It gives me great pleasure to announce that Apparel Manufacturing Handbook: Analysis, Principles and Practice by Jacob Solinger is back in print. This is the most comprehensive operations manual ever published for the apparel industry. It is truly encyclopedic in scope. What do you want to know? Ask a question -any question- and you’ll find some sort of solution here. Really, flip it open to a page, any page and I guarantee you’ll find something of interest. I haven’t mentioned it very often and I’ve never reviewed it because it was out of print. Why would I talk it up only to dash people’s hopes? Now that I need to review it, I am without words. How do you review an encyclopedia? I don’t have an answer, bear with me while I continue to fumble with words for a bit.
The other problem with my writing a review is that I haven’t actually read it, only sections of it. It’s not the sort of book one sits down to read; it’s more of an operations encyclopedia. How do you describe a book that has everything? It won’t tell you how to start your own company, it’s not like that. Still, that doesn’t mean it won’t help you out of a bind. Let’s start with some specifics:
Publication date: 1988 (ignore that, trust me)
Page count: 872 pages (10 pt. font). This book weighs several pounds.
Number of chapters: 18
The chapter titles won’t give you any thrills and chills but here goes:
- The Nature and Scope of Apparel Manufacturing
- Raw Materials
- Apparel Design Analysis
- Cutting Production Analysis
- Sewing Production Equipment
- Analysis of Sewing Machine Operators
- Pressing Molding Production Analysis
- Engineering: Time and Motion Study
- Production Control
- Quality Control
- Purchasing Administration and Inventory Control
- Plant Layout
- Organization and Personnel
- Apparel Manufacturing Cost Control
- Computers for Apparel Manufacturing
There are also appendices; these are:
A. Comparative Fiber Characteristics
B. Body Measurements for the Sizing of Women’s Patterns and Apparel
C. Women’s Body Measurements
D. Distributions of Body Measurements of Greek Women
E. Body Measurements for the sizing of apparel for Infants, Babies, Toddlers and Children
F. Body Measurements for the sizing of Boy’s Apparel
G. Body Measurements for the sizing of Girl’s Apparel
H. Body Measurements for the sizing of Apparel for Young Men (Students)
I. Men’s, Youths and Boys Sizes in the United Kingdom
J. Distributions of Body Measurements of Greek Men
K. The Body Size of Soldiers
L. Seams Slippage Strength Standards
M. Schematic Index of Seams and Stitchings in Alphabetical Order by Class
N. Normal Areas and Ordinates
O. Specific Gravity, Moisture Regain and Safe Ironing Temperatures of Textile Fibers
Now, chapter titles don’t give you much idea of what’s in it. I tell you what, at great expense of my time, I am going to type out all of the subheadings from just one chapter. I’d be tempted to do the chapter on Sewing Production Equipment but it has 78 sections! Let’s look at chapter 10, Production Control which is plenty. In case you’re not sure what some of these topics mean, I’ve put the most useful topic headings in italics:
1.Function of production control 2.Production Analysis:Quality Specifications 3.Production Analysis:Quantitative Specifications 4.Scope of manufacturing activity 5.Coordinating departmental activities 6.Distribution of documents and records 7.Types of control forms 8.Basic production systems 9.Principles for choosing a production system 10.Evaluating production systems 11.Flow process grids and charts 12.Basic flow process grid construction 13.Flow process grids for production control 14.Scheduling calculations 15.Scheduling bundles of varying amounts 16.Mathematical formulas for scheduling 17.Producing many styles simultaneously 18.Producing many styles consecutively in one line 19.Determining supervisory sections in production lines 20.Assigning operators optimally 21.Scheduling shuttle operators optimally 22.Production control charts 23.Production control reports 24.Production line format re: plant size 25.Production control of plant shifts 26.Production control equipment 27.Contractor control 28.Converting a flow chart to a flow process grid 29.Principles for scheduling partial production lines 30.Principles for assigning partial production line operators 31.Calculation successive operator efficiencies needed for 1:1 production ratios 32.Assigning operators to do parallel operations blah blah blah (several situations listed) 37.Principles for unit flow production lines 38.Evaluating unit flow versus bundle flow 39.Scheduling complete production lines for minimum inventory in process time 40.Using operator efficiency differences to minimize the amount of operators in complete balanced production lines 41.Setting up complete balanced production lines to produce given amounts of garments per style per hour 42.Minimizing operator amounts for a complete balanced production line 43.Making schematic machine layouts for production lines.
Whew! Now, I realize a lot of that can look pretty spooky to a small start up but really, it isn’t that bad. The text isn’t hard to read at all; titling wasn’t Solinger’s strong suit. But then, how else can you describe this stuff without a lot of noun phrases? Also, Solinger was an engineer, bless his heart. I also realize that most of this is too “big” for many of you. All I can say is take what you can use and leave the rest. It’s an encyclopedia. A year from now you may need a compressor; do you know how to buy one? Do you know how to select a machine? And what about stitch classifications? How does one figure this stuff out? You do it with reference books and this is without a doubt, the finest there is. Nothing else comes close, nothing! The list of possible utility is endless. And really, if you find you can’t use it (doubtful), you can always sell it used. For my part, I’d be really glad if people bought it because we could then go over whole sections, discussing the core concepts and figure out ways to make those work for you on a smaller scale.
- Solinger is a dyed in the wool manufacturing man. As such, the section on marketing is comparatively weak -note I said comparatively weak. Rather, his focus is the mechanics of managing sales but he includes useful forms, information on payments, commissions, tracking tools and processes.
- Another downside is the chapter on computers. Still, you have to keep in mind that this is a very mature industry. The vast majority of our day to day processes in a plant are manual systems, particularly in smaller companies. The CAD people hate it every time I say this but even today, 85% of patterns are made by hand -not computers- and of those companies that do have CAD systems, only 15% use them for pattern making. Most companies with CAD use their systems for marking and grading so I don’t think the relative weakness of the chapter on computers even comes close to compromising the value of this book.
- In my opinion- you can safely ignore most of the chapter on time and motion studies. I mean, look it over so you can get the gist of timing operations and costing them but I wouldn’t go to great lengths to engender statistical analysis reports. But then, I’m not a Taylorist. I don’t know that were Solinger alive today, with the focus on lean manufacturing, that he’d still be a Taylorist (the tools are handy); he was the product of the environment of his day. He seems to be very compassionate with regard to operators, I gather that from the detail of information he includes with regard to the importance of the smallest elements of the work environment.
- Lastly, I reiterate that this book won’t teach you how to start an enterprise (this title doesn’t compete with mine) but it will teach you how you should be operating one with room to grow. I don’t consider that a weakness but I leave this here in the event your expectations are that it should be all things to you. I don’t think a book like that is possible. This is an encyclopedia of apparel manufacturing, not a how-to book. You need both.
I hope I have convinced you that you need to get this book. With it, nobody is going to BS you or pull the wool over your eyes. You’ll know who knows what, no fooling. Alternatively, don’t buy it. I’ll look so much smarter in comparison if you don’t know any better :).