7 Things You Need to Balance a Stitching Line

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Every garment factory is unique. They follow some kind of systems for managing shop floor production. Line balancing is one of such tools. Traditionally line balancing is done once at the time of line setting, based on historical data. Now factories have sophisticated system to capture production data from every workstation in the sewing line as well as floor on real time (e.g. INA system, Bluecherry).

Real time data means getting production information as soon as production happens. When you find imbalance in line, you can take action immediately to balance the line by having following 7 things.

You might already know about the need of balancing a sewing line. In the book 'The Goal: A Process of ongoing improvement', author E. M. Goldratt explained the need of work leveling across the processes.

In an assembly line garments are made in series of workstations. Even in single piece production system, work load balancing between operators in a line is essential to produce maximum standard time.

Line balancing is one of many ways used to improve productivity of the line. Line supervisors and industrial engineers can take advantage of improving their performance by doing line balancing.

These 7 things will help you balancing your line and making maximum garments in a day.

1. An operation bulletin: List of operations, machine type for each operation and operation wise production capacity based on operation SAM. An OB tells how you planned, what all operations are running in the line and how much you can expect from the line from the historical data.

2. Hourly target for all operations: Hourly target is part of the OB. Many engineers calculate hourly production in the OB based on SAM and allocated number of machines.

3. Hourly production report: Operation wise production at any point of time or at least Hourly Production Report of the line output operation. From this report you can get information about operation wise WIP and inventory in the line. From hourly report you can compare the production target and actual production.

4. Real time production of 5 to 10 operations: 99% factories don’t have system to capture real time production data for all sewing operations in a line. So how do you balance your line real time? To balance the line, practically you don’t need real time data for all operations but critical operations. You know in a style what operations are critical and which operations are potential bottlenecks in a line. Pick those bottleneck operations and capture real time production of those operations.

5. Capacity study and Pitch diagram: A graph is better than data in table. Prepare a template for pitch diagram for capacity study data, in which you can enter operation wise production capacity and get the chart quickly. See picks and valleys on the chart. This chart will show you bottleneck operations and operations with higher capacity. Now you have to prepare plan for balancing the line.

6. Skill history of operators working in the line: Do you have skill history of your operators? The skill history (skill matrix) data helps find right operator for the specific job/operations. While you do line balancing, you may need to reallocate operators between operations. You can do that if you have correct information about employees’ skills in handling sewing machines and their performance in different machines (or different operations).

Also see: How to do line balancing using operator skill history?

7. Floaters: A floater is a multi-skilled operator and can run different types of sewing machine. The concept of keeping floaters, additional sewing operators than the calculated requirement for making the style, is a good practice. When you found one of your sewing operators is absent, you allocate a floater to his/her place. In case there is no absenteeism, still you can utilize these floaters, where you have bottleneck in the line.

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Online Clothing Study: 7 Things You Need to Balance a Stitching Line
7 Things You Need to Balance a Stitching Line
Tools used for doing line balancing in garment factory.
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