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International Journal of Scientific Research Engineering & Technology (IJSRET), ISSN 2278 0882

Volume 3 Issue 1, April 2014

An Approach to Eliminate Non-Productive Activities in the Sewing


Section of an Apparel Industry through Root Cause Analysis
Md. Golam Kibria1, Pritom Kumar Mondal2, Md.Saiful Islam3
1, 2, 3

Lecturer, Department of Industrial Engineering and Management


Khulna University of Engineering & Technology, Khulna-9203

Abstract
Root-cause identification is very important issue for the quality and productivity improvement in manufacturing
industry. It has been a very challenging engineering problem particularly in a multistage manufacturing, where
maximum numbers of processes and activities are performed. However, it may also be implemented with ease in
each and every individual set up and activities in any manufacturing process. In this reasearch, root-cause
identification methodology has been adopted to eliminate the non-productivities activities in sewing operation in
apparel manufacturing. The fast changing economic conditions, such as global competition, declining profit
margin, customer demand for high quality product, product variety and reduced leadtime etc. play a major
impact on apparel manufacturing industries. For any industry cost and time related to production and quality
management or wastages reductions have important impact on overall expenditure. Emphasizing on each
operation of sewing section steps has been taken to investigate and eliminate non productivetime in order to
save time and cost and lessen internal process time. The outcome of this observation reflected that an industry
may gain higher productivity and profitability by eliminating nonproductive activities.
Keywords Root cause analysis, Non productive time, Standard Minute Value (SMV), Standard Allowed Minute
(SAM), 5W2H.

1. Introduction
Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is the process of identifying causal factors using a structured approach with
techniques designed to provide a focus for identifying and resolving problems. Tools that assist groups or
individuals in identifying the root causes of problems are known as root cause analysis tools. Every equipment
failure happens for a number of reasons. There is a definite progression of actions and consequences that lead to
a failure. Root Cause Analysis is a step-by-step method that leads to the discovery of faults or root cause. An
RCA investigation traces the cause and effect trail from the end failure back to the root cause[1]. It is much like
a detective solving a crime. To meet up the high changing market demands along with high quality at
comparable prices, one shall have to identify quickly the root causes of quality related problems by reviewing an
event, with the goals of determining what has happened, why it has happened and what can be done to reduce
the likelihood of recurrence [1].
The garment industry of Bangladesh has been the key export division & a main source of foreign exchange for
the last 25 years. At present, the country generates about $5 billion worth of products each year by exporting
garment. The industry provides employment to about 3 million workers of whom 90% are women. Exports of
the apparel industry grew from $1.0 million in 1978 to $5 billion in 2004 comprising 75% of total export
earnings & 80% of manufacturing export earning of Bangladesh. In 2004 the apparel industry had a share of
9.5% in total GDP & a share of 29.7% in manufacturing GDP [5]. For the last two decades the apparel industry
has been the main source of growth of export & formal employment of unskilled workers. While clothing
manufacturers are grappling with inefficiencies in their organizations, their focus is on market performance.
However, market performance is dependent on the organizations ability to respond to customer demands which
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International Journal of Scientific Research Engineering & Technology (IJSRET), ISSN 2278 0882
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are inherent of style variations. The south Asian clothing & textile industry is in urgent need of applying
strategies that would ensure its survival in the global economy [4]. In order to respond as fast as possible to
model & quantity changes & to produce high-quality, low-cost products, the manufacturer should favor new
production systems which are based on line balancing. After mapping the current state the sewing floor showed
a lot of NVA activities. As for the limitations of the context, this study is constrained in the sewing floor.
Losses due to inefficiencies in sewing production are a major area of concern as a way of non-productive time
reduction. So, sewing lines should be balanced in shorter possible time & effective way for each variety &
quality. Line balancing is a well-known application in apparel industries to increase individual capacity by
reducing bottle-neck process .Non-productive activities in production occurs losses in sewing line efficiency.
For any industry cost and time related to production and quality management or in stages reductions have
important impact on overall expenditure. Generally in an industry more focus is given on profit. Though there
are different costs involved in cost reduction internally spent by an industry through finding in stages, avoiding
and improving faulty work would end in vast reserves [9].
As it is acknowledged that time is money, if additional time is mandatory in a product or service extra money is
involved. By responding faster to make a product as per customer demand, the company can capitalize less
money and more savings.It isessential to minimizee cost and time in the sewing section of apparel industries by
ensuring quality production [6].It is observed that time is saved and cost related to time is utilized properly
reduced by eliminating non -productive activities. The study clearly indicates that by eliminating nonproductive activities in the sewing section time as well as cost are saved which have an important impact on
overall factory economy. It is necessary to focus on the sewing section industry in the development of apparel
production quality and production rate by minimizing non -productive activities[8].
Root cause is the most basic reason for an undesirable condition or problem. If the real cause of the problem is
not identified, then one is merely addressing the symptoms and the problem will continue to exist [3].
Identifying and eliminating root causes for any problem is of utmost importance [10]. Root cause analysis is the
process of identifying causal factors using a structured approach with techniques designed to provide a focus for
identifying and resolving problems. Tools that assist groups and individuals in identifying the root causes of
problems are known as root cause analysis tools [7]. RCA techniques are constrained within domain and give a
detailed tutorial by supporting theoretical knowledge with practical experiences. He states that all RCA
techniques may not be applicable for all processes [2].

2. Methodology
The sewing section have been selected to carry out the implementation study on of this company. As the first
step visit is done to the industry in order to get a clear idea about the existing products and the overall process of
the company. Five garment styles of the garments have selected for application of root cause by collecting the
relevant data. In order to carry out of this task, a multi-disciplinary Cross Functional Team of knowledge
workers is formed. Managers and engineers are taken from different departments namely, Industrial Engineer,
Instrumentation, Production, and Quality departments, since they are related to above case studies. They are
responsible for analyzing the raw material, cutting, sewing and finish goods departments. Different non
productive works have a great impact on productivity. Higher nonvalue added activities, higher standard
minute value (SMV) leads to less final time of each step involved. To survive in the very competitive market the
factory must remove non value-added time between processes or in the process and also improve the current
capacity efficiently and effectively. Both for including and excluding non -productive activities, SMV for each
style is calculated. Then current state of root cause analysis has been analyzed and various improvement
proposals are identified to reduce the non-value adding waste. After that effective suggestion and
recommendations are made to reduce the non-productive time.

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International Journal of Scientific Research Engineering & Technology (IJSRET), ISSN 2278 0882
Volume 3 Issue 1, April 2014

Fig. 1: Flow Chart of the Methodology


Study about the Root cause Analysis
Select Manufacturing Organization for Implementation the Study
Visiting the Industry and Visual Observation
Select an Operational Section
Prepare a Data Sheet for a specific product style
Analysis of Current state by Calculating value added and non-value added time
Identifying the area of Non-productive time before Root Cause Analysis
Identifying Root Cause of Non-productive activities
Applying Root Cause analysis process for Non-productive Activities
Future State after Root Cause Analysis
Conclusions and Recommendations

3. Case study
J.K Group of Companies is an uprising apparel industry. They are now focusing on the improvement of overall
efficiency. But they have many problems in their cutting, sewing and finishing section. Now there efficiency
level is not appreciable which is between 40-50% and the reason behind it is practicing huge amount of non
value activities.
The problem is encountered in the initial processing of the sewing section. The capacity utilization of section is
around 40% to 65% due to problems of non-value added time at each operational process. But, no root causes
are identified as to why there is such a problem. This reason is one of the key contributory factors for the lower
level of productivity.
The different operation is performed in sewing section but how far it is related to or it is influencing the
production processes had never been studied earlier. For this the loss of the company have been shown every
hour by the using the Standard Allowed Minutes (SAM) with or without non value activities. Here Standard
Minute Values (SMV) of different activities has also been shown which are calculated in both ways of
considering the non productive activities. Table 1 contains the information about the operation breakdown and
the SMV for different operations of a product style named KORO. It also shows that how many operators and
which type of machine required for performing different operations smoothly.

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International Journal of Scientific Research Engineering & Technology (IJSRET), ISSN 2278 0882
Volume 3 Issue 1, April 2014

Table 1: Operation breakdown with SMV for a particular product style


GENERAL PRODUCT SPECIFICATION
BUYER: TEMA
ITEM: LS T-SHIRT
FABRIC QUALITY: 1X1 RIB,100% COTTON
GSM: 200
Sl.
Operational Breakdown
SMV including
No
NP Activities
1
In side yoke iron
0.616
2
Position mark + yoke match
0.603

STYLE NAME: KORO


FACTORY: JK Group Ltd
TARGET SMV: 17.75 min
TARGET/HR: 80 PCS
No of operator
M/c

3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
Total

Yoke join with back part + top


stitch
Main label+ loop position mark
Main label mark +joint +loop joint
Front + back part match
Shoulder joining
Shoulder top+ shoulder cut mark
Care label make +join
Neck binding + cut
Neck binding in tack
Neck 1-16top after binding
Neck binding finished top
Quality check for (1-13) operations
Laid on panel iron
Laid on panel mark
Shoulder laid on panel join
Shoulder panel top stitch
Sleeve panel match
Sleeve panel join
Sleeve panel top +sleeve pair
Sleeve & body match
Sleeve tack at armhole
Sleeve join +body turn
Quality check for (15-24) operation
Arm hole zigzag top stitch+ side top
Sleeve opening tack
Side seam join
Bottom hem tack +body turn
Bottom hem +edge cut
Patch label join +position mark
Top stitch security tack+ thread cut
Sleeve 1-4 tack + thread cut
Overall sewing quality check

1.21
0.301
0.615
0.358
0.276
0.611
0.437
0.499
0.195
0.256
0.207
0.95
0.58
0.591
0.758
0.58
0.452
0.857
0.63
0.431
0.631
0.812
0.85
0.954
0.375
0.82
0.471
0.605
0.623
0.513
0.61
1.72
20.997 min

LS

1
1
1
1
2
1

M
LS
M
OL
FL
LS

1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
2
1
1
1
1
1
2
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
2
41

FL
LS
LS
FL
M
M
M
LS
LS
M
OL
FL
M
LS
OL
M
FL
LS
OL
LS
FL
LS
LS
LS
M

5W2H is an efficient approach which is used to find out the most harmful causes responsible for occuring a
problem. Here 5W2H approach and asking different questionaries to production people are used to find out the
non productive activities in sewing section. Information is collected from line supervisor, line workers, IE
managers, Quality checkers, and experienced workers etc. to recognize the main causes of non-productive
activities. Thereafter, a multi-disciplinary Cross Functional Team (CFT) of knowledge workers is formed.
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International Journal of Scientific Research Engineering & Technology (IJSRET), ISSN 2278 0882
Volume 3 Issue 1, April 2014
Managers and engineers are taken from different departments namely IE departments, Production, and Quality
departments, since they are related to above case studies. Previous data and information are also used for finding
out those causes.
3.1 Probable causes for Non Productive Time:
The nature of problem, specific reason and class of the problem occurring at source has been identified,
classified as Primary, Secondary and Tertiary and tabulated in Table 2. Primary reasons are those due to which
the non-productive time is increased. Secondary reasons are those in which modification can be possible to
reduce NP activities. The tertiary natures of problem are those, which will be present in the operation process
but undesirable; and it is to be attended before further processing.

Table 2: Types of problems in sewing section


Sl No.

Nature of Problem

Specific Problem

Class of Problem

1
2
3
4
5
6

Waiting
Delay Loading
Irregular Feeding
Frequent changes style
Quality check
Worker absenteeism

Increase NP time
Increase NP time
Lower Productivity
Adaptation
Delay processing
Alternation of worker

Primary
Primary
Secondary
Secondary
Primary
Tertiary

3.2 Verification of logical causes and elimination of illogical causes


Different causes are found that are responsible for adding more non-productive time Such as waiting time,
inspection time, zigzag movement due to improper lay out, improper line balancing, no proper planning,
improper machine use, sharing of working instruments, absence of operators, workers fatigue, long setup times,
incapable processes, poor maintenance practices, poor work methods, lack of training, large batches, ineffective
production planning/scheduling, lack of workplace organization etc. From these causes we are verified the
logical causes and interpret them in the further process .The illogical causes is eliminated that have not much
effect on non-productive activities.
3.3 Determination of root cause
By asking different questionnaires to the sewing people, huge amount of probable causes have been found. Then
those causes have been passes out through a screening process for finding out the causes which are most severe.
Table 3 shows the list of root causes which are mainly responsible for the production loss of the particular
product style. It also shows that how these root causes negatively affect the production process and causes non
value added time. Fig 2 represents the causes which are the most harmful and responsible for occurring non
value added activities.
Table 3: List of Root Causes
Sl
No

Nature of Problem

Specific
Problem

Class of
Problem

Waiting

Increase NP time

Primary

Delay loading

Increase time

Primary

Irregular feeding

Secondary

4
5

Frequent changes style


Quality check

Workers Absenteeism

Lower
productivity
Adaptation
Delay
processing
Alternation of
worker

Secondary
Primary
Tertiary

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Root Cause

Line balancing
Distance
Ineffective cutting
department
Training
Insufficient Quality
checkers
Lack of Monitoring

Root
Cause
Related to
Bottleneck
Layout
Poor
Management
Management
Repair work
Management

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International Journal of Scientific Research Engineering & Technology (IJSRET), ISSN 2278 0882
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Fig.2: Cause-Effect diagram of non productivity

3.4 Corrective and preventive actions taken after the analysis


Higher profit of the industry can be made by increasing the machine productivity as well as labor productivity
with the optimize used of the existing resources such as Manpower, Time, Machine and Material. But the
management also should concern about the wastage which makes loss for the company. Non-productive time
can be minimized by taking necessary steps according to the level of threats. The following steps help to
minimize the non-productive activities time occurs due to irregular feeding, frequent changes of style, and
quality check and workers absenteeism of a sewing section.
3.4.1. Conducting motion study and correcting faulty motions: At sewing floor operators working method
and movements can be increased by using motion study. Observing operators movement and compare with a
standard check list wrong movements or unnecessarily extra movement of operator in the operation cycle can be
correct. By doing this operation cycle time can be reduced and labor productivity can be improved up to 100%
in individual operations.
3.4.2. Hourly operator capacity check: By checking operator capacity hourly or bi-hourly by work study
officer cycle time can be reduced. Besides operators idleness will be controlled because of regular operators
capacity checking.
3.4.3 Conduct R&D for the garment: A non-value added (NVA) process but having a strong Research and
Development (R&D) team in the factory brings lot of benefits. R&D can be taken as preparation stage for the
bulk production. This department does sample production and look into potentially critical operations, plan for
requirement of special equipment, advice changes in terms of construction without changing styling. E.g. if an
operation contains some raw stitches, which doesnt affect the final look of the garment, then that operation can
be avoided if possible to save time. They plan for skill requirement for the operations. As a result production
runs without any break or with less no. of breaks. As it reduces the chance of break in production for
unnecessary reasons, line productivity doesnt come down.
3.4.4. Use best possible line layout: Line layout means placing of machines and Centre table (trolley with
wheel) as per style requirement. The main purpose of choosing a better layout is to reduce transportation time in
the line as much as possible. A stable line is not a good idea to produce multiple products in a same line. A
straight assembly line with Centre table at left side is good for a product that has no preparatory work and
individual operation SAM is nearby the pitch time. We proposed a layout to minimize non-value added
activities below.
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International Journal of Scientific Research Engineering & Technology (IJSRET), ISSN 2278 0882
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3.4.5. Scientific work station layout: By following the key principles of designing, engineering and
ergonomics a scientific workstation layout can be designed .It will minimize the material handling time as well
as reduce operation cycle time.
3.4.6. Reduce line setting time: Lot of time is lost during setting of the frequent changes of style. This reduces
overall machine productivity and line efficiency. To reduce the line setting time, Operation bulletin with
machine requirement and machine layout plan prior to feeding cuttings to the line should be prepared through
mangement.IE engineers need to coordinate with line supervisors and maintenance department with their plans
and requirements. This will help supervisors and maintenance department to be pro-active in arranging required
resources.
3.4.7. Use ofwork aids, attachments, guides, correct pressure foots and folders: These are some kinds of
time saving devises that facilitate operator to perform their work effectively with less effort. If work aids are
used effectively operation cycle time can be reduced many fold than existing cycle time. In new and small
factories where there is no experienced technical person (maintenance, IE personnel or production manager)
generally not aware about the usage and availability of work aids. So their operators sew garment free hand.
Labor productivity is comparably higher for the factories that widely use work aids than those who do not use
work aids for the similar products. Folders and attachments are also very helpful in producing consistent
stitching quality. On the other hand work aids, guides and fixtures reduce operators movement and weight
lifting.
3.4.8. Continuous feeding to the sewing line: Poor production plan, wrong selection product mix in seasons
and ineffective cutting department are the reasons that stop continuous feeding. Once operators get the rhythm,
they should be given non-stop feeding until style changeover to keep up the productivity. If there is
unavailability of cutting in near future then plan accordingly and dont call all operators for that duration.
3.4.9. Training for Line supervisors: Line supervisors are shop floor managers. So each supervisor must be
trained with fundamental management skills and communication skill. Their main job is providing instruction,
transferring information. For which communication skill training is required for supervisors. Secondly,
supervisor should understand the fundamental of industrial engineering like operation bulletin, skill matrix,
workstation layout, movement, capacity study and theoretical line balancing etc. If they understood these, they
can help engineers or work study boys to improve line performance. The above training will bring changes in
managing and controlling the lines and will improve labor productivity.
3.4.10. Training to sewing operators: Operators are main resources in the apparel manufacturing. They are
most valuable resource to the company. So, factory must work on developing operator skill where required.
Production from an operator depends on his skill level to the task. A low skilled operator will consume higher
resources (time) and give less output. As the skill level of the operators is increased through training lines output
will improve. Training should be given only on specific tasks that will be performed by the operator.
3.4.11. Real time shop floor data tracking system: For the continuous improvement important information
needed such as hourly production, line balancing, WIP, tracking bundles and quality performance of the line. If
corrective action is not been taken early problem may increase as time goes. So RFID based real time systems
are helping in providing shop floor information within second.
3.4.12. Installing better equipment: A low performing machine is not acceptable where some of good
machines are idle in the same building. If machines or equipment dont perform well operator motivation goes
down. Repetitive breakdown of machines increase the loss time and bring down overall line efficiency and labor
productivity. So using of better equipment like auto trimmer sewing machine the productivity can be increased.
3.4.13. Inline quality inspection at regular interval: Traffic light system is the most effective inspection tool
to reduce defect generation at source. Less number of defective seam is made less the time will be lost in
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repairing it. Inline checking system will alert operators in concentrating their job. It also helps in other way.
May be at the start of the style an operator not understood the specification, an interaction with quality inspector
will make an operator clear about the quality requirement.
3.4.14. Operator motivation: Operators motivation comes through extra money. Operator motivation can be
improved by sharing certain percentage of profit, bonus on extra effort or achieving target, HR policies,
incentive scheme and good work culture.
3.5 Proposed workstation layout to eliminate problem of waiting for work and Delay Loading:
For reducing bottleneck and keep comfortable distance between workstation due to waiting for work and delay
loading new workstation model is proposed in the sewing section. In the JK Textile the machine layout is
straight line. The difference between two work stations is more than 3.5 feet. Between two workstations keep a
rack or basket. But the workstation cannot change due to because the work should be done in sequentially. The
workstation is sequentially designed.In Fig 3 a U shaped layout is proposed. Here two workstations are kept
beside and the distance adjacent two workstations reduced to 1.5 feet. That reduces worker cycle time.

Fig 3: Distance between different workstation

4.

Result & Discussion

This study had been conducted for seven days for that particular part style in a particular line of the factory of
J.K Group of Companies. At first the hourly production of that line was 59 pieces per hour. Then the processes
of finding root causes were applied in that very line and after 10 days of observation the hourly production rate
was increased for the first time. In these 10 days different affords have been done to eliminate those non value
added activities. And 7 days after those10 days hourly production for product style named KORO were further
increased and reached 72. Table 4 shows the SMV of the final product after root cause analysis. Before root
cause analysis the SMV of the final product was 20.997 and after root cause it is reduced to 17.166 min.
Table 4: SMV of the product without considering the Non Productive Times
Sl. No
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16

Operational Breakdown
In side yoke iron
Position mark + yoke match
Yoke join with back part + top
stitch
Main label+ loop position mark
Main label mark +joint +loop joint
Front + back part match
Shoulder joining
Shoulder top+ shoulder cut mark
Care label make +join
Neck binding + cut
Neck binding in tack
Neck 1-16top after binding
Neck binding finished top
Quality
check
for
(1-13)
operations
Laid on panel iron
Laid on panel mark

SMV excluding NP Activities


0.556
0.51
1.11
0.258
0.58
0.328
0.25
0.532
0.41
0.452
0.18
0.25
0.195
0.85
0.52
0.556

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No of operator
2
2
2

M/c
M
M
LS

1
1
1
1
2
1
1
1
1
1
1

M
LS
M
OL
FL
LS
FL
LS
LS
FL
M

1
1

M
M

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17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
Total

Shoulder laid on panel join


Shoulder panel top stitch
Sleeve panel match
Sleeve panel join
Sleeve panel top + sleeve pair
Sleeve & body match
Sleeve tack at armhole
Sleeve join + body turn
Quality check
for (15-24)
operation
Arm hole zigzag top stitch+ side
top
Sleeve opening tack
Side seam join
Bottom hem tack +body turn
Bottom hem +edge cut
Patch label join +position mark
Top stitch security tack+ thread
cut
Sleeve 1-4 tack + thread cut
Overall sewing quality check

0.51
0.514
0.423
0.58
0.501
0.325
0.53
0.41
0.655
0.522
0.325
0.522
0.323
0.52
0.471
0.497
0.551
1.45
17.166 min

1
1
1
2
1
1
1
1
1

LS
LS
M
OL
FL
M
LS
OL
M

FL

1
1
1
1
1
1

LS
OL
LS
FL
LS
LS

1
2
41

LS
M

Fig 4 shows the SMV of different operations before and after performing the root cause analysis. From graph it
can be easily seen that after eliminating the non productive time by reducing non value added activities the SMV
for almost all operations have been reduced.
Fig 4: Difference of SMV before and after Root cause analysis (Style KORO)

5.

Conclusion

Root Cause Analysis is an effective tool that suggests ways to reduce non-productive by identifying them. The
existing process laid out the manufacturing process while the timeline comparing SMV including and SMV
excluding times clearly showed large amounts of cause contributing to non-productive times. Many times
process improvement efforts will focus on reducing set up times or increasing machine and operator
efficiencies. The existing process shows that most of the cause in the process contributing to long lead-times is
in the non-value added times while the product waits in queue. Large reductions in NVA times can be achieved
just by reducing time that the product waits in sewing production lines. After solving the cause, no new
machines are purchased nor are operators expected to work faster or harder; only procedures and layouts are
changed to allow the product to flow more smoothly through the sewing process. Increased throughput is
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achieved through careful scheduling of the bottlenecks. Ensuring that the bottleneck is producing at its
maximum realistic capacity ensures the highest throughput potentials of the manufacturing system. Due to
some limitations, while working with RCA, only the sewing floor is studied where the amounts of
nonproductive time are higher. This study will surely improve the overall sewing quality as well as machine &
labor productivity & efficiency. The overall cost of sewing floor will also be reduced. This is a roadmap for
implementing RCA in apparel manufacturing organizations. Thus by applying the RCA procedures, if the
apparel garments become able to manage to reduce their non-productive time, the total productivity will
increase.

6.

References

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