Production Process Flow of a Sportswear Manufacturing Company

When I associate an apparel product with sportswear brands, I feel something special in that garment. So I was very much excited to see a sportswear manufacturing company. Fortunately, I got a chance to visit one that makes garments for sportswear brands such as Adidas, Reebok, Nike and Puma to name a few. Product range includes Crewneck Tee, Polo, Sweatshirt, Fleece Jacket, Pants etc.

Sportswear Brands
From the discussion with a production head, I learned a lot of about production processes, product details, and production process flow. The manager also emphasizes whatever recent changes they had done to improve factory performance in terms of labour productivity.

Most of the orders do not require garment washing.

The production system of the factory is really very good. They set sewing lines such a way that finishing tasks such as pressing, packing, tagging and carton making is done in the line. This line is called assembly line with online finishing. They don’t have separate finishing department. Each floor have department from cutting to packing of goods.

I had worked more than two years in knits factory. I found that production processes of this factory are almost similar to other knits factories. However, it will be very interesting to know - why sportswear manufacturing companies are different? How sportswear manufacturers make its goods and supplies to Brands?

Production process flow 

Factory starts working on an order after order is confirmed. In the following production processes are listed and explained.

#1. Fabric Sourcing

Factory sources fabrics from buyer recommended fabric suppliers. This way they able to maintain the quality level of the fabrics. The fabric is sourced and stored in the fabric store in racks. Fabric inspection is done prior to issue fabric to cutting department.

#2. Trims Sourcing

Factory sources trims and accessories based on requirement and stored in Trim store room. Trims are kept buyer wise. For inventory management factory uses bin card. Each bin card contains details of trims, available inventory stocks.

#3. PP Sample Development

The pre-production sample is made in the production line and is sent to the customer for approval. Factory makes PP sample in production line instead of sampling department, where most companies make PP sample from sampling department.

#4. PP Meeting:

PP meeting is held after approval of PP sample. In PP meeting it is discussed that how an order factory will process.

#5. Cut panel laundry (CPL) 

This process is carried out to improve the dimensional stability of the knitted fabric, such as fabric shrinkage and torque or twisting that may happen after garment wash. All fabrics do not require to CPL process. Factory does fabric shrinkage test and spirality test in in-house lab. Based on the lab test, they decide whether to do CPL or not.

#6. Cutting

Factory uses CAD marker for marker making. Factory initially cut one lay for production pilot run. Once Pilot production run is approved by customer representative they go for bulk cutting.

Based on style requirement, cutting of garment component are done two ways such as fixed cutting and block cutting. Factory uses computerized cutting machine, straight knife machine and band knife cutting machine.

Fixed cutting – In case excess fabric at seam lines does not required for following processes such as printing and embroidery fixed cutting is done.

Block cutting is done for printing and embroidery process for some designs. In some cases, block cutting is required for few component and rest components are cut fixed shape in same lays.

All components are numbered with sticker or marker and stored. Numbering is done to ensure that garment components are attached from same layer and size.

#7. Cutting Audit

Auditing is done for cut components as well as bundles.

#8. Printing and Embroidery

Cut panels are sent for printing and embroidery. Based on Product design different panels of same garment may be required to process through different process at the same time. In case, one or two components are sent for these processes other components are kept in layers in racks with proper Layer tag.

#9. Print and embroidery Checking

Printed and Embroidery panels are checked for print and embroidery quality and stored for sorting based on the sequence number of each layer.

#10. Re-cutting

Re-cutting is done for block panels after printing or embroidery process to shape components. Re-cutting is done in single panel or couple of panels.

#11. Super market

Numbering and bundling of cut components are done and bundles are kept on trolleys. Trolleys are placed in a supermarket, a place where all trolleys are kept and marked line number to which line a trolley to be sent.

#12. Loading

Factory has multiple lines in a floor and lines are designed (machine layout) product specific. Trolleys with cutting are loaded to the line as per plan.

#13. Sewing

Line supervisors and Industrial Engineers do line setting based on line layout prepared by IE. First operator in the line picked up bundle or lay from the trolley depending on operation. Bundles are moved from one operator to another after completion of operations. One important point I want to mention here that factory does not have extra manpower for thread cutting. So, thread cutting is done by sewing operators.

#14. Paper Transfer Printing

Most of the orders required a Brand logo. Instead of screen printing factory prefers transfer printing method for logo printing and this transfer printing is done in the line.

#15. Roaming Quality Inspection

A roaming QC checks sewing quality at all workstations following traffic light inspection system. Roaming QC ensures that each operators produce quality garment.

#16. Table Inspection or End of Line Inspection

At the end of sewing operations one check point is kept to check stitched garments prior to moving next process. 100% garments are checked at this check point. Checker trims loose/uncut threads found in garments.

#17. Pressing 

As mentioned earlier most of the orders do not required washing process and thread cutting, checked garments are directly moved to pressing table. Garments pressed using steam iron.

#18. Folding, Tagging and Packing 

Pressed garments are folded with tissue paper and tagged with customer instructed tags. Tangs may include Hang tag, Price tag and special care instruction tag. Tagged garments are packed into poly bags.

#19. Making Cartons

Tagged and individually packed garments are sorted size and color wise. Factory uses customer specified cartons (dimension) for packing garments as per specified size ratio. Customer may ask for single size packing or single color packing or mix size single color or mix size mix color packing.

#20. CTPAT Area

Packed and marked cartons are stored in CTPAT area for final inspection.

Prasanta Sarkar

Prasanta Sarkar is a textile engineer and a postgraduate in fashion technology from NIFT, New Delhi, India. He has authored 6 books in the field of garment manufacturing technology, garment business setup, and industrial engineering. He loves writing how-to guide articles in the fashion industry niche. He has been working in the apparel manufacturing industry since 2006. He has visited garment factories in many countries and implemented process improvement projects in numerous garment units in different continents including Asia, Europe, and South Africa. He is the founder and editor of the Online Clothing Study Blog.

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