Production Planning and Control (PPC) in Apparel Industry

Production Planning and Control (PPC):
Production planning and control (PPC) is one of the most important departments in garment industry. It plays an important role in garment export business. It helps to build-up strong relationship with the other departments to obtain maximum output from the export order. Besides, production planning and control department of clothing industry is also responsible for the timely shipment. There are different types of work like as task scheduling, material resource planning (inventory), loading production, process selection and planning, select location, estimating quantity and production cost, capacity planning, line planning, follow up and execution etc are done by production planning and control department. Besides, Production planning and control department in garment industry will manage grading, marker making, planning, and sourcing of both material and production. Quality, material, and engineering specifications will be finalized by merchandising and production planning and control division.

garment industry
Figure 1: Garment industry

In this article all process of production planning and control department in garment industry are discussed elaborately.

Production Planning in Garment Industry:
To manage with the short lead time and small but frequent orders, apparel manufacturers strive to improve their production processes in order to deliver finished products within the expected time frame at the lowest production cost. Production planning is therefore gaining importance in contemporary garment manufacturing.

Production planning can be defined as the technique of foreseeing every step in a long series of separate operations, each step to be taken at the right time and in the right place and each operation to be performed with maximum efficiency. It in a way helps the organization to work out the quantity of material, manpower, machine, and money required for producing a predetermined level of output in a specified period of time. An outline of an apparel production cycle is shown in Figure 2.

Outline of an garment production cycle
Figure 2: Outline of an garment production cycle

Managing production in an organization mainly involves planning, organizing, directing, and controlling production activities. It deals with converting raw materials into finished goods along with proper decision making regarding the quality, quantity, cost, etc. involved in it.

The basic planning process in apparel manufacture includes:

  • Receiving the order.
  • Proper planning to check if there is sufficient plant capacity is available to achieve the delivery date specified.
  • Checking availability of cut parts and panels in the non sewing areas (cut embroidery if any, print, wash, and pack).
  • Checking if there is ample time to order and receive fabric, trims, approve sample, lab testing, etc.
  • Confirmation of the delivery date to the customer.
  • Proper communication between departments for smooth flow of the process.
  • Monitoring progress against plan.
  • Replan if required.

However, skills and efficiency vary for different teams and absenteeism is also always taken into account. For instance, if a team normally makes woven garments, a change to knitted T-shirts means that they are less skilled at handling that item. Automatically there is a fall in the rate of production, which impacts planning.

The clothing industry is still very much dependent on human labor, despite increasing usage of automatic machines and processes. Now, with the ever-changing fashion market, which demands constant style changes, it becomes a challenge in achieving efficiencies and optimizing operator skills. So the trick here is to have the same team of operators working on a similar type of product for as long as possible, hence minimizing production loss. The planning must also consider special areas where loading might impact resources.

Most business systems offer some capacity planning, while many of them are not graphical, complex to use, and not user-friendly. Using spreadsheets has its own drawbacks: lack of transparency, not visual, cannot be shared on a network, which limits coordination, and is cumbersome and difficult to manage with large orders.

To overcome these obstacles companies can change:

  • From flow line production to production in cells, where there is more team work and more skilled labor, which saves time.
  • Just-in-time (JIT) approach to deal with the inventory.
  • Strategically having partners to gain short lead times.
  • Service orientation rather than product orientation.
  • Emphasis on accuracy of output than volume of output.
  • Long-term capacity planning.
  • Short-term detailed planning, that is, planning of cutting room and sewing room activities.
  • Inventory control—raw material purchasing, finished goods, etc.
  • Critical path control.

The management must allocate HRs in the form of Planning Executive (PE), Merchandising Executive, Factory Planners, and Planners so that planning and control activities are well carried out. The Planning Executive will liaise with customers and merchandising executives to establish requirements for this season and next; agree to delivery schedules as planned; respond to the changes that must be made on the basis of consumer demand; allocating garments to appropriate factories to achieve customer requirements and control of critical path.

The factory planner takes information from the Planning Executive and works on them in the factory, such as scheduling and sequencing work lines with delivery dates; working closely with the production department at the factory; liaising with fabric suppliers for procurement of fabric. The planner does the detailed planning of work for each line as per the customer information supplied; purchasing of fabric and trimmings; loading the cutting room in time; production control, that is, to ensure that quantities ordered match with the cut quantities.

Before a garment can go onto the production line, there is a huge amount of pre-production activity that must take place. Sometimes it is done as specified by the customer or on a general basis. Activities are allocated to individuals who can cross-examine them before sending them to the sewing floor, for example, label information, wearer trials, quality seals, and fabric approval. By doing this it becomes easy for the planning department to track where the product is on the planning board and where it needs to be pushed forward or backward, and hence maintain a critical path to attain the target. If by any case the production is delayed by some weeks or days, the problem is highlighted on the planning board. So the PE must postpone the start date and try to expedite the pre-production process.

Therefore, only the fittest and leanest organizations survive in the race for manufacturing quality apparel in the desired time by working efficiently, cost-effectively, responsively, and flexibly.

Production Control in Apparel Industry:
Production control is the process of planning production in advance of operations, establishing the exact way of each individual item part or assembly, setting, starting, and finishing for each important item, assembly or the finishing production, and releasing the necessary orders as well as initiating the necessary follow-up so that the production may run according to the original or revised schedule.

Areas of Production Control:
Dispatching is an important step as it translates production plans into production. Dispatching involves issue of production orders for starting the operations. Conformation is given for:

  • Moving of materials from process to process.
  • Assigning of work to machines.
  • Issuing of tools to production departments.
  • Issuing of job orders.
  • Recording of time taken.
  • Ensuring necessary changes.
  • Having proper liaison with routing

Follow-up or expediting:
Follow up or expediting is that branch of production control procedure which regulates the progress of materials and part through the production process. It is done to check if there are any bottlenecks in the flow of work and to ensure that the production operations are occurring in accordance with plans. It spots delays or deviations from the production plans. It also helps to reveal defects in routing and scheduling, under loading or overloading of work, etc. All remedial measures are taken to ensure that the work is completed by the planned date.

To ensure the quality of goods inspection is also very important. The purpose of inspection is to see whether the products manufactured are of requisite quality or not. It is carried on at various levels of production process so that pre-determined standards of quality are achieved. Inspection is undertaken both of products and inputs.

Corrective measures:
Corrective measures may involve any of those activities of adjusting the route, rescheduling of work, repairs and maintenance of machinery or equipment, and control over inventories. Alternative methods are suggested to handle peak loads.

Importance of Production Planning and Control in Garment Industry:
Production planning and control is a vital part of the garment industry. Accuracy in planning equates to timely shipment of orders, better utilization of operators and guarantees that proper supplies and machineries are available for each style and order. It includes every process from scheduling of each and every task in the particular process to dispatch of the garment.

Production planning and control is important for the following reasons –

  1. For Increasing Production: Main purpose of production planning is to arrange inputs. Production control programme minimizes idleness of men and machines. It thus helps in raising industrial output.
  2. For coordinating plant activity: In planning production is carried out in a number of processes and thus activities are synchronized for smooth working.

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