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Getting rid of bottleneck operations in garments industry

What is a bottleneck?

The bottleneck is an extreme point in the production line where production is hampered from the normal flow of production. The lowest output point in the production line is called a bottleneck. In garments industry bottleneck means the lowest capacity of one or more operations which results in lowest production and ultimately lowest profit. So, identifying bottleneck operation and removing it is a very significant task to get the highest capacity production.

bottleneck operations in garments industry
Figure: identifying bottleneck operation and removing it is a very significant task to get the highest capacity production.

To identify bottleneck operation in a line, we can easily find out it visually where there are more input and less output. For this reason, the actual flow of production is hampered for the next operations. The bottleneck can be found out by the following approaches which are more practical

  • Identify the operation sequence as per the actual flow of material
  • Get the capacity study and hourly production sheet ready
  • Identify the actual bottleneck with its priority.

Getting rid bottleneck operations

Bottleneck elimination techniques

  1. Methods improvement: Improving the way the operator is handling the material and doing the operation.
  2. Better operator allocation: We could check if any ‘A’ grade operator is allocated on a high capacity operation, and whether the bottleneck operator is only ‘B’ grade. If this is the case both the operators could be swapped to get more productivity out of bottleneck.
  3. Machine speed or calibrations: We could check, whether they are set right.
  4. Workplace improvements: This could be relating to ergonomic issues like light, fan, seat adjustment, etc.
  5. Work aids & specialized machine: Guide, Folder, attachment, Jigs etc. Using computerized UBTs and other specialized machines.
  6. Work breakdown: Investigate whether it is possible to further divide the process.
  7. Work sharing: Giving some part of the work (or some of the pieces) of bottleneck operation to share with a nearby operation which has potentially higher capacity than required for line output. Care should be taken that the operator with which work is shared has
    • Same machine as that of bottleneck
    • The right skill required for the bottleneck operation.
  8. Quality problems: Could look if there is any quality issue in the previous process, due to which the operator is not receiving proper input to work on, thus decreasing its productivity.
  9. Work overtime: Bottleneck operations could be made to work overtime to make enough of WIP.
  10. Adding additional manpower/machine: In case we find the potential capacity per hour too less than the target output of the line.
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