Susan brings up a very good question:
Procedural question: I know the color coding indicates which piece gets cut out of what, but how is it physically implemented? Is the marker color coded?
No, the marker is not color coded. The implementation of the color coding is done by the person who makes the marker regardless of whether the marker is made by computer or by hand. There is a separate marker made for each input. All of the interfacing pieces go into their own marker, the shell/self pieces get their own marker etc. The marker maker will notify the cutting people the design of the lay. The design of the lay means the number of layers (plies) needed and the length of each ply. The cutting department will get each of the separate markers for the cut and lay them out. Of course the marker maker indicates for which marker is each material although it would rarely be necessary as the length of each marker would be disparate if they happened to be laid incorrectly on each lay.
Even so, when the marker maker finishes the markers and delivers them to the cutting department, the sample pattern and prototype will go with them; it’s a package deal. That way the cutting department can check the marker to make sure that the marker is complete. With color coding, it’s easier for the cutters to separate all of the components of the style more quickly because you’re sorting by color rather than by having to actually read the words on each pattern piece. The cutters will see there are x number of fronts or whatever and count those in the marker -per size no less- to make sure the marker is complete. This is something that you always do in factory work, spot checking the work that precedes you before you work on it yourself. It’s part of the job.
And who cares/is responsible for making sure the color coded directions are followed.
The first person responsible is the pattern maker. I’ve run into too many pattern makers who either did not want to do it, did not know to do it or did not know how to do it correctly. The first category of pattern makers are lousy and they’re lazy to boot. The second category of pattern makers are a mixed bag; you’d think most would be happy to learn a new skill but some are not, especially if they went to a prestigious school. Their thinking is that if their school didn’t teach it, it’s not worth knowing. The last category -the ones who don’t do it correctly- have developed habits they’re reluctant to change. I do not know why this is but most of the pattern makers who are casual about color coding seem to come out of California schools (the schools in the Midwest don’t seem to teach it at all). The pattern makers from the east coast (and El Centro college in Dallas TX) are best about it. The pattern supervisor is supposed to enforce the policy. The marker maker -who is most dependent upon color coding- is unfortunately, the least able to enforce the policy. That’s because the pattern maker outranks them or the marker maker is a service provider who is reluctant to tell the client the work isn’t rendered correctly. It’s often an issue of politics.
The sewer at the machine doesn’t know what “color” the pattern pieces are for whatever fabric pieces she’s sewing, does she?
Maybe, maybe not but somebody sure does and well before it hit the stitchers. See, before all of those pieces hit the sewing line, they’re fused first. The cut pieces (and the pattern and prototype) are moved over to the fusing department. With the color coding on the pattern, the fusers know which pieces are fused. Color coding is really important there if you knew how many fusing departments are organized. The fusing department is often the catch-all light duty station for people from other departments who may need light duty work for some health reason or another. It’s also the station for people who’ve run out of work in their usual department. It’s also the place you stick employees you want to punish but can’t afford to fire (don’t ask how I know that). In summary, the fusing department relies on untrained internal casual labor so the system has to be simple.
After fusing, the pieces are bundled according to sewing order but by the time those pieces actually hit the sewing line, most of the controls afforded by color coding have already been implemented upstream. Still, the pattern and the prototype will travel over to the sewing line with all of the bundles of fabric. While any given line stitcher (depending on experience and rotation) may not know color coding, it’s pretty simple to figure it out by then because a clear pattern has emerged. I mean, if you’re looking at a center front shell piece with a strip of fusing on it and you see the corresponding black coded pattern piece with a red rectangle on it, the color coding system is most obvious at that point of construction. I’ve watched the stitchers many times laying out the pattern like a jig saw puzzle laying the corresponding pieces where they go and they don’t ever seem to need any help -not that I haven’t offered. Most stitchers are pretty smart people, much smarter than many managers give them credit for. They’re kinetic learners and they figure things out pretty quickly.