Critical Operations in Garment Production

The term 'critical operation' is often used by quality personnel, line supervisors, technical personnel, and industrial engineers in garment factories. 

A critical operation is an operation where the factory needs to take extra care than the rest of the operations of a style for various reasons.

Normally factories give more attention to an operation in the following ways
  • 100% checking of garments and garment components - all garments must be checked at a particular workstation
  • employ an experienced and skilled worker  
  • design workstation where least skill is required from an operator to make quality and quantity- like the use of guides and attachment to avoid defect generation and maintaining minimum production target

The term ‘Critical operations’ is commonly used as follows -

  • Quality checkpoints (inline quality checking station) are planned at critical operations to check all garment components (half-stitched) prior to moving them to the next operation.
  • Machine and manpower requirement calculation for critical operations
  • The production target for the critical operations and
  • Maintaining WIP level at critical operations

Now the question is that ‘how to know the potential critical operations in advance in respect to quality and production’? Critical operations in a garment for quality aspects and production aspects may differ.

In this article, I will show you the common criteria to recognize critical operations in a style. Based on that you can make an action plan in advance to avoid quality issues and production delays.

Critical operations: Quality point of view

When one looks for critical operations in a garment from a product quality point of view, he/she should look for
  • Defective prone operations: Kind of operations where defects frequently occur (maybe due to machine type) in a certain part of the garment. In such operations plan for better equipment and machine. 
  • Operation prior to sub-assembly and assembly starts: To avoid excess rework and alteration, it is advised that always set a checkpoint at the end operations of the part section. 
  • Operations in a critical zone of the garment - like chest pocket attaching, Zipper fly j-stitch, collar top stitch, etc.
  • Sewing on bias cut - length of the seam gets stretched when operator sews bias-cut panels. Like sewing neckline and armhole.  

Critical operations: Production point of view

When operations are looked into production point of view, the following operations are considered as a critical operation -
  • an operation with higher work content compared to other operations. These operations are potential bottlenecks in case multiple workstations are not set in a line. Output at bottleneck operations needs to speed up for the smooth flow of work in the line. 
  • an operation that is difficult to handle without a guide and attachments. When the operator sews more than two plies, add gather allowing differential feeding to plies by hand are critical operations.
  • The curve shape of the seam line, like set armhole, bottom hemming of curved hem.
  • an operation that is made by a special machine and difficult for alteration. 

I hope now you can easily identify a critical operation of a style.

You may be using different criteria to define a critical operation. What are those? 
In your factory, which all operations are considered critical operations and why?

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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