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Productivity Improvement; the Square Fashions Case

“SQUARE’ is one of the most renowned, quality conscious, ambitious but realistic and efficient brands in Bangladesh. Square Fashions Ltd is no different.”, Mr. A.K.M. Golam Morshed Farouk started instinctively sitting in his office at Square Fashions Ltd. He joined the company as General Manager of production on November 19, 2005. By dint of his hard work and devotion towards the company, he has been promoted as the Director of Production.  According to Mr. Morshed, “Exact proportion, justness of workmanship and conduct, regularity, rule – these are the basic pillars of success In Square Fashions Ltd. Ultimate achievement of an apparel industry entirely depends on the condition of its productivity. That is why; productivity measurement has been given the maximum priority in our factory. We do not treat it like just some ‘paper work’.”

Generally time based optimization is used in Square Fashions, to measure productivity. It is the ratio of output and input. The output is the pieces of finished garments and inputs are: man-hours, machine hours, meters of fabric consumed or electricity consumed etc. Productivity and efficiency are closely related. With the increase of productivity, efficiency automatically increases. Mr. Morshed thinks, the best way to increase productivity is to increase production by using minimum resources. The main resource of an apparel factory is its work force. Thus, Square Fashion gives maximum attention in developing the skills of the workers. As with skilled workers, maximum production is possible in minimum time by using minimum work force. The efficiency of a garment factory largely depends on the sewing section. ‘Unproductive time’ or ‘idle time’ is the main problem of this section which causes productivity loss.  In order to reduce ‘Idle time’ and increase workers’ efficiency, Square Fashion conducts skill development programmes all the year round. These programmes are very useful for the workers. Workers are given training on different aspects of apparel production which would help them during actual production. For example, last month the topic of skill development programme was ‘key factors of polo shirt production’. Mr. Morshed also mentioned that, the training is given during the working hours. So, workers do not have to spend extra time in the factory.

Mr. A.K.M. Golam Morshed, at his desk in Square Fashions Ltd.

Another effective concept of Square Fashion is the ‘Fresher Training’. Every fresher in the factory receives a 21 day training which removes their materiality when they start actual work. As a result they began their work in an instinctive manner from the very first day which helps the usual flow of productivity in the factory. Fresher are also paid during the training period.

Apart from the training programmes, Square Fashions also give importance in reducing unnecessary work force which is important for productivity increase.  Mr. Morshed said, “We don’t follow the age old ‘ 1 worker 2 helper’ tradition for knit garment factory. In fact here in a sewing line there are maximum 5-6 helpers.” He continued, “Another reason for the high productivity of Square Fashion is that, everything here is done analytically. As it is a man based organization, so according to the ‘learning curve of production’, the efficiency of a particular worker on a particular work will increase day by day and after a certain period it will reach to the saturated point. By data analysis we find the time period to reach the saturated point of a ‘learning curve’ for a particular work. The worker is then given the mission to reach that saturated point or efficiency level within the time limit. This method helps the workers to understand their level of skill which eventually plays an important role in productivity increase.”

 Another bad practice in knit garment factory is taking excess time for lay-out planning. This practice is prohibited in Square Fashions Ltd. In the SAM (Standard Allowed Minutes) of the factory there is a particular time fixed for the layout of each line. Work study engineers must finish the lay out within that time limit.

 A very interesting concept of Square Fashion is ‘Cycle Check’. After each lay-out plan cycle check is conducted to identify ‘bottleneck’. Bottleneck is a phenomenon where the performance or capacity of an entire system is limited by a single or limited number of components or resources. Lay out plan is usually done on an average efficiency of the factory and thus it is difficult to mark individual efficiencies in the lay-out. As a result ‘Cycle Check’ becomes more important to find bottleneck .Mr. morshed said, “By cycle check individual efficiencies can be identified. We can identify if someone is overloaded with work or someone is less loaded and equal the work load. Cycle check also gives us information about the direction of our production graph. We can easily understand if our graph is headed to the LPT direction or to the BPT direction. The target should be keeping the graph in the BPT direction.”

 In the garment factory ‘loss time’ is an unavoidable issue. Productivity is greatly hampered due to this loss time. Input or feeding problem in the sewing line, machine faults, unavailability of machines etc are common causes of loss time. To maintain the effective rate of productivity, Square Fashion is using ‘Traffic Light Control System’ which is very useful for solving feeding and machine fault problems efficiently and quickly. Everyday loss times are also noted here. Mr. Morshed said, “In our monthly meeting, which I personally conduct, we discuss about the highest three loss times of the month. These loss times are then given top most priority so that they won’t be occurred in the next month.”

Square Fashions Ltd is trying its best to ensure a satisfactory situation for its work force, which plays the vital role in the increase of productivity. Lunch is free here for every staff member which is a rare facility in a country like Bangladesh. Square Fashion gives handsome salary to the workers. The factory is centrally air conditioned so a comfortable working atmosphere is present here. It is the only factory which gives yearly profit shares to the workers. Exceptional residential & dorm facilities are present here. For all these reasons it rightly got the ‘Best Labor Friendly Award’ in 2009 from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

 Absenteeism of workers is a good cause for productivity loss. Mr. Morshed mentioned an interesting point regarding this problem, “Absenteeism of workers can be easily controlled if pre plan of leave is made. Every month, in our factory we make a pre plan for leave of the workers. The plan is then sent to the supervisors. As a result the supervisors know which worker is taking leave on which day and he adjusts the situation accordingly. So, absenteeism of workers does not hamper the productivity of our factory.”

 Square Fashions Ltd is up to date regarding the use of modern machines or automation. The latest version of sewing machines, CAD, CAM, CAS system, automatic thread trimming, sucking device (Juki sewing machines), auto cutter, laser cutter etc. modern instruments of  an apparel factory  are present here.

To increase productivity the role of managers are also vital. Mr. Morshed said, “The performance of managers is very important. To assess their performance I use KPI (Key Performance Indicator). Cutting efficiency, sewing efficiency, manning hour, idle time and defective hour unit are few set KPI’s. This method is very effective & result oriented.”

The main obstacles regarding the increase of productivity in apparel sector are created by non controllable factors of productivity like natural resources, Government policy and structural adjustment. According to Mr. Morshed, “High price of yarn, Political tension, recession, global economy are some major issues for productivity loss in Bangladesh. To face these problems successfully, involvement of our government is a must. Sadly, in spite of being the 75% foreign currency earner of this country, the apparel sector does not get its deserved privilege. If the Government pays proper attention to this sector it will bring twice the profit than it is bringing now.”

If anyone has any feedback or input regarding the published news, please contact: info@textiletoday.com.bd

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