ATTACHMENTS AND WORK AIDS: SHOULD THEY BE INDUCTED DURING OPERATOR TRAINING?
In apparel industry, operator training is one of the most crucial and demanding tasks for any company’s management. Usually, such training is organized at a training centre, which is always located in a predefined dedicated space inside the structure, following specific methods and manuals. But many times, managers and trainers find great difficulty in letting go of the past with such established methods of training. With new technology, automatic sewing machines and various aids and attachments being used in apparel manufacturing units, do training operators with ordinary sewing machines or without attachments still have any relevance? This is an ongoing topic of discussion. Team StitchWorld brings to our readers the numerous industry opinions on the same.
Working aids and attachments are an essential part of garment manufacturing which not only enhance the production and product quality but also decrease the production cost. Reduced handling time and reduced errors serve the purpose of using work aids and attachments. Guide, compensating foot, stitching jig, folders, stackers, etc., are some of the commonly used work aids used in a sewing machine.
Team StitchWorld tried to put together the opinions of the below mentioned five industry experts on the various questions related to this segment.
Paul Collyer has 46 years of experience in production based activities in garment industries. He is currently working as a self- employed apparel trainer and consultant.
Shalabh Srivastava is Partner at Gunina Solutions and heading the skill development section. He was previously the Head-Training & Skill Development at Matrix Clothing Pvt. Ltd.
Rinkoo Prasad works as General Manager – Training at Matrix Clothing Pvt. Ltd.
Chandrajith Wickramasinghe is the Founder of Corrigo Consultancy Pvt. Ltd. and has more than 17 years’ experience in apparel manufacturing. He has held senior positions at MAS Holding - Sri Lanka for a decade.
Roberto Inglesi is a veteran in fashion and shirt manufacturing techniques. He has worked for leading fashion brands such as Roberto Cavalli, Pierre Cardin, Calvin Klein, Benetton Armani.
Why do you think use of different presser foots, attachments are not introduced to trainees?
Paul Collyer: The cause is one of the biggest problems in the Indian RMG industry; old-
Existing practice of training people in standalone training centres is a kind of delink from the industry prerequisite. These centres often lack correct infrastructure and equipment like, attachments, folders, presser foots, etc.
fashioned traditional thinking and training practices.
Shalabh Srivastava: Currently, two types of training programmes are being run in India for the sewing industry: Industrial Sewing Machine Operator ( SMO) and Self Employed Tailor ( SET). However, use of different presser foots and attachments are not being used by most of the training providers for two reasons: Lack of awareness about the benefits of such attachments in case of SMO and unsuitability w. r.t. Umbrella Machines for SET course. However, some of the SMO training centres which are being run inside or under industry partners’ supervision are adequately using these attachments due to immediate requirement on the sewing lines and ease of availability of such parts.
Working aids constitute the essential aspects of any apparel manufacturing shopfloor. They are one of the most effective sewing tools. However, attachments and work aids are not introduced during operator training. The reason behind this is that in the current scenario of acute shortage of skilled manpower in the garment industry, the focus of training is on imparting only basic sewing skills for quick employment through short-term training programmes. This does not permit further time to train on usage of different types of presser foots and attachments. Beside this, lack of trainers’ awareness about the usage and availability of work aids is also frequently one of the reasons for not using presser foots and attachments during the training.
Chandrajith Wickramasinghe: In the operator training programme, there are three stages:
1. Basic machine training
2. On job or Operation training
3. Multi-skill training
In stage one, we focus on introduction to machine, machine control and basic stitching operations like joining panels, top stitch, stitching on different shape seams. For this operation, most of the time, the basic presser foots are only used. But we focus from day one itself on workplace engineering and training operators on the correct pick and drop motion and often we use work aids attachments also. In stages 2 and 3 always, training on specific/ specialized machine for required operation or skill is carried out. In this stage all attachments, presser foots, work aids are used and that's the whole purpose of doing this training.
Roberto Inglesi: This, in my opinion, is a question about the managerial attitude which affects the training programme in many cases. I believe that young fresh operators must learn the usage of different attachments and folders. I strongly believe that using a sewing machine is exactly like driving a car. Just as in case of a car, where you can only move ahead if you know about the essential instruments, similarly in a sewing machine, knowledge of presser foots and attachments is definitely required to run the machine effectively.
Do you feel that not introducing work aids and attachments during operator training is similar to teaching someone to draw a straight line with a free hand, and then give him/her a scale to draw a straight line?
Paul Collyer: If you intend to give someone a scale to draw a straight line, then why would you teach them to do it freehand? All training should reflect production practices. If special presser foot and guides are used in production, then they should be introduced to the trainee as soon as possible. If they are not being used, then questions should be asked to IE and the management.
Indian companies need to free themselves from traditional attitudes and practices. We do not need “tailors” but sewing operators.
There is no merit in teaching more than what is necessary or skills that are different or extra to those needed. – Paul Collyer, Apparel Industry Veteran
Orthodox method of training people on paper exercises is a waste of time. Trainees should be selected based on a well-designed selection tool/test and allocated skill sets/operations based on their learning or trainability. – Shalabh Srivastava, Partner, Gunina Solutions
Shalabh Srivastava: Yes, your argument is partly right. Use of different presser foots can be imparted in the initial phase of the training, when skills are developed. This will help the SMO trainee to understand the speed part of learning and also assist him to reach up an optimum stamina level effortlessly.
Rinkoo Prasad: The initial operator training is focused on acquiring basic stitching skills by sewing garments, free hand, without much focus on productivity and high quality. Gradually once, the operator has acquired the required
skills, the focus shifts to higher productivity with consistent stitching quality to meet the buyer’s requirement. In short, initial free hand training is for skilling and later use of different presser foots and attachments is for de-skilling.
Chandrajith Wickramasinghe: It's like you are teaching someone to hold a pencil and scribble on paper. When he has control of holding the pencil and scribbling some basic shapes with confidence, you then provide the ruler or other tools. In sewing machine, it's not only the straight lines that are sewn, but there are many more shapes and operations that are conducted with the help of this machine. So, training each and every operator about so many varied operations is not viable. That's why, only selected operators are given multi-skill training.
Roberto Inglesi: Well, there are different methods of teaching and each method is appropriate to the subject. Therefore any technique of teaching must be suitable to the individual learning it and should enhance his/her adeptness in machine operations rather than making him/ her compromise on their understanding skills.
Do you feel there is any merit achieved out of the existing practice? What is it?
Paul Collyer: There is no merit in teaching more than what is necessary or skills that are different or extra to those needed. You train because you want someone to perform a task for you. For this, they need limited skills and knowledge. You give them what they need and no more. Additional skills can be added as and when required.
Shalabh Srivastava: Existing practice of training people in standalone training centres is a kind of delink from the industry prerequisite. These centres often lack correct infrastructure and equipment like, attachments, folders, presser foot, etc. However, such training is still meaningful for tailors being utilized in domestic boutique businesses/ shops. Such leisurely way of training often suits these beneficiaries. But for industrial SMO, this acts as a retardant in the path of a quick and successful graduation to the position of a skilled operator.
Lack of trainers’ awareness about the usage and availability of work aids is also frequently one of the reasons for not using presser foot and attachments during the training. – Rinkoo Prasad, GM-Training, Matrix Clothing Pvt. Ltd.
Rinkoo Prasad: There is a lot of scope for improvement in the existing training practices.
Chandrajith Wickramasinghe: Yes, the prevalent practice holds merit as I have mentioned before.
Roberto Inglesi: Teaching something is already a good “MERIT”. Whenever you instruct someone on working methods and systems, you must inculcate within them a certain working discipline. However, in companies especially in South Asia, the management does not give much attention to whether the operator has understood what he/ she is going to do… In many cases, an operator executes an operation without knowing the direction in which it is targeted… Why?
If you feel the current training module is going on traditionally over the years and there is a need to revise it, then what all changes will you suggest in the training procedures?
Paul Collyer: Indian companies need to free themselves from traditional attitudes and practices. You do not need “tailors” but sewing operators.
Shalabh Srivastava: Orthodox method of training people on paper exercises is a waste of time. Trainees should be selected based on a welldesigned selection tool/ test and allocated skill sets/operations based on their learning or trainability. This will help reduce the training curve of the overall batch/ assembly line, and create the correct skill inventory for a factory. Overall training programme for SMO should be based and customized as per the industry demand, rather than what training providers/ institutes are able to impart. This is the only way to create a WINWIN situation for all the stakeholders.
The current training programmes are largely based on traditional methodology. A systematic training approach is required which is possible through the management’s commitment and support for training
Training each and every operator about so many varied operations is not viable. That's why, only selected operators are given multi-skill training. – Chandrajith Wickramasinghe, Founder, Corrigo Consultancy Pvt. Ltd.
programmes. Few changes which can be suggested to improve the quality of training are as under:
a. Introducing Industrial Engineering concepts like Motion Study and Time Study to correct faulty motions during training to reduce cycle time and improve productivity.
b. Using working aids, attachments, folders and presser foots to reduce operation cycle time and increase productivity.
c. Making investment in training infrastructure, viz. modern sewing machines, specialized machines, work aids to conduct effective training as training is not a cost but an investment.
d. Only Trainers having undergone “Training of Trainers” ( TOT) to be deputed for the training purpose. Apart from TOT, the trainer must have few years of working experience on shopfloor as well as experience of conducting training programmes.
e. Reducing the trainers to trainees ratio to 1:15 or even lower instead of the current ratio of 1: 30. This most likely will reduce the duration of training to 20 - 30 days from 45 - 50 days.
f. Hand- holding support to new workers recruited from training centre until they achieve the prescribed performance target on shopfloor.
g. Soft Skills/ Life Skills training, including comunication, work excellence, financial literacy, motivation, problem solving, etc., to be introduced to enhance operator interactions and job performance on shopfloor.
h. Last but not the least, using multimedia/audiovideo content in training to increase learning effectiveness, flexibility and better interactivity.
Roberto Inglesi: Yes, obviously the training programme must be constantly revised according to the evolution of technology. Today, in my opinion, the industry requires operators who have a better education level like knowledge of computers, knowledge of electronics boards/ machinery, and so on.
Just as in case of a car, where you can only move ahead if you know about the essential instruments, similarly in a sewing machine, knowledge of presser foots and attachments is definitely required to run the machine effectively. – Roberto Inglesi, Shirt Manufacturing Veteran