Which Sewing Line System is Right for Your Production?
Updated: Jan 4, 2021
By Alex Berryman
An efficient sewing line is essential to any cut-and-sew business - it is a building block of efficiency and the quality of a product. But not all sewing lines are created equal nor are all types of lines appropriate for different production needs. Knowing their strengths and weaknesses can help you choose the manufacturer with the best practices for your needs.
Here we explore 3 common sewing line layouts used in the industry, then look at how Purnaa determines which layout to use, taking into consideration our clients' production requirements and also the goal of furthering Purnaa's social mission to employ survivors of exploitation and marginalized people.
Work stations - the individual machine where a worker will execute a number of operations
Operation - one step of the sewing process (ex. sewing the hem, joining the sleeve, etc).
Work in Progress - The number of products that have begun to be assembled, but have not been finished
Bundles - packs of works in progress
Skill Center/ Process Layout:
In all sewing lines, the product goes from station to station until they reach completion. But instead of being arranged in a sequence, a skill center or process layout arranges its workstations by function. Machines and personnel of similar functions will be organized into separate rooms - called skill centers - and bundles will pass to each skill center throughout the facility until the product is complete.
This system is known for its excellent line balancing and managing absenteeism. Depending on the facility's capacity, each skill center can be working on multiple bundles and products at once, allowing for many SKUs to be passed through the whole system at one time. Each machine technician is a specialist on the machines in their skill center. If a person is absent from work, those in that skill center can take on their work without disrupting the whole line.
That being said, managing a skill center facility is much like being an air traffic controller. With so many bundles and SKUs passing between each skill center, confusion between a production manager and lineworkers results in large delays for the customer.
Another issue is quality assurance. This is because skill centered layouts can have thousands of items in progress. Each bundle that passes between the skill center can have hundreds of units; if an error occurs, hundreds or thousands of units could be in process by the time the first bundle reaches QC. The production manager and QC team would then have to backtrack to identify where the issue occurred and rework all the units that have passed through that skill center. This can create huge delays in a project!
Product Line Layout:
A product line is more like what most people think of in garment manufacturing, with work stations assembled sequentially. This means each production line is designed around the product, which means it is great for long production runs and is often used by manufacturers that specialize in one product type.