The consequences of improper line balancing in apparel industry

The Fashion Apocalypse: The consequences of improper line balancing in a dynamic  fashion apparel industry

Over the past decade, the global apparel industry has undergone remarkable expansion and evolution. With its reputation for producing high-quality garments and employing skilled workers, the industry has become a significant contributor to numerous economies. In fact, in 2021, the global apparel market was valued at approximately $1.5 trillion.

However, despite its enormous size, the rapid growth and constantly changing consumer demands have presented numerous challenges for the industry.

In this blog, we will explore some of the key challenges currently affecting the fashion apparel industry and propose an effective solution to address them

Understanding the changing apparel industry landscape

The global apparel industry has witnessed significant transformations throughout the years. Reshaping the way consumers engage with fashion and driving the industry to adapt to evolving trends and consumer demands. Most notable of all perhaps is the widespread movement towards sustainability and environmental consciousness. It is no wonder that with 78% of the US population stating that a sustainable lifestyle is of utmost importance to them, the fact that according to the global fashion agenda the fashion industry is responsible for 8-10% of global carbon emission, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined, certainly does not put the fashion industry at a good spotlight. Forcing apparel manufacturers to practice more environment-safe methods to manufacture their garments.Another important factor to consider here is the evolution of technology which gave birth to a host of other advancements, such as artificial intelligence, e-commerce and hence the rise of fast fashion. While AI algorithms enabled companies to analyze vast amounts of data, such market trends, the rise of e-commerce revolutionized the way consumers shop for clothes, providing a seemingly endless array of options at their fingertips. The combination of these technological advancements has fueled the growth of fast fashion, creating affordable clothing at an unprecedented speed, while simultaneously leading to increased consumption and shorter product life cycles. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, the production of garments has approximately doubled from 2000 to 2014, exceeding 100 billion garments.

The challenges faced by apparel manufacturers

As you might have already guessed, the dynamic nature of this apparel industry poses significant hurdles in keeping pace with the latest trends and practices. Consequently, it gives rise to a myriad of formidable challenges that manufacturers must overcome including production efficiency and poor workload balancing. Failing to consistently reassess and refine their production strategies to meet the mounting pressures and deadlines can lead to these issues. Let’s take a look at a few of the most prevalent challenges they encounter, getting in the way of efficient garment manufacturing

Bottlenecks in production

A bottleneck refers to a point in the production flow or the pace of productivity is significantly impeded or restricted, causing a delay in overall process efficiency. For example, if a specific operator is assigned a particular style, it is possible that he or she working on that line may lack the necessary skills to effectively carry out those operations. So they may not be able to keep up with the workload, which may cause the whole production line to be bought down. This absence of skill identification arises from the conventional and manual methods work study officers follow.

As you can imagine, inefficient technology combined with manual methods can lead to huge delays and retailers running out of stock.  In fact it was found that these out of stock items cost apparel and fashion retailers around $634.1 billion in annual revenue. This is largely due to the fact that when bottlenecks cause delays in manufacturing, it can have a significant impact on meeting scheduled shipping deadlines. If a shipment of apparel is unable to make it on time to a designated shipping vessel, an alternative transportation method, such as air freight, may need to be employed. However, shipping via aircraft is considerably more expensive than shipping by boat.

Absenteeism  in the workplace

Absence of employees in the apparel industry poses a significant challenge, impacting productivity and operational efficiency. The nature of the industry, which operates on tight deadlines and high demands, makes absenteeism a critical issue.The consequences of absenteeism in the apparel industry are far-reaching. According to Kingslake, absenteeism rates in Sri Lanka’s manufacturing sector can reach up to 5%. While seemingly low, this statistic affects a significant number of individuals, considering the industry’s direct employment of approximately 300,000 workers and indirect employment of around 600,000 workers in Sri Lanka.  Placing a significant burden on the remaining workforce, leading to increased workload, decreased morale, and ultimately affecting product quality and delivery timelines. The impact on customer satisfaction cannot be overlooked either, as delays caused by absenteeism can result in missed deadlines and dissatisfied clients, potentially leading to a loss of future business opportunities.

Overall improper line balancing approaches

Line balancing refers to the leveling of the workload across all operations in a garment manufacturing line to remove bottlenecks and improve production line optimization. Improper line balancing covers a wide umbrella of topics, including the two which we have discussed above. Even though the world is going through a technology revolution, some manufacturers are still not equipped with the proper technology to take care of such processes.

Take this example: In traditional apparel factories, the responsibility of overseeing workers and analyzing their task performance falls on a work-study officer.  This individual manually monitors the time and effectiveness of each task and may arrange training sessions for employees who are deemed too slow. However, this outdated approach is highly inefficient and no longer applicable in today’s fast-paced apparel industry.

In the modern apparel industry, relying on such methods to assess employees’ performance is counterproductive. It fails to address the complexity of line balancing, which involves optimizing the allocation of tasks among workers to achieve maximum productivity and efficiency.

The result of Improper Line Balancing in manufacturing

The consequences of improper line balancing can be dire -especially when we consider the report by Fibre2Fashion, which found that a 250-sewing machine factory can lose 2.5 lakh pieces in production and 2.5 crore in profits each year in India due to basic underlying faults in manufacturing systems – including improper line balancing. Although a shocking estimation at first, when you consider the whole picture – disorganized production environments fostering overproduction, frustrated workers repeatedly making errors in garments, this statistic becomes unsurprising.

The production line is a vital asset for any factory, serving as the backbone of operations. However, when it is not effectively utilized, chaos can ensue. Failure to identify employee skill levels and track production pace can lead to a disorganized and inefficient workplace. In such instances, the production line loses its potential as a valuable resource.

Overcoming this issue

Technology is playing a pivotal role in transforming the industry to become more sustainable and profitable. AI powered solutions in core production processes such Kingslake Blue Line balancing has changed the tedious and time consuming manual line balancing processes to be done in a few clicks in a matter of minutes.

For more information on KingslakeBlue Line balancing solution, please contact Nilantha Kodithuwakku : +94 773794265

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