My Trip to a Garment Manufacturing Factory in Turkey

Last month I had a business trip to Turkey. I visited Turkey to implement our Shop Floor Control system in a garment manufacturing unit and to train the factory team. The system is an RFID based shop floor production control system.

My purpose of sharing this trip story with you is just for sharing knowledge and information. I am not going to disclose any confidential information of the visited company.

I regularly used to visit garment manufacturing factories in India. This time it was in a different country. So, I was excited about this trip to see things how garment factories work in that country. You might have a similar question in your mind.

You will surely find some interesting information that might be useful and can be implemented in your factory. Keep reading.

The garment factory I had visited is located far away from Istanbul, the capital city of Turkey. The factory is located near a small city. I loved the surroundings of the factory. There is the highway on one side and a hill on another side.

Outside of the Factory

On the shop floor, I faced one problem - they speak in the Turkish language. I didn't understand their language and they didn't understand my language (English). Only a few people speak English in the factory. The engineer helped me in language translation of their questions and my instructions to line supervisors and sewing operators. For official communication, they use Turkish, not English like us. All warning and safety signage are written in the Turkish language.

Do they work differently? No. They work the same way Indian garment factories work. In some areas, they are good compared to the factories I have visited before.

Possibly, you might have seen many garment factories having a similar process, but you will find some new piece of information. I will show you how they manufacture garments.

This is a new setup and things they do and the process they follow is good and effective. Unlike traditional mass garment manufacturing factories, they don't have different sections for garment finishing. They do garment finishing on the production line.

The factory manufactures knits tops and bottoms including various designs of t-shirts and leggings. It is only a production house having CAD department, plotters, sampling section, fabric store, cutting section (central cutting), stitching, finishing, and packing sections. Factory has two floors - basement and ground floor.

Let’s look at the workflow and their working procedures. Company’s central cutting room and fabric store is in this factory. They source fabrics for this factory as well as for the job-work factories. They inspect fabric using fabric inspection machine. They inspect a certain percentage of total fabrics.

As per the production plan, they issue fabrics to cutting department. Their CAD department prepares marker plan and keeps ready for cutting. They have auto spreaders and automatic cutting machine (Lectra). Fabric spreading is done using auto spreaders. They also spread fabrics manually. Cutting is done using the auto cutting machine (CNC cutting machine).

Their products (styles /models) require fabric stripes for neck binding and neck piping. They have one machine for piping cutting (making rolls for binding stripes). I have seen this machine first time in this factory.
Piping cutting machine

In India, most knits garment manufacturers use manual, or automated rib cutting machine which cut one fabric roll at a time. The production capacity of this kind of machines is very less. When I was working in a garment factory in 2006, we used to send knits fabric to a vendor for cutting fabric rolls for piping, and binding strips.

Like other garment manufacturers, they follow the process of layer numbering, sorting of components, and bundling. The cutting and sorting section keep records of all lays following original marker plan. In the ply numbering sticker, they use different code numbers for different garment size. So, looking at the sticker and reading that code bundling people, line supervisors and stitching operators can identify the size of any garment component. Bundle stickers help the operator to match different garment component of the same size. Another purpose of ply numbering is to avoid stitching garment component of two different fabric lots which may cause shade variation in a garment.

After ply numbering (layer numbering) cuttings are transferred to bundling section. Bundling department prepares bundles. While they make bundles, they check cut panels. They remove defective panels from the bundle. Sometimes they match front and back components for t-shirts and left and right legs for bottoms and make one stack of garment panels. This process helps operators to avoid matching front and back panels.

Their standard bundle size is 20 pieces per bundle. They store bundles in trolleys. They mark the trolley by cut number (lay number), garment size and quantity of cuttings. Bundling section issue trims and accessories with the cuttings bundles. Trims and accessories include size label, care label, main labels, elastic, price tags and hang tags.

Production planning team plans which style and lay to be loaded in which line. As per loading plan trolleys are send to stitching floor and loaded to the defined lines. They maintain a job card with the trolley. The job card records quantity of cuttings, styles, PO details and when the bundle is getting ready. When a line supervisor receives the trolley, they record time and date when they have received the trolley with cuttings.

Cuttings those will be sent to job-work (to a CMT manufacturer), are bundled and packed into poly bags. One polybag contains all components of a garment. Polybags are labeled with the style number (model number), job order number, color, size, quantity and other necessary information. These poly bags are loaded into plastic crates and crates are placed in pallets.

All the stitching lines are set-up as lean production lines having inline finishing and packing section. Finishing section includes an end-of-line garment quality checking workstation, pressing table, folding, tagging and packing workstation. All garments are packed into cartons at the end of the production line.

Each sewing line setup with 18-20 workstations. Line set up and machine utilization is done depending on the style requirement. Each stitching line has one supervisor and one roving quality checker. In the line, in few initial operations, they move bundles. Once all garment parts are attached to the body, they move garment pieces without following complete bundle. Now after introducing our system, they have started moving bundles from the first workstation to till pressing.

Earlier operators used to write their production quantity on a paper. Now they are using our system for production tracking. Having this system operator can see their production quantity and performance on the terminals.

Also read: Garment manufacturing process - from fabric to finished product

In this factory, (might be in that region) they call the style as 'model'. They use the term 'Model' for the style.

At the end of the stitching line garments are packed into cartons. Size wise. Packed cartons are sent to the quality inspection area. After quality inspection, garments are shipped or stored in the finished goods warehouse.

Their stitching section has all latest machine model and high efficient sewing machines. Sewing machine brands included Juki, Brother, Yamato etc. For material movement in the line, they use benches in individual workstations.

They have operator training section. All fresh sewing operators get training in the training section. Once operator training is over and operator achieve the required skills, operators are moved to the sewing line. One trainer takes care of operators who are shifted to the main production line.

They provide 3 breaks in a day - 15 minutes tea break + 40 minutes lunch break and 15 minutes tea break. Factory used to work 9 hours a day excluding break time. The factory remains closed on Saturday and Sunday - 5 days working in a week. In India, we can't think of 5 days working in a week in garment factories. We work for 6-7 days in a week.

They have a nice and big canteen. The company provides lunch to all its employees. Staffs and workers don't need to bring food from home. They have 2 different time slots for lunch break - to reduce the crowd in the canteen.

Most of the employees prefer drinking tea after lunch.  I used to drink a lot of tea there. The taste of Turkish tea is quite different from Indian tea.They don’t add sugar in tea.

On the shop floor number, women worker is higher compared than male workers. Approximately 90 percent workers are women.

One more interesting thing I found they send cuttings to one of their subcontractors (CMT manufacturer) which is situated in a different country. They used to send cuttings by truck to another country by road.

As I have mentioned at the start that this is a new set up, they implementing right things step by step. A lot of improvement opportunities are there. I think I can see those on my next trip. They get operation sheet from the head office. The use work measurement software for establishing operation SMV and product SMV. On the shop floor, they use sewing guides and attachment.

Selfie with Engineers @ Factory Canteen 
I have tested different types of Turkish foods and sweets. I liked some foods but not all. There I used to eat seafood, salad, and bread.

I got chance to visit the Istanbul city and Sultanahmet Blue Mosque. I was a great experience walking on Istanbul streets. Sharing some images.
Visiting Sultanahmet Mosque

About Sultanahmet Mosque

@ Istanbul, in a sweet shop
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Online Clothing Study: My Trip to a Garment Manufacturing Factory in Turkey
My Trip to a Garment Manufacturing Factory in Turkey
My trip to a Turkish garment manufacturing factory. I have shared my learning during the trip and shared factory working procedures in brief.
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