Risks of Higher Productivity in Apparel Industry

Last Updated on 24/02/2021

What is LEAN?
LEAN is perhaps the most radical way of improving productivity. LEAN focuses on continuously improving the way a factory works, to make it ever more efficient.

Under LEAN, workers may be organized into ‘cells’. These are groups of workers trained in several skills who can make a whole product. Cells have production targets for the whole group rather than for individuals.

garment worker sleeping
Fig: Garment worker sleeping

This is different from the product being made on an assembly line, where workers with different skills each do a particular task.

LEAN is intended to change the culture of a factory as well as the physical way that the factory and workstations are organized.

The apparel industry should focus and develop good working conditions to reduce the injuries created to their workers since there is ample room for ergonomic improvements in the clothing industry.

Who Wants Higher Productivity?
If you are experiencing these kinds of changes in your workplace, your employer may be making them for his or her own reasons. Perhaps they think that the current ways of working are too slow, and lead to excessive overtime in your factory.

These changes may also be asked for by the buyer companies that place orders in your factory. In some cases, the buyers might be concerned about quality – perhaps they are having to return too many faulty apparels to your factory. Some may be concerned about your factory failing to meet delivery dates. All these things can affect the buyer company’s profits.

Recently, some buyer companies have been trying to make sure workers get a higher wage. They claim that the best way to get higher wages is to make changes in the workplace to increase productivity.

The Risks for Workers
If workers don’t come together and get involved when management brings in major changes at your workplace to increase productivity, you could end up:

  • With job losses, leading to a smaller workforce
  • With a faster pace of work
  • With extra pay, but not in line with how much extra you are actually producing
  • Working in an unsafe environment.

So let’s pause and think about this for a moment, as workers…

Calculating Labor Productivity
One of the arguments that buyers use in their negotiations with your factory management is that the ‘labor productivity’ or ‘line efficiency’ in your factory is too low. What do they mean by this?

In your factory, the workplace changes you identified earlier are usually carried out by industrial engineers – the so-called IE department. It is their job to maximize the number of apparels produced in the time available.

You will probably have seen a board hanging up at the end of your assembly line, monitoring your output against a target, usually on a daily and hourly basis.

One of the tasks done by the IE department is to calculate the time taken to make a specific apparel. This is usually called a SAM (Standard Allowed Minute), although some factories call this the Standard Minute Value (SMV).

SAM (or SMV) means the time (in minutes) that it takes a worker to complete a specific operation or produce a specific apparel. The SAM is often calculated by using a stopwatch. Sometimes it’s done by looking at a special table of times that have already been calculated, for every task needed to make a apparel.

Once the buyer company and employer know how long it takes a worker to complete a specific operation, they can compare this with other factories, or with a special table of times, to see how ‘productive’ workers are.

You may also like:

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  2. Safety Rules for Garment Sewing Machine Operators
  3. Line Balancing and Bottleneck in Garment Production Line
  4. Application of Lean Manufacturing in Garment Industry

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