Importance of Standardization in the Workplace in Apparel Manufacturing

In an earlier article, I discussed the importance of Kaizen as a lean tool to improve workplace productivity as well as our individual lives. The natural progression of Kaizen is standardization.

So what is standardization?

Through the Kaizen, we reach a certain level of specialization in each attempt. When we see we have reached a certain level of mastery over a process or work method, it is important to analyze it and standardize the procedure so everybody in the workplace or throughout the company can follow the same steps without having to go through trial and error or using yesteryear methods.

The most effective method to implement standardization in a company is by creating a standard operating procedure which we call SOP. This is the most common and easiest method to develop, document & use standardization.

Garment production Floor

Develop process SOP

Let’s look at how we develop an SOP. 
  • The first step is to identify the process, line, or floor we are planning to implement standardization.
  • Create a guild explaining in detail each step of the operation and how it should be done
  • Take photographs, Mockups and other relevant items such as trims and use them as visual samples where necessary
  • Ensure relevant manager is checked and signed each SOP to avoid mistakes and future disputes.

Components of Standardize Work 

There are 3 main components in properly thought-out standardized work. Those are Takt time, correct & efficient sequence, and standard in-process materials.

Takt time:
Takt time is how many pieces need to be done to meet the demand or delivery in the case of the apparel industry. Takt time needs to be calculated for each operation so where needed we could balance the line with coupling work or putting additional workstations.

Work sequence: 
Work sequence highlights the importance of having a smooth layout. It is important to work out the number of machines, what types of machines, and how many operators and helpers are needed to carry out the task. 

Related post: How to Do Sequencing of Stitching Operations in a Garment

Standard in-process materials discuss the work in progress which we know as WIP. It is important to have the right amount of work available to perform the operation.

Let’s say line A produces printed round-neck T-shirts. When planning production, the manager has to ensure print panels are available on time to run the line. 

For example, if the daily target is 500 pieces, then the printing plant needs to ensure they deliver daily requirements ahead of time. Otherwise, line idling is the result, and overtime to cover it up or end up in missing the deadlines. Sounds simple and most of the readers will be thinking, of course you have to plan embellishments and other trims before the input. But how many times we have missed production targets due to mistakes in planning? This is where standardization and other lean tools come in handy. Once the system is in place, it is highly unlikely recurrence of obvious and simple but costly mistakes. Because everybody in the organization is trained to think strategically and continuous improvement, is in the mind of everybody.

There are tremendous benefits to having standardization as a part of the way of work in any organization. The most important benefit is the consistency. If we take the apparel industry as an example, we all know how important each piece coming out of the machine has to be. Having the right quality and the right measurements are paramount. Imagine a situation where collars are too long or too narrow for the body and a nightmare situation most of us face in the production lines? Some garments have puckering, some garments measurements out and eventually creating a huge headache for all involved. Through standardization easily these mistakes can be avoided.

As a part of SOP, the line supervisor could have a mock-up collar on the machine, and have a size spec attached to the machine table so that after sewing each piece, the operator could quickly check the length to ensure measurements are correct. Also diagram showing how to keep the parts of the collar and fusing on the table visually explaining the side and direction is necessary. So that operators don’t make mistakes and waste time trying to figure out how to arrange the pieces from the bundles.

As we know people get absent without prior notice, and people get replaced so the chances are new person joining the production line are constant. If the company uses standardization as a tool, the time taken to train a new employee is reduced by almost 30%. They become more productive employees and produce less damage.

Other benefits include reliability, increased throughput, and efficiency. As we discussed above, standardization helps to reduce re-work, saving time and money and more importantly helping to meet the planned deadlines. Another great advantage of standardization is every tool, machine, and equipment has a place of its own so people can find them easily. So no time is wasted looking for an item when needed.

Further, having a culture where everybody embraces doing things right, placing items in the correct place where they belong, and give attention to detail, improves the workplace atmosphere and the relations between employees and managers as nobody is in distress.

It is very important to note that standardized methods are only valid until KAIZEN finds another improved method. Once you have a better method, process, or system, it is important to change the previous SOP and replace it with the new improved SOP. In most cases, we have old SOPs hanging on the machines and workstations. These are the companies who follow LEAN just to make buyers happy and have no idea what these lean tools represent.

Updated on 01 March 2024 
Posted on 3rd Sept 2016

Charm Rammandala

Dr. Charm Rammandala currently works as the Sustainable Program Manager at Apple Inc. USA. He has over 20 years of international management experience and previously contributed his expertise at Tesla, George Sourcing, and Vomax LLC.

Previous Post Next Post


Contact Form