How to Rebuild Production Methods in an Old Garment Factory to Improve Factory Efficiency

How to rebuild production methods in an old garment factory to improve factory efficiency above 85%? where should I focus first? How long would it take?

improve factory efficiency
Before I suggest anything, I need to understand the current performance level of your factory. Are you working in a factory or you are a consultant? The size of the factory and would like to know about the existing team. I am assuming that you are a manager in the factory, and you are trying to improve things to achieve your goal. If you want to implement systems in your factory yourself, it may take a longer time. As you may have other responsibilities in a company. You can hire an expert/industry consultant for this.

If you are only interested in the general guidelines for rebuilding an old production system, read the below guides. Remember that you will not get the result of your new implementation quickly. But if you continue working and follow the methods listed diligently, you can surely improve the factory performance as you dream of making it. You may need to invest in employee training, manpower and equipment purchasing. I hope there is no restriction on investing money in these areas if you are good at managing things.

Improve Factory Efficiency 

You need to set-up discipline and then set-up systems related to production and managing team one by one. My guides are for the existing production system without changing much in terms of plant layout and automation.

You have asked for suggesting production methods from performance improvement. Production methods are combinations of systems and practices you need to follow to bring improvement to the shop floor. So the following list will all the necessary things including engineering tool, reporting, training and managing team.

Set up an IE department with a good IE team member. Develop the IE team with enough number IEs.
Ensure all the existing sewing machines and other equipment are in usable condition. With a broken machine you can’t make quality garments. If you already have, IE department, utilize them in establishing the following steps.

I hope, you are aware of industrial engineering concepts applied in the garment industry and IE team’s activities. Analyze the product ahead of production, prepare operation bulletin, Line layout, set-up daily target for the line. Accurate SAM is a must for understanding the existing performance level and improving the factory performance step by step.

Set-up the production line as per the workflow and line layout prepared by the industrial engineer. Balance the line according to production requirements.

Measure the operators’ potential production capacity in all operations. You can study this after loading a style to a production line. Potentially capacity of operation is measured using the Time Study method.
Capture hourly production data, display hourly production in a whiteboard and verify hourly production and potential capacity. The line supervisor can control operation-wise production reviewing the hourly production data.

Check workers' skill level in efficiency percentage. You can measure individual employee’s daily efficiency based on their produced minutes and worked minutes. Identify low skilled employees from a line. Train all low performing employees whose current efficiency is less than 60%. Train employees in new operations and new material handling. To achieve 85 percent line efficiency, most of the operators need to work at more than 85% individual efficiency level.

Balance the line in real-time using my guides/tips on the line balancing. Line balancing would help you utilizing workers' capacity and eliminating operators’ idle time.

You need to ensure that every day enough cuttings are given to each line. There should not be unreasonable NPT. Non-productive times reduced your factory performance.
Everyday measure employee efficiency and line efficiency accurately. Prepare daily line efficiency trends. This will show you the progress of line performance. Benchmark current line efficiency at the pick production and build up the efficiency learning curve. Reduce the learning curve length by becoming proactive in the line setting (style changeover).

Further, you need to improve the quality of work of each production process and pre-production processes. To understand quality performance, you need to measure quality.

These are the primary things you can do to set-up systems in place. With these, you can stabilize the line. Once the above things are done. Work on the following areas for the process of improvisation.

Further work on the method improvement for all operations. You can use motion study and define good movement and standardize motion sequence for doing one operation. Give work instructions to each operator (workers).

Incentive scheme. You can pay performance incentives to the employees who show good performance in terms of making garments.

Training of line supervisors and helpers. Training sewing operators and quality checkers are not enough, you also need to check the supervisor’s skill level in terms of the understanding level, communicate well with operators.
Automation can increase floor productivity. For this, you may need to invest money in automatic machinery. If you are favor for this you can go for some automatic machines whichever is applicable for your products, processes, and operations.

Hire an expert/consultant for further guide and training. Remember, hiring a consultant will have a positive impact on your team and helps in improving processes and systems.

Maintain daily production loading and production output log in a register. Do meeting with internal teams and department heads to understand issues. Do meeting with line supervisors every day and listen to their problems and sewing operators’ problems. Form the line supervisors, you can understand where you need to focus. When meeting with the supervisor, give them daily production targets and follow up with their daily achievement.


As a concluding note, I would like to say that there are many parameters that affect the productivity and efficiency of a factory. Try as many tools and systems you can implement one by one. Stabilize the easy systems first and next go for the next level. Out of these steps, employee training and reducing non-production time (downtime) can bring a lot of improvement. You also need to take care of employees' attendance (reduce absenteeism). In another article, I have shared 20 different ways to improve sewing floor productivity. You can refer to that article as well.

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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