20 February 2020
In today’s time, buyers are constantly asking to reduce unit prices, whereas the cost of production for the manufacturers is going up because of increase in the input cost and also because of huge investment made towards enhanced social and environmental compliance norms. This, as a whole, increases the financial load on the manufacturers. In such circumstances, the only available path is to increase productivity by having a complete control on the entire supply chain within a garment manufacturing unit.
The control can be done in various ways such as using automation in the most efficient manner; following proven Industrial Engineering (IE) practices to make processes smoother and viable; deploying available workforce in multiple operations to make the best use of manpower; and of course, training them on exact modules that are needed inside a unit.Bangladesh, the world’s second largest apparel manufacturing destination, is effectively working on all these factors to make their manufacturing even stronger. Let’s look at the practices two Dhaka-based leading companies are following in order to improve productivity and make a strong work system.
Timely deliveries, building all operations in-house under entirely compliant conditions, being competitive in pricing and a lot of emphasis on quality have always kept Mahmud Group at the forefront of manufacturing. It produces 60,000 denim bottoms per day in its old factory named Mahmud Jeans Ltd. (MJL). Not just this, in May 2017, the group further added one more unit named Mahmud Fashion Ltd. (MFL) to cater to increased orders from buyers and the factory is exemplary in terms of technology use and IE practices.
Currently, MJL has 8 operational lines with 60 machines in each line, andthe unit made 48 lines workable bythe end of 2019. Line balancing is the utmost priority for Susanth Ranjith Ekanayaka, GM (Maintenance), Mahmud Fashion Ltd., who, since the inception, has focused immensely on improving line balancing, and reworked on the line layout to increase productivity. “Wages have increased, overheads have gone up, lead time is getting shorter and buyers’ pressure is already there which are collectively reducing profit margins. When MFL became operational last year, we designed our lines in a way which can get us more productivity using limited resources,” explained Susanth.
MFL has a special maintenance team which is taking care of production lines. The team plans 15 days before changing the layout and in that period of time, it uses the team members’ expertise as to what kind of product categories are supposed to come in production lines and what should be the action taken to modify a particular line. If the same design is carried on adjacent lines, the maintenance team replicates the same structure.
It’s a fact that attrition rate is high in Bangladesh.MFL too faced the same issue when it became operational. But the maintenance and production teams tackled this challenge well,beginning with identifying critical operations in production lines. Then IE people were told to train manpower in a batch of 50 people on all aspects to make them efficient enough to carry multiple operations. “So, while we plan a layout and an operator quits the factory, we don’t have to face issues in finalising the layout as we have everything in place,” averred Susanth.
A prominent name in Bangladesh apparel manufacturing industry, Laila Styles Ltd. was established in September 2018 and is yet to become fully operational. However, the partial operational unit – with its massive infrastructure, technology use in production floors and focus on operators’ training – is achieving what it plans. In this new unit, around 3,500 workers are churning out woven bottoms – denim and non-denim – in 35 production lines out of which 20 are fully operational.
Laila Styles realises that only installing technology will not help boost the business; how a manufacturer utilises the installations to the fullest, making a balance between manpower and machines, is equally significant.To upskill the workforce, Laila Styles Ltd. has set up a training centre within the factory premises which can accommodate 40 operators at a time. The unit has not only installed basic SNLS machines in the centre, but also the high-end special sewing machines to train operators on both. “When we recruit them, we judge their skills. If we find them skilled enough, we place them directly on floor. If they are not up to the mark, we consider them as fresh and train them in our centre where one month training is given to them,” explained Bodiuz Zaman, General Manager-Admin, HR & Compliance, Laila Styles Ltd.
Focus on the use of latest technology is as strong as training at Laila Styles. It is installed with 650 sewing machines, of which 450 are SNLS, and rest all are special machines such as feed off the arm, overlock and jeans automats. Reducing human intervention is another need for garment manufacturers in order to stay relevant in this cost-competitive era. Laila has invested in two of the renowned technologies from Italy – Vibemac and Jam International. JT 882 model of Jam International assists Laila in carrying 5 different operations on 1 machine needing just2 operators, whereas a regular machine requires 7 people for the same. “We are proud of having technical excellence in our machining department,” concluded Zaman.