7 Wastes of Lean in Garment Manufacturing

One prime objective of industrial engineering is to increase productivity by eliminating waste and non-value adding operations from the manufacturing process. So it is essential to know the wastes and non-value adding functions that exist in garment manufacturing.

There are many articles published on lean manufacturing and 7 wastes related to lean manufacturing that mostly showcased example of other industries. Cases of 7 wastes in the garment industry are rare on the web. Maybe that’s why I have been asked many times to write a brief note on this topic. In this article, I have explained 7 forms of wastes of Lean with examples related to garment manufacturing.

In lean manufacturing, we focus on increasing time on value-added activities by reducing or eliminating wastes (non-value adding time). Let see what value-added activities mean.

Value-added activities: 

Value-added activities are those activities that transform or change the form of the material. Rests of the activities those add cost but not value to the product are called as non-value added activities. In garment manufacturing there are some activities those don't add value but necessary. Transportation of cuttings (bundles) to sewing department is such example of non-value added but essential task.

7 wastes of  lean manufacturing:

7 types of wastes  and non-value adding activities are as following. 

T – Transportation
I – Excess Inventory
M – Excess Motion
W – Waiting
O – Over production
O – Over processing
D – Defects

To make it easy to remember 7 wastes, memorize the word TIMWOOD with initials of 7 wastes. In the following, 7 wastes are explained briefly with examples of garment industry activities.

1. Transportation 

When work is transferred from one place to another is a non-value added activity. Moving cuttings from cutting department to sewing lines, transporting stitched garments from sewing floor to finishing department, Moving garment bundles in the line using center table or trolley. Where transportation can’t be eliminated, think how transportation time can be reduced. By using overhead transportation rail in sewing lines, transportation of bundles or single pieces can be automated.

2. Excess inventory

Inventories of a factory represents those items which are either in the process of manufacturing or idle resources (material) of a factory or materials in stock. And excess inventory means keeping or generating inventory for the following process more than the demand of the following process.

Excess inventory is found in fabric and trim stores, cutting racks, finishing trolleys. Excess inventories are wastes for the factory, as per lean philosophy. Inventory is money. When inventory piled up in stores and on floors, you are blocking your money and are blocking your working space. Even in a sewing line excess work-in-process (WIP) are considered as excess inventory.

3. Excess motion

In workstations where operators sew garments, press-men press garments, workers finish and pack garments, excess motions exits there. Excess motion at workstations is found due to poor training of workers in working methods and habit of working in traditional ways. In the factories where there are engineering department to designs workstation layout, operators may use excess motion due to poor workstation layout.

4. Waiting

This waste is defined as people or things waiting around for the next action. This term has been discussed in an earlier published article as one of the non-productive times in production.

In garment factory, waiting as waste is found in all processes. Like, sewing operators wait for cuttings (no feeding), supervisors waits for final instruction and go ahead for quality approvals. Merchandisers wait for buyer approvals. Waiting is a visible waste in manufacturing as operators and other employees produce nothing while they wait for work or due to other reasons. Few other examples of such waste are – delay in sourcing materials, cutting delays due to fabric approvals and consumption approval.

5. Over Production 

This waste can be simply defined as doing or making things those are not required now. Over production generate excess inventory. In the garment factories, over production is found in cutting department and in sewing operations. For example, if daily production demand from sewing is 5000 pieces, and factory makes/cuts more than that that quantity (demand), factory is producing excess units of garments than needed by the following process for the day (finishing). Over-production cause imbalance in work in process (WIP).

6. Over processing 

This waste can be defined as doing task or adding features to the product those are not requirement from the customer. In garment construction, some operations may not be essential to give the final look and construction. Example: Multiple checking in finishing (initial checking, pre-final checking and final checking).

7. Defects 

Producing defects while making garments are waste of money and effort. As everyone in the factory are aware that no defective garment can be shipped then why to produce defective pieces? Defects in garment manufacturing are like shade variation, wrong cutting, stitching defective garment etc. In case defective garments are made, factory needs to alter and repair those defective garments before handing over to the buyer. Repair work costs money and time. In lean manufacturing factories aim to produce garments right first time. For different types of defects found in garments read this article.

There are various wastes exits in garment factory. I would love to hear from you on 7 wastes and example of such wastes that you have dealt in your work areas.

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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