Lean Manufacturing: Principles, Goals, Advantages in Apparel Industry

Last Updated on 28/10/2021

Lean Manufacturing in Apparel Industry

R.S. Balakumar
Associate Professor
Dept of Fashion Design & Arts
Hindustan University, Chennai, India
Email: rsbalakumar1953@gmail.com


Lean Manufacturing
Concept of lean manufacturing in the apparel industry can reduce the operational cost in manufacturing by eliminating the process waste, empowering people with greater communication, increasing the higher productivity in the execution process and turning the organization into a learning organization.

Lean Manufacturing in apparel industry
Fig: Lean Manufacturing

However, for lean to deliver meaningful change to an organization, the implementers should first understand the organization and then introduce lean where it makes sense rather than the other way around.

There are several key lean manufacturing principles that need to be understood in order to implement lean. Failure to understand and apply these principles will most likely result in failure or a lack of commitment from everyone in your organization. Without commitment the process becomes ineffective.

Elimination of Waste
One of the most critical principles of lean manufacturing is the elimination of waste (known as MUDA in the Toyota Production System). Many of the other principles revolve around this concept.

There are 7 basic types of waste in manufacturing:

  • Over Production
  • Waste of Unnecessary Motion
  • Waste of Inventory
  • Production of Defects
  • Waste of Waiting
  • Waste of Transportation
  • Waste of Over processing

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Although the above-mentioned types of waste were originally geared toward manufacturing, they can be applied to many different types of business. The idea of waste elimination is to review all areas in your organization, determine where the non-value-added work is and reduce or eliminate it.

Continuous Improvement
(Commonly referred to by the Japanese word kaizen) is the most critical principle of lean manufacturing. It should truly form the basis of the lean implementation. Without continuous improvement your progress will cease. As the name implies, Continuous Improvement promotes constant, necessary change toward achievement of a desired state. The changes can be big or small but must lend itself toward improvement (often many small changes are required to achieve the target). The process truly is continual as there is always room for improvement.

Continuous Improvement should be a mind-set throughout your whole organization. Do not get caught up in only trying to find the big ideas. Small ideas will often time lead to big improvements.

Lean Manufacturing is a systematic approach for achieving the shortest possible cycle time by eliminating the process waste through continuous improvement. Thus, making the operation very efficient and only consisting of value adding steps from start to finish. In simple words lean is manufacturing without waste.

Below are the few steps which are required to implement the Lean manufacturing:

  1. Identifying the fact that there are wastes to be removed.
  2. Analyzing the wastes and finding the root causes for these wastes.
  3. Finding the solution for these root causes.
  4. Application of these solutions and achieving the objective.

Apparel Manufacturers are now a days facing intensive global competition. The key to competing in the international market place is to simultaneously improve both quality and productivity on continual basis. The major purposes of the use of lean production are to increase productivity, improve product quality and manufacturing cycle time, reduce inventory, reduce lead time and eliminate manufacturing waste.

To achieve these, the lean production philosophy uses several concepts like,

The lean concepts, its principle, importance and benefits. This article also clearly approaches to implement lean practices in apparel industry.

Lean Manufacturing is a systematic approach for achieving the shortest possible cycle time by eliminating the process waste through continuous improvement. Thus, making the operation very efficient and only consisting of value adding steps from start to finish. In simple lean is manufacturing without waste.

Lean manufacturing = half the human effort in the company + half the manufacturing space + half the investment in tools + half the engineering hours = to develop a new product in half

Lean Manufacturing, also called Lean Production, is a set of tools and methodologies that aims for the continuous elimination of all waste in the production process.

The main benefits of this are lower production costs; increased output and shorter production lead times.

More specifically, some of the goals include:

Defects and wastage – Reduce defects and unnecessary physical wastage, including excess use of raw material inputs, preventable defects, costs associated with reprocessing defective items, and unnecessary product characteristics which are not required by customer.

Cycle Times – Reduce manufacturing lead times and production cycle times by reducing waiting times between processing stages, as well as process preparation times and product/model conversion times.

Inventory levels – Minimize inventory levels at all stages of production, particularly works-in-progress between production stages. Lower inventories also mean lower working capital requirements.

Productivity – Improve labor productivity, both by reducing the idle time of workers and ensuring that when workers are working, they are using their effort as productively as possible (including not doing unnecessary tasks or unnecessary motions);

Flexibility – Have the ability to produce a more flexible range of products with minimum changeover costs and changeover time.

Output – Insofar Utilization of equipment and space – Use equipment and manufacturing space more efficiently by eliminating bottlenecks and maximizing the rate of production though existing equipment, while minimizing machine downtime; -as reduced cycle times, increased labor productivity and elimination of bottlenecks and machine downtime can be achieved, companies can generally significantly increased output from their existing facilities. -Another way of looking at Lean Manufacturing is that it aims to achieve the same output with less input – less time, less space, less human effort, less machinery, less material, less cost.

Lean is most widely used in apparel industries that are assembly-oriented or have a high amount of repetitive human processes. These are typically industries for which productivity is highly influenced by the efficiency and attention to detail of the people who are working manually with tools or operating equipment. For these kinds of companies, improved systems can eliminate significant levels of waste or inefficiency.

Examples of this include wood-processing, garment manufacturing, automobile assembly, electronics assembly and equipment manufacturing. Since Lean Manufacturing eliminates many of the problems associated with poor production scheduling and line balancing, Lean Manufacturing is particularly appropriate for companies that don’t have ERP systems in place or don’t have strong material requirements planning (MRP), production scheduling or production allocation systems in place. Lean Manufacturing is also appropriate in industries for which it is a strategic priority to shorten the production cycle time to the absolute minimum as a source of competitive advantage for the company.

Traditional Garment Manufacturing Process, Effective utilization of capacities which results more products were produced by lesser number of worker & infrastructures. (Progressive system). Work in process is very high around 3000 pcs /line. Workers & Machines need not wait for the product. Product spends more time in manufacturing just waiting. Garment defects are very high. This system is not suitable in today’s competitive business trend.

Lean manufacturing concepts Value Creation and Waste:
In Lean Manufacturing, the value of a product is defined solely based on what the customer actually requires and is willing to pay for. Production operations can be grouped into following three types of activities:

1. Value-added activities are activities which transform the materials into the exact product that the customer requires.

2. Non value-added activities are activities which aren’t required for transforming the materials into the product that the customer wants. Anything which is non-value-added may be defined as waste. Anything that adds unnecessary time, effort or cost is considered non value-added.

3. Another way of looking at waste is that it is any material or activity for which the customer is not willing to pay. Testing or inspecting materials is also considered waste since this can be eliminated insofar as the production process can be improved to eliminate defects from occurring.

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Advantages of the lean system in apparel industry

  1. Waste Elimination
  2. Work place Standardization
  3. Effective plant layout.
  4. Quality will be enhanced at source level.
  5. Increase the Productivity by 30% from the existing level.
  6. Reduction of Production cost & other Overheads.
  7. Reduce the Risk of non-compliance and
  8. Late Delivery.

Principles of lean manufacturing

  1. Production of value
  2. Optimizing the Value Stream
  3. Converting the Process to Flow
  4. Activating the Demand Pull
  5. Perfection of All Products, Processes and Services

Tools and Techniques Involved in Lean Manufacturing

  • Quality control Tools
  • 5S
  • Just in time
  • Kanban
  • Kaizen

Quality control Tools involved in lean manufacturing process

  • Pareto Chart
  • Fish Born Diagram
  • Histogram
  • Control charts
  • Scatter Diagram

5 S System: 

These 5 Tools are utilized for Workplace Standardization

  • Seri (Sort)
  • Seiton (Straighten)
  • Seiso (Shine)
  • Seiketsu (standardize)
  • Shitsuke (Sustain)

Competitive advantage generally lasts several years Possess clear best require leadership commitment from top Management have elements that are not at all easy.

The concept of lean manufacturing is new in some of the UN developed countries, and proactive organizations have already been observed to implement this tool in their functional departments. This is primarily due to the multitude of cost advantages which arise from having lean manufacturing processes.


  1. Production and operation management (text and cases) Author-upendra kachru.
  2. Clothing Production management-A.J. CHUTTER.

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