This last year at Purnaa we sewed over 40,000 items and more than 60 different styles. Because we are producing so many different styles, this means that we are changing on of our production lines on a weekly basis. Our employees are constantly expected to learn how to sew a new style. I wanted to look at how long it takes us to learn how to sew a new item productively.
When we start producing an item for a customer, we are locked into a price before we start sewing. From the customer’s perspective, this makes sense. They want to know the cost of their item before we make it. However, this places a risk on us as the manufacturer. We have fixed expenses each month (rent, salaries, etc) that do not change. If we sew 1 item or 10,000 items, our rent and salaries remain fixed. This means that when we give a price to a customer for their particular item, it needs to be based on how many items we think we can produce each day, before we have sewn it. This gives us a daily production “target” that our sewing teams need to hit in order for us to be profitable.
I looked over all of our past projects and checked the number of items we actually sewed on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc day compared to how many were were supposed to sew on that day. This gave me a “% of Daily Target.”
For example, if we sewed 35 items out of a target of 100 pcs, then the “% of daily target” is 35%. Below is a graph of the average of all our projects arranged by production day:
A few things stand out immediately.
1. It takes us 4 to 5 days to learn how to sew something effectively. In the first few days, we are losing money.
2. Even after we are “up to speed,” on average we never hit our production targets. (Grim news!)
I then looked at one of our sewing team that was able to sew the same item consistently. We had repeated orders of this particular style for 6 months. What did their production look like? Here is the graph:
We produced on average 10% above target! Not only were we more successful financially, but our employees enjoyed working on this item because they became experts at making it. They felt more successful and less stressed to learn something new. Also, our logistics and management team’s workload was also greatly reduced, because we solved all the problems on the first round of production and the remaining months could go on auto-pilot.
Clearly, if we can sew something repeatedly, it is a huge benefit. Based on the above data, we are working on a plan to try to bring more repeatability to our work at Purnaa.