4 Killer Non-Productive Measures in Garment Manufacturing

In an earlier post, I had shown the efficiency levels of major apparel manufacturing clusters in India and you have observed that factory efficiency range remains between 30-45%.

Low skilled operators are one reason for lower line efficiency. 

But this is not the main reason for such low performance. Major reasons are non-productive activities occurred during production hours. Most of the garment manufacturing factories don’t capture off-standard and non-productive time (NPT). So they are not aware of how much efficiency are lost due to NPT.

I got a chance to study and analyze of non-productive times in six garment manufacturing factories in North India. All factories were medium-size factories. Each factory track operator’s non-productive time under 8-15 listed off standard categories. Factories tracked non-productive time using RFID based shop floor production tracking system, which ensures that most of the non-productive time had been captured.

Out of 15 non-productive measures considering all six factories, there are 4 top Non-Productive measures in garment production that lower line efficiency.

  1. Waiting for work,
  2. Cutting not available for loading,
  3. Alteration and repair work in the production line and
  4. Line setting

I call these non-productive measures ‘Efficiency Killers’. Possible reasons for high lost time are explained below.


Related article: Why Measure Non-Productive Time?


 1. Waiting for work:

It means in a line, operators sit idle due to no feeding from previous operators.  

Possible reasons: 
  • Poor line balancing, operator absenteeism, quality issues. 
  • It is also observed that due to non-approval of trims makes the operator wait for a long time.

2. Cutting not available:

All operators may sit idle or few operators at the back of the production line may sit idle for the feeding next cutting.  

Possible reasons: Insufficient fabric to cut and no cutting inventory in the cutting department to load. Pending fabric approval to cut, delay in cutting, less cutting capacity, or poor cutting plan. 

3. Alteration or Repair work:

When required stitch quality is not made for the first time, garment parts need to open and stitch it again. This task is called repair work or alteration.

Possible reasons: 
  • The operator stitched a defective seam and garment has been given back to him for alteration. 
  • Shade variation in a different component of the same garment and need to change parts, 
  • Operators are sitting idle due to no feeding, so they are given to do repair work for other style or alteration for the same style, 
  • Quality checkpoints are not available or insufficient quality checkers in a line 

4. Line setting:

Possible Reasons:
  • Frequent change of styles due to small order run increase efficiency losses. It is observed that 4-7 styles are loaded in a month to a line. 
  • Due to shipment pressure or poor planning, sometimes line supervisors need to stop line without finishing the current style and a new style is loaded without prior planning and resources. These cause a major loss of standard time. 
  • Factories run a single style to all lines on the floor and end style in all lines on the same day. In this situation, the line setting happened at the same time which needs extra setting time than normal line setting 
  • Inadequate fabric for the style – lines need to stop and another style is loaded until the fabric is sourced and cut. 
Line setting time can be reduced by better planning and line supervisors and engineers work proactively.


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