Plant organization pt. 2

The process map I posted yesterday made things just a little too neat and tidy. It could easily lead you to believe all those workstations were neatly tucked together. Not hardly. To illustrate the wastefulness of the process, I’ve mapped it according to the most typical of plant configurations. I don’t like this layout; it’s very wasteful. As I’ll show you (in the next post or two), this set up is organized for the convenience of management rather than for the convenience of the vast majority of people who will be schlepping your stuff around (in process). Similarly, it contributes or encourages the prevention of information dissemination. In my opinion, this is the biggest barrier to implementing lean manufacturing in sewing plants (other than attitude adjustments). Below is a small version of the layout. I’d recommend downloading the larger version (204 kb) and printing out several copies so you can map as we go along.

By the way, I do realize that most of you don’t have plants this large but I’d encourage you to follow along because it’ll help you map your own layout according to the constraints of your product requirements. Again, I’m using the example of suit manufacturing.

Referring to the layout below, first is design, then patterns (1), then samples (2). The samples go back to design for approval (3). Assuming all is well, salesmen’s samples are cut, you pre-sell and take orders, you aggregate the orders and finally, you order the fabrics needed to complete the orders (4). As can be expected, the floor plan of the plant (below) looks fine without a lot of wasted traffic (I did say the plant was set up for the convenience of management). Very good.

Now let us assume the goods have arrived. These are processed at Shipping/Receiving. Ideally the goods are inspected for fiber content, width and integrity before they’re accepted and entered into inventory. The goods then move to Raw Goods Inventory (if your operation were lean, the goods should then go to the cutting tables but that’s another post). Again, this is pretty direct with no wasted traffic to the extent I don’t need to illustrate it for you.

Referring to the sketch above, the minute you decide to cut and sew something is when things get sticky (and gets commensurately worse as things progress). First the design department has to issue a cut order to the pattern department (1). The marker maker will usually go to raw goods to verify the width of the goods (2). Sure, you can stick that information in a computer but all too often I’ve seen Receiving just report the width of goods according to what the packing slip says rather than verifying with a measuring tool. The marker maker will then make the marker and while that is being delivered to the cutting department, an order to Raw Goods is sent to release fabrics to the cutting department (2 also). Once the cutting department gets the marker (3), they’ll inspect it to get the design of the spread. Then they’ll get the goods (4) and spread them; they are left uncut for at least 24 hours so they can rest. You can’t skip that part. Some parts of our process will never be lean time-wise. This also explains why you’ll need one more cutting table than you think you do. Consider that when developing expansion plans (there was a reason I said little companies should read this anyway).

(Above) Once the goods are cut, the pieces are sorted and hopefully, labeled with piece tickets. Iif you don’t know what those are, you need the book. Actually, you need it anyway; it explains all of this in more detail because believe me, I’m leaving a lot of things out. First sorting means separating the pieces that are fused with interfacing. Those are bundled and sent to fusing (2). When those pieces come back from fusing (3), they’re sorted into pieces that need to be die cut (4). Once everything’s been fused and die cut is when the bundles are paired (mated) and made up (5). In men’s suits, it’s more typical that a bundle will contain 10 units. Before the bundles are completed, the production manager delivers the sewing tickets which are matched to each bundle. Actually, the sewing tickets are used to bundle the suits into sewing order.

When the bundles are made up, they’re moved to bundle control (6) right next to the sewing line supervisor. The supervisor will make assignments. The reason there are two sewing lines is because one is usually all lockstitch machines. The second line handles linings (overlocks). There will also be a Reece pocketing machine in there somewhere. This part of the process is really the only thing that was mapped in yesterday’s post.

(Above) Once things are basically constructed is when things really get sticky. First the units have to move to final finishing (1). This is where button holes are made, buttons applied and the like. Then the units move over to final inspection (2). At this station is where the items are blown (pressed with those blow up dummies), tagged and bagged. Finished inventory tends to pile up here. Once the items are blown, tagged and bagged, they’re moved back to shipping and receiving where they are officially entered into inventory (3). Once that is done, they’re placed into inventory. Placing a suit into inventory usually amounts to hanging them from the ceiling. Usually, these are hung in the front part of the plant (4, near management) because the bags can get dusty if they’re hung over sewing or cutting. Plus, you can’t get to the stuff if machines and tables are underneath. One could put them on the ceiling over raw goods and shipping receiving but then management can’t see the tangible results of what they’re doing.

The problem with the end of the process is that because management tends to be so product result focused rather than process focused, they have to have the inspection and finishing stations near them so they don’t have to walk very far into the plant to see the results. If anything, the tail end of the process (final finishing and bagging/tagging) should be right next to shipping/receiving and inventory but it rarely works that way. You might think a solution would be to move the shipping department but you can’t because it has to be next to the dock and besides, it does double duty processing incoming raw goods.

There’s lots of things wrong with this layout. I haven’t even mentioned patterns. Ideally, patterns should be located amid cutting and sewing but that rarely happens. Designers won’t want to walk back there (traipsing through sewing etc). Patterns -owing to its engineering function- needs to be in the middle of production. I also realize it’s not just designers who won’t like patterns there. I’ve known plenty of prima donna pattern makers who equate their location on the floor with their status in the plant hierarchy. In my opinion, they need an attitude adjustment. Sure it’s noisy but trust me, you get used to it quickly and you won’t even hear it after awhile. Pattern makers need to be equally accessible to the process upstream from them (design) and downstream from them (cutting and sewing). This will go a long way to encourage cross departmental communication. I’ve written about all of this before. I recommend reviewing this, this and this again. Unlike this post, these posts are actually interesting and some of my best writing. Visitors have rated them as all time favorites. They’ll go a long way toward explaining why your contractor messes up your order and how to prevent it.

Plant organization
Plant organization pt.2
Plant organization pt.3
Commercial vs Industrial space

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  1. Josh says:

    I’ve sewn with 6 machines in a 12X14 building. Given, everything was given to me already cut out and bundled. The bundled work was stored in a shed in the back of the 12X14 building. Everything was done in the 12X14 building, including bagging and boxing.

    When I see the elaborate plant map it makes me think of this guy in India I once saw on a TV show. He was in a very small mud floor shack. Tourist could go up to the shack and pick out their fabric and he would have you a shirt within an hour, pressed and ready to put on, it looked very professional too. His sewing machine was a push pedal singer. Just amazing.

  2. Melita says:

    Kathleen says (and so many other people)

    Then they’ll get the goods (4) and spread them; they are left uncut for at least 24 hours so they can rest. You can’t skip that part.

    Yes you can skip that part. Can we please stop perpetuating this myth. If you lay up (spread) without any tension there is no need to cripple your cutting table.

    If you lay up with tension it will not disappear after “resting”. Just try it and then test.

    Take an extreme example like a warp stretch sticky fabric (and this works to some degree for all fabrics)

    1st layer – stretch it on – cut the end – it will shrink back.
    2nd layer – stretch it on – cut the end – it will shrink back – taking the bottom layer with it
    Till you’re done

    Cut – anytime – immediately – 24 hrs later etc etc

    Now the test
    Take cut pieces from the bottom layer and the top layer of your spread and compare by laying one on top of the other.

    Please someone tell me what you should expect

  3. Kathleen says:

    Take cut pieces from the bottom layer and the top layer of your spread and compare by laying one on top of the other.

    You have to do this anyway; it’s how it’s always done. This is how I said to test your cut (in my book). How does this prove your point if this is what everybody is already doing (or should be doing) anyway?

    Please someone tell me what you should expect

    I have to leave that up to you. You’re the one who’s saying that everybody else is wrong. And like Esther said, how do you spread without tension? I’m afraid it’s up to you to educate the rest of us. Do you know of a contractor who does it your way that we can talk to?

  4. Big Irv says:

    “Resting” of fabric after it is spread is not a myth. This is the advice you will be given from the fabric mills, the yarn spinners, and most experienced cutters. Not doing so, is taking a shortcut. In fact, the only point of contention is how long should you “rest” it for. Depends on a few variables, but the standard is usually 24 hours. Some evil stretch knits can take 48 hours!

    This resting procedure is an industry standard that some don’t like to do; it does take up table space and if you only have one table some are apt to rush into the next cut. It is also another method contractors employ to reduce liability should you find variances in cut pieces.
    I don’t think you will find a contractor who will admit to not resting fabric where required.

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  6. Renee says:

    Even with markers that are only a maximum of 7′ long I rest my knit fabric spreads, but it is true that you also need to spread the fabric without stretching it. Some of the fabrics I work with will retract with anything under 48hrs of resting, too. I’ll willingly admit, though, that I don’t worry about wovens with the same marker length. I’ve not noticed any difference whatsoever. I cut between 3 and 6″ stacks of fabric.

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