How to Improve Line Efficiency in a Piece Rate Factory?

How we can increase the efficiency in piece-rate basis factory? ... asked by Shaila

Most of us believe that piece-rate operators are most efficient in sewing. As machine operators are paid based on the quantity they would produce, they will put maximum effort into their work. Hence one can expect the best efficiency of the factory having piece-rate operators. But this is not always true. Forget about the operator’s maximum effort to produce standard hours (SAH) for a moment. And think on other factors those have a direct effect on the line efficiency.

Sewing line

Line efficiency depends on a couple of factors than only operators’ efforts. Here are few of those parameters -
  • Skill level of the operators
  • Line balancing 
  • Worker motivation
So to improve the line efficiency (or individual operator efficiency) you can work on the above points

# 1. Skill Training for low performing operators 

Work on training your operators. Use the following method to improve the operator's skill level.
  1.  Measure the operator’s individual efficiency 
  2. Make a list of low performing operators (i.e. operators working at less 50% efficiency). 
  3. Observe your operators while they are working and study their method of performing jobs and movements.
  4. Check what are the unnecessary motions/movements you found operators are using at the time of sewing. 
  5. Train them correct motions and give them time to practice. 
Once you improve the operator’s sewing skills you will see improvement in line efficiency. If you don't know how to train sewing skills to your operators you can hire an expert.

Here I would like to share Paul’s story on skill improvement for low performing experienced operators. This story will explain to you that through training you can bring a lot of improvement operators earning and line performance.

“Paul Collyer was working as a trainer in a garment factory, in the UK. He trained a girl on how to train operators and build sewing skills. Once she was trained completely, Paul sent her to the sewing floor to find out low performing operators and improve their sewing skills through training.
In that factory, most of the sewing operators were working for many years. So they were experienced in their job. Operators were paid based on the number of pieces they were producing. The factory was running a piece-rate system.
As instructed by Paul, the young lady went to every operator and studied the operator’s performance. She set a method to train low performing operators. When she spoke to experienced operators for the training, they ignored her. Few so-called experienced operators used to tell her that they are working for 15 years and they know better than her. They were in the age of her mother. They don’t need to learn anything, at least from the young trainer. The young lady became upset and reported back to Paul. Paul knew this would happen. He told the young lady, “don’t worry, go to operators who have recently joined and improved their skills”. She did the same.

After several weeks of training, newcomers started earning more than the experienced operators. Experienced operators were not able to earn as much as newcomers were earning with their full effort. All the experienced operators got surprised and they acknowledged the benefit of skill training.

All experienced operators who earlier ignored for skill training met Paul and requested him to send the young trainer to train them better skills so that they can also earn more money.”

I hope now you understand the power of training. There is always scope for improvement. The same way you can improve your line efficiency in your piece rate factory.

Related post: Systematic training program for sewing operators

#2. Work equalization or balancing of the line.

To produce more pieces, operators must have feeding full time so that they can continuously run their machine. In piece rate factory you may have unbalanced WIP. Work on improving line balancing to improve line efficiency. Read my earlier post on line balancing - How to Balance a Traditional Sewing line?

#3. Performance Incentive

In piece rate production system it is considered that operators are self-motivated in term of their earnings. But sometimes operators do not know their hidden skills and capability of earning more that the current earnings. Implement performance-based incentive for piece-rate employees also in combination with skill training. You can set differential piece rates for a different level of individual operator efficiency. You can also link performance-based incentive based on line efficiency instead of individual operator efficiency.

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