way
of working, or by common sense andgood practice.
Each activity or event is allocatedto a responsible person. Only keyevents - things that must happenbefore a garment can go into production – are included. For example:● Label Information- unique productnumbers used to control productsthroughout the whole client system● Quality Seals from customer(standards- aesthetics, fit, durabilityetc)● Wearer trials● Fabric approved- colour, print etc.
Each week the Planning Executiveproduces a ‘to do list’ for eachresponsible executive. This list relatesexactly to where the order is on theplanning board. If the order movesforward or backward, so too do thedates on the Critical Path. The anchordate is the production start date.
The first event might need to takeplace 4 weeks before the productionstart date. If the production start dateis pulled forward for whatever reason,the system automatically highlightsthe potential problem. The PlanningExecutive is then required to make adecision to● postpone the start date● pull strings● rush the pre-production processalong!
The difference now is, that themanagers know what the decision has been. Instead of getting the production line set up; the operatorstrained; the fabric in; before findingthat the label information is unavailable for the next 2 weeks, thistotal waste of effort can now be avoided. Each week the responsibleexecutive returns the list to thePlanning Executive who inputs thecompleted events on the system. Thischanges the status of the order on theplanning board.
Only the fittest and leanest operationsin this country will survive. If you arestill mass manufacturing clothing inthe UK, then you are doing so:
● Efficiently● Cost effectively● Responsively● Flexibly● With a huge amount of effort on Planning and Control.
The new software system contributed enormously to this particular company’s success by integrating essential information.However, it must be combined withthe very real understanding the planners have of the organisation’sobjectives and the customers’ requirements. It is this combination,together with a willingness to change,that has helped them to survive.
 Chase R, Jacobs F & Aquilano N, “Operations Management forCompetitive Advantage”, (10th Edt.)McGraw-Hill, 2004.  Copies of the slide are availablefrom the authors.
About the authors
Philippa Collins PhD is aSenior Lecturer, School ofManagement and Languages atHeriot-Watt University. Herresearch focuses on the impactof technology on managementand working practices, with special reference to virtualorganisations. She publishesregularly, including Virtual andNetworked Organisations .Sarah Glendinning MA(Hons), MSc currently lectureson operations management andtextile marketing in the Schoolof Management and Languages,Heriot-Watt University. Beforethis she worked as a ProductionPlanner and Buyer in the apparelmanufacturing industry for 4 years, after one year in the electronics industry. Sarah iscurrently undertaking aPostgraduate Certificate inAcademic Practice, and is in the initial stages of researching thefashion retailing supply chain.
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