Industrial Engineering: An Essential in Apparel Manufacturing

Globalisation creates fierce competition in the economy. The purchasing power of the consumer is increasing due to an increase in disposable income, which has led to a rise in customer demands. As such, the apparel industry is facing an immense challenge in producing goods of the right quantity and quality, in time and at minimum cost. Industrial Engineering plays a pivotal role in meeting these challenges.

According to the American Institute of Industrial Engineers (AIIE), “Industrial Engineering is concerned with the design, improvement and installation of integrated system of men, materials and equipment. It draws upon specialised knowledge and skills in the mathematical, physical sciences together with the principles and methods of engineering analysis and design to specify, predict and evaluate the results to be obtained from such system.” (Engineering, 2021)

Industrial Engineering plays a very important role in apparel manufacturing and production. Learning and implementing IE tools and methods on the production floor can enhance the overall performance. The objective of industrial engineering is to establish methods for improving operations and controlling production costs by eliminating waste and non-value-added activities, hence increasing productivity. Industrial engineering ensures the effective utilisation of resources.

The concept of IE is linked with the industrial revolution. It has passed through many phases to reach the present advanced stage. Adam Smith in 1776, through his book titled Wealth of Nations, laid a foundation for scientific manufacturing. He introduced the concepts of division of labour which eventually influenced skill development, time savings and the use of the specialised machine.

James Watt, Boultin Mathew, and Robinson in 1864 obtained a place in the history of Industrial Engineering because of their work related to improvements in the performance of machines and industries. James Watt was known for the steam engine and advanced the use of mechanical power to increase productivity.

Frederick W Taylor (1859-1915) was a mechanical engineer who initiated investigations of better work methods. He developed an integrated theory of management principles and methodologies and proposed data collection and standards for workers through scientifical training of workers. He vouched for cooperation between management and labour for better production. Taylor gave the concept of division of work between management and labour and assigning to those who are best suited.

The period between 1882 and 1912 was a critical period in the history of Industrial Engineering. Important works during this period are the Factory system; Owner, Engineer and Manager Concept; equal work, equal pay; and incentives, scheduling and Gantt Charts.

In 1917, Frank and Lillian Gilbreth developed Method Study as a tool for work analysis. He developed Micro-Motion study, a breakdown of work into fundamental elements called therbligs (Price, 1989).

In 1993, Henry L. Gantt worked in the area of motivation field, development of task and bonus plan, measurement of management results by Gantt Charts, recognition of social responsibility of business and industry. He also advocated the training of workers by management.

Today, IE has reached a point where various techniques are not only defined, but also used to improve the productivity of an organisation by optimum utilisation of resources. These techniques are Method Study; Time Study (Work Measurement); Motion Economy; Financial and Non-Financial Incentives; Value Analysis; Production, Planning and Control; Inventory Control; Job Evaluation; Material Handling Analysis; Ergonomics (Human Engineering); System Analysis; and Operations Research Techniques.

An Industrial Engineer performs several jobs in the garment industry. These are as follows:

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