Management jargons are ever evolving to catch the attention of implementers. Production management, general management and systems management are again in focus with numerous approaches towards improving the bottom line.
Lean — Sigma is the flavour of the season and the article Six Sigma – Getting it Right the First Time (February 2009) by Rakhi Handa, provides an insight into the Six Sigma philosophies and its implications. Rakhi explained the concept through various case studies which showed how this seemingly impossible concept could be fruitful for the garment industry. She emphasized that Six Sigma focuses on the voice of the customer and the information shared by the customer helped conclude that 4-5 major defects were causing 70% of the problems in one of the factories. It is also an acknowledged fact that without the Management’s complete support, total dedication and commitment, identification and reduction of these defects could not have been possible. To get a clear picture of where a factory stands at present, Process Capability CpK can be implemented. This can be used for comparison in the future, once process improvements have been implemented. It can also be used to compare any two organizations from any two industries, irrespective of what they manufacture using a performance indicator which is objective and measurable. In another article on Lean Philosophy, What is Lean (October 2009) by Charles Dagher, summarizes the various tools including Kaizen, Poka yoke, One-point flow, 5S and highlighted the important concepts to improve operation efficiency and productivity.
The key issue in Lean thinking is the focus on value-adding activities, and eliminating any additional costs that do not add any value to the product. This means transforming the factory’s environment and work practices to zero waste by focussing on the product, not the process. He opined that since, business cost, selling price and profit are three important parameters for any business, cost is the only parameter which can be lowered, rest all are fixed. Thus, Lean is the way forward. The write up was followed by explanation of Lean Toolkit by Gopal Bharti and Shan Abdur Rahman in Go Lean – Understand and Adopt its Philosophy! (October 2009), who as a part of their Graduation project at NIFT, developed a set of simple games and gimmicks to explain this growing concept to a layman. It is ultimately the managers who gets the work done and thus they have to understand the principles. It is important that they believe in the philosophy before implementing “Lean”. It has to be embedded in their mindset and this necessitates the importance of a Lean Toolkit for the management. A total of 5 games focusing on different Lean principles Poka yoke, Kaizen, 5S, were developed, which when demonstrated could easily help understand the importance of the Lean philosophy. This Lean Toolkit can be used to hold seminars or workshops for creating management awareness about Lean.
The critical factors in Lean implementation is senior managements commitment and the proper orientation and planning which involves taking a look at the various processes and mapping them. Besides these various other do’s and don’ts while implementing the Lean were also underlined in Lessons for Lean Implementation, (December 2009) by Paul Bowes. Trying to do too much too soon, poor training of employees, believing that we know all about Lean, internal politics, etc. are some of the bottlenecks in the continuation of Lean concept in the company.
What do you have? Quality Control (QC), Quality Assurance (QA), Quality Management (QM)? Or None of the Above! (February 2009) by Pradip V Mehta, discussed the concepts of QC, QA and QM. QC simply means controlling operations or processes in a manufacturing or service environment so that the quality requirements for a product or service will be met. Therefore, quality control measures are operational techniques implemented to control operations or processes. ‘Quality assurance’ means assuring through planned and systematic activities that quality requirements for a product or service will be met. ISO defines quality assurance as “all planned and systematic activities implemented within quality system that can be demonstrated to provide confidence that a product or service will fulfil requirements for quality.”
Quality assurance builds on quality control by activities such as developing specifications and performance standards, performing QC activities, addressing customer complaints, etc. Quality assurance typically does not address quality improvement. As the name suggests, under quality assurance, the emphasis is on assurance that the quality requirements will be met, while Quality Management is “coordinated activities to direct and control an organization with regard to quality.”
Direction with regard to quality generally includes establishment of quality policy and quality objectives, quality planning, quality control, quality assurance and quality improvement. Quality policies of Shahi Exports, Gokal Das Images, Network Clothing Company and Page Garment Exports were analyzed which revealed that a combined implementation of these three concepts led to development of standards and helped to track and resolve the problem at the source itself to reduce alteration/rejection to improve quality and save time. Paul Collyer discussed in his article Optimizing efficiency in Circular Knitting: Managing and Measuring the (In)Efficiencies (April 2009), the method to measure the work content of the circular knitting operation as it consists of a major chunk of production activity in any vertically integrated cut-and-sew knitwear factory. There are two types of processes in the circular knitting operation – predictable processes which can be measured by time study for example, fetching materials, performing end of operation activities and monitoring machines and unpredictable processes which are known to occur during the machine cycle but it is not known how many such operations will happen during a cycle for example, replacing needles, cones and mending broken threads. Using both these processes the load factor of the operator is calculated which is used to get the work content of the process.
Sewing hogs the limelight whether it is technology or implementation of management philosophy, managing, measuring and implementing best practices but these practices are equally important for feeder department. Factories cannot gain an advantage over their competitors by the use of technology alone; the same equipment is available to everyone. The purchase of material cannot give a competitive edge, particularly as many retailers now insist on materials being purchased from a limited number of approved suppliers. So, what is left to do is to examine the manufacturing costs, i.e. labour cost (standard hours) and the control of overheads as this is the only point at which performances of different manufacturers can be compared. To do that Improving Sewing Production by Methods Improvement (August 2008) and It Is Time To Go “Back To The Basics” – ‘Ask Yourself’ (July 2009) by Paul Collyer, suggests operators must be involved in designing the methods as well as the work movement and material handling to achieve cost reduction. The company should ask itself few questions on People, Training, Lost output and Quality to know where it stands. Savings can be made without the need for major capital outlay by utilizing existing staff in a controlled action plan and initiative. The only financial outlay may be in small work station improvements and if thought necessary specialist outside assistance to train and guide company personnel.
Optimising Results Using Efficient Systems, Workstations – A Case Study of Classic Pants Factory in Germany (November 2009), exemplified that the best machines are no guarantee of the best productivity. It’s not what you do, but how you do it. Peter Pinder Browne, a Consultant for KSA for 12 years and now offering his own consulting services to the apparel industry reliving his experience wherein by simply using of trolleys for bundle movement, welder’s clamp for the overhead hanging system, raising the workstations on podiums and by methods improvement reduced the work content of trouser from 35.6 to 29 minutes.
Assembly Line vs. Modular Manufacturing – A Comparison on Reality Grounds (November 2009) by Manoj Tiwari, compared assembly line and modular manufacturing system based on machine usage vs. machine cost, consistency in the sewn product quality level, consistency in daily production, space utilization and operator’s mentality. It was concluded that machine utilization is better in assembly line manufacturing, while the quality costs is low as the sewing team/module takes care of the quality. Also compensating for an absent operator is easy in assembly line compared to the modular manufacturing system, though operator mentality is more productive in modular manufacturing.