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Charlotte Jacobs-Blecha
Department of Industrial Engineering
University of Alabama
Tuscaloosa, AL 35496

Jane C. Ammons
School of Industrial and Systems Engineering
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, GA 30332

Avril Schutte
Cummins Engine Company, Inc.
Columbus, IN 47201

Terri Smith
Roswell, GA

Cut order planning is the problem of planning the fabric cut for a set of apparel orders.
Affiliated with each order is a set of garment sizes, and patterns for cutting each size. The fabric
for cutting the order must be arranged on the cutting table so that cutting costs will be minimized.
A mathematical model of the problem is developed and analyzed. On the basis of this analysis,
solution approaches are developed which have been implemented on a desktop PC-based
computer. Validated on representative industry problems, the approach is shown to be effective
and versatile.

Apparel, manufacturing, process flow, model, heuristics, knapsack problem

* This research was supported by the Defense Logistics Agency under contract number DLA900-
87-D-0018-0012 and by the Georgia Institute of Technology.
1.0 Introduction
In striving for international competitiveness, the apparel industry is faced with improving
productivity and responsiveness in the face of challenging new economic realities. The
capabilities of automation and system flexibility must be fully exploited in order to obtain
responsive and economical production of apparel products. Due to the higher dynamics and
complexities in today's systems, an efficient and effective design for the cutting room system is
paramount. This paper addresses the initial problem faced by planners in the cutting room
system, which we call Cut Order Planning. This problem involves planning the configuration of
a set of customer orders in such a way as to minimize the costs to cut the orders.
Like many domestic manufacturers competing in today's international marketplace, the apparel
industry has been forced to upgrade its responsiveness to customer needs. As a result, smaller
orders are placed in a more dynamic fashion, requiring the efficient production of smaller lot
sizes. Effective and economical production thus depends upon the interaction of many system
components, one of the most critical being an efficient workflow control system.
Cut order planning (COP) is an important linkage in the workflow control system. As illustrated
in Figure 1, COP is one of the initial stages in the introduction or release of work-in-process
(WIP) into the assembly system. COP occurs for each order to be produced, and is the starting
point in the manufacture of the order. COP is the activity of planning the cutting of the order, as
input into the marker making stage (where the layout of pattern pieces on the fabric is designed)
so that the cutting room receives complete spreading and cutting instructions. Once the cutting
operation produces bundles of cut pieces, they are moved through the assembly system in
operation precedence order.
There are three major contributions in this work. Our work establishes that in many cases
the fabric cost is the dominant determinant of the cut order planning solution, a critical result
which substantiates the intuition of experienced industry planners. In addition, the paper presents
the first known attempt to model the cut order planning problem. A mathematical model is
formulated and the problem is shown to be NP-complete, indicating the need to use heuristics for
reasonable solution times. The third contribution of this paper is the development of appropriate
heuristic solution methods that are evaluated using industry data. We present a solution that is
able to outperform any of the others, including those used in contemporary commercial software
These contributions, when implemented in the apparel industry, make a giant step
forward in improving the cutting room system operation. To further the application to automated
systems, this work will be extended to include a planning system for the entire cutting room, by
integrating the various processes within the cutting room and with other areas of the factory, and
by implementing the methodology in the industry
The cut order planning process is a dynamic one. The function must respond to the ever
changing status of many critical factors such as sales, inventory levels, raw materials, and labor
and equipment availability. The variety of sizes, styles, fabrics, and colors induces significant
complexity into the problem. Adding to the complexity, and thus potentially increasing total
production costs, are setup, or changeover costs, the question of appropriate lot sizes, and the
necessity to meet customer demand competitively.




&87 25'(5 3/$11,1*


Figure 1. Traditional Cut Order Planning

Current industry approaches for performing COP range from manual ad hoc procedures to
customized proprietary software. Many apparel manufacturing facilities are still using very
unsophisticated methods, depending on the expertise of one individual who has the necessary
data and decision-making tools only in his or her memory. Profit margins in this industry
severely limit capital investment, resulting in few resources for computing equipment.
Commercial software has been developed to solve COP, but effective application requires
extensive customization and the necessary hardware for implementation. Therefore, due to
industry limitations, simple methodologies which produce “good” solutions rather than
complicated “optimal” ones will have the highest impact on improving the operation of the cut
order planning process.
We found no previous papers for solving COP in the archival literature. In this research, we have
addressed three major thrusts, with the final goal being a reasonable, and easily implementable,
solution method for COP. Our work began with developing an in-depth understanding of COP
and the examination of existing commercial software packages for solving it, including a
comparative analysis of their performances. This analysis was performed using testbed data
representative of specific industrial problems. The second thrust included formulating a
mathematical model of the cut order planning process, and analyzing the complexity of the
problem. On the basis of our understanding of this model and the results from thrust one, several
heuristic algorithms for solving COP were developed in the third phase of the project. These
solution approaches were tested on representative industry problems, and the results indicate the
algorithms are important for future COP systems, toward the improvement of productivity and
the competitiveness of apparel manufacturing. Specific details of the various topics presented
throughout this paper can be found in [6].
The paper is organized as follows. In Section 2.0, the COP problem is defined and a
corresponding mathematical model is developed. Our analysis of the model provides insight for
algorithm development, with solution approaches described in Section 3.0. In the subsequent
section we report the performance of the algorithms on a representative problem provided by a
manufacturing partner. The paper concludes with a summary and overall insights detailed in
Section 5.0.

2.1. Problem Description
In the conventional scope of cut order planning, the problem begins with a given set of orders to
be cut. The order is composed of a set of garments to be manufactured, in varying sizes. Each
garment will be referred to as a unit. The various units in the various sizes must be partitioned in
such a way that efficient cutting of the order can take place. The cut order plan is a specification
for spreading the fabric and assigning the units to various sections of the spread.
The cut is performed by spreading fabric onto a table. The spread is divided into sections.
Sections contain different combination of sizes to be cut, and have varying number of layers, or
plies, of fabric for cutting efficiency. Such a spread is illustrated in Figure 2. Note that using
various size
combinations within a /HQJWK 
section implies one 3O\ +HLJKW 
could cut a single size,
a mixture of different /HQJWK  /HQJWK  /HQJWK 
sizes, or a mixture of 3O\ +HLJKW  3O\ +HLJKW  3O\ +HLJKW 
sizes that could include
more than one of the
same size. For
example, a section
could be planned for
cutting two “larges.”
This means the pattern /HQJWK  IHHW
pieces for two large C u tting Tab le
garments would be
needed for cutting that Figure 2. Fabric spread on the cutting table in varying ply heights.
section. This idea is
illustrated in Figure 3.
To determine the configuration for a fabric spread, the sizes in the order must be partitioned in
such a way that the order is complete, and that fabric use is minimized. For a further example,an
order might consist of 110 pairs of jeans, with 30 smalls (S), 50 mediums (M), and 30 larges (L).
One way of planning the cut would be to spread two sections. In the first section we would cut
only size M jeans, with ply height 20. This would yield 20 of the 50 pairs of jeans ordered.
Then we would cut all three sizes, S, M, & L, in section 2, with ply height 30. This would yield
the 30 S and 30 L ordered,
and the remaining 30 M
needed to complete the order
size of 50. Clearly there are
many other configurations L M
which could be made. One L S M
must choose the solution S
yielding the least costly
cutting process. F ig u re 3 . A m a rk e r c o n ta in in g tw o u n its o f th e sa m e siz e .

Note that we are not concerned here with designing the exact layout of the pattern pieces for the
cutting of the jeans. If we plan to cut only “mediums” in section 1, we need to know
approximately how much fabric is required to do that, but traditionally that quantity is often
estimated. If such a layout has been done before, historical data can be substituted for estimates.
The actual layout of the pattern pieces which is used to guide the cutter is called a marker, and
the marker making process is a variation of the well-known stock cutting problem. (e.g., [1], [2],
[4], [5], [6], and [8].). In current practice, the marker making process is performed independently
of and subsequent to the COP process.
The spread length of a cut is the total length of all sections, as they are laid out end-to-end on the
cutting table. Note in the example in Figure 2, the spread length is equivalent to the length of the
cutting table, which serves as a physical upper bound on the many possible values for spread
length. The perimeter length of a pattern piece is the total number of inches in the perimeter of
that piece. The input to the COP problem consists of:
z The sizes required for the order,
z The quantity of each size to be cut,
z The total perimeter inches of each pattern piece required for the cut,
z The total area of the pattern pieces required for the cut, and
z The standards for spreading (marker fixed costs, marker variable costs, cost to copy,
minimum and maximum plies, number of sizes per marker, cutting costs, cutting
speed, and cutting setup).
The output from the COP process then consists of the following:
z The sizes to be combined in each section of the marker,
z The estimated efficiency of the marker (in percent of fabric utilization),
z The cutting cost per unit (garment),
z The total perimeter to be cut, and
z The total area to be cut.
The objective of the cut order planning problem is to minimize costs, which introduces a need for
a tradeoff between cutting costs and fabric costs. The key decisions to be made are (1) the
number of sections required to fill the order, (2) ply height in each section, and (3) the sizes to be
cut in each section. The determination of (3) provides the input to the marker making function
for actual design of the marker itself.
2.2 Mathematical Model
Consider an order to be cut consisting of sizes s = 1, 2, ..., S. The notation ds will represent the
number of units of size s required to fill the order. The marker for the order will contain sections
j = 1, 2, ..., J. The combination and multiples of sizes used in a section of the marker is indexed
by i. An example (for sizes small, medium and large) is partially illustrated in Table 1 on the
following page.

Table 1. Size Combination Example

i size combination

1 1 small, 1 medium
2 1 large

3 1 medium, 1 large

4 3 mediums

5 2 smalls, 1 medium


The possible size combinations consist of the single individual sizes, as well as multiples
of the individual sizes, and combinations of the single and multiple sizes. The total number of
these size combinations is represented by I, a very large number. For example, for an order
containing six sizes, the number of combinations is O(107). The magnitude of I can be
significantly reduced by limiting the number of sizes allowed to be combined in a section. Other
problem parameters are:
li = estimated fabric length required to cut size combination i;
or the exact length required if a marker for combination i already exists.
ei = number of cutting inches to cut size combination i.
Mi = increased cost of marker making due to size combination i.
dsi = number of units of size s in size combination i.
c = fabric cost per length unit (normally yards or meters).
P = maximum allowable ply height.
L = maximum allowable spread length.
T = labor cost for time required to spread one length of the table.
U = cost per perimeter length unit for cutting.
δs = number of units production permitted over or under the total units in the order
Decision Variables
There are two sets of integer decision variables representing the ply height of a section
and the assignment of sizes to a section.
yj = ply height of section j, yj = 0, 1, 2, ..., P.

xij = {10 otherwise

if size combination i is assigned to section j

The objective of the cut order planning problem is to minimize the total cost of cutting the order,
including the cost of fabric and labor. Specifically, these costs are actual fabric costs, spreading
costs, cutting costs and the impact on marker making costs.
A. Fabric Cost: The term c li is the fabric cost of one layer of size combination i in any
section. Thus, the total fabric cost over all sections j and all size combinations i is:
∑ ∑ cli yj xij.
j=1 i=1

B. Spreading Cost: The variable li is the length of fabric required to cut size combination i in
any section. Thus, L is the fraction of the table length needed in spreading the section for size
combination i in any section and T L is the labor cost for spreading a one-ply section containing
size combination i. Hence, T L yj is the total cost of spreading size combination i in section j,
and the objective function term for spreading cost is:
J I li
∑ ∑ T L yj xij.
j=1 i=1

C. Cutting Cost: The term Uei is the cost of cutting size combination i, and the objective
function term is:
∑ ∑ Ueixij.
j=1 i=1

D. Increased Marker Making Cost: The total increased cost of marker making is expressed in
the objective function by the term:
∑ ∑ Mi xij.
j=1 i=1

If the marker already exists, the cost of determining the marker length is simply based on the
minor costs of storage and retrieval. However, if such a marker does not exist, the cost increases
due to the expanded time needed from a skilled operator for designing the marker and then
transferring the data to the COP function.

The complete objective function can then be expressed as follows:

J I li
Minimize Z = ∑ ∑ [ c li yj xij + T L yj xij + Mixij + U ei xij ]
j=1 i=1

J I li
OR Minimize Z = ∑ ∑ [ c li yj + T L yj + Mi + U ei ] xij
j=1 i=1


A demand constraint is required for the order to be filled, i.e.the total number of units planned
for should be equal to the total number of units ordered. This is expressed as:
(A) ∑ ∑ dsiyjxij = ds ∀ s
j=1 i=1

Note that if production over or under the specified order (overages or underages) is allowed,
constraint (A) can be modified accordingly.
Table length constraint. The following constraint restricts the total length of the marker to be
less than or equal to the physical length of the cutting table.
(B) ∑ ∑ li xij ≤ L
j=1 i=1

The marker is made up of all the planned sections in their varying ply heights.
Enforce the upper bound on ply height. The constraint is represented as:

(C) yj ≤ P ∀j

This constraint is needed since both manual and automatic cutters have limited capacity in the
thickness of fabric which can be cut.
Variable restriction constraints. Decision variable yj is restricted to be a positive integer, less
than or equal to the maximum ply height, and xij is restricted to a binary variable.

(D) yj ∈ { 0, 1, 2, . . ., P} ∀ j, and xij ∈ {0, 1} ∀ i,j

The model as presented above is difficult to solve using standard mathematical programming
methods. Both the objective function and the constraints in (A) contain nonlinear terms. The
model can be linearized, using a variable substitution as follows:

Let zij = yj xij

= the number of replicates (layers) of size combination i which will be cut in section j
It should be clear from the definition of yj and xij that zij is either 0 or the ply height of
section j. Implementing this substitution results in the following linear integer model for the Cut
Order Planning problem:
The COP Model
J I li
Minimize Z = ∑ ∑ [ c li + T L ] zij + [ Mi + U ei ] xij (1)
j=1 i=1

Subject to:
∑ ∑ dsi zij + δs = ds ∀ s Demand Constraint (2)
j=1 i=1

∑ ∑ li xij ≤ L Table Length Constraint (3)
j=1 i=1

zij ≤ xij P ∀ i,j Ply Height Restriction Constraints (4)

zij ∈ { 0, 1, 2, . . ., P} ∀ i,j Variable Restriction Constraints (5)

xij ∈ {0, 1} ∀ i,j (6)
In summary, our model states that we will minimize the cost of cutting a set of orders (1), and in
so doing will meet customer demand (2), will not exceed the table length constraint (3), and will
respect ply height and size combination restrictions (4). In the next section, this model is useful
in discerning the mathematical complexity of COP, and will be useful for algorithmic
development described in Section 3.0.

2.3 Characteristics and Complexity

The COP model is very difficult to solve to optimality when the parameters are of realistic size.
Intuitively this difficulty can be explained by pointing out that the number of solutions grows
exponentially as the size of the problem increases, and therefore the time to search among all
feasible solutions for the best one also grows exponentially in the size of the problem. Having
modeled COP with an integer program bearing no exploitable structure for ready solution
provides further evidence of the difficulty of the problem. In fact, COP is NP-complete. The
proof is provided in Appendix A.

3.0. Heuristics
Since the Cut Order Planning problem is NP-Complete, efficient algorithms for realistically sized
problems will necessarily be heuristic in nature. This insight leads to the need for analyzing the
COP model for characteristics that can be exploited for development of heuristic methods. This
section describes the heuristics developed for COP, the reasoning behind these types of
algorithms, and justification for the evaluation techniques.
Heuristic development is based on the examination of typical industry cases that COP cost
(equation 1) is dominated by total fabric length. Section 4.1 explains the experimental design
which we used to establish this characteristic of the cost function. It should be noted that in
some cases the cost factors we consider in the model developed in Section 2.2 may play a
significant role in the cost of cut order planning. For example, spreading costs may be very high
due to negotiated labor rates, cutting costs may be driven up by manual or equipment parameters,
or a large data base of historical markers may not exist, greatly increasing the cost of that
process. However, we assume the statistical results, which confirm practitioners' intuitions, are
valid for the types of problems addressed by our work, and therefore the model in Section 2.2 can
be modified to reflect this assumption.
Note that under this assumption the only change in the model occurs in the objective function,
where all terms go to zero except those involving the fabric length parameters. An alternative
method for problem solution is to solve the linear relaxation and check the resulting solution for
satisfaction of the integer constraints. However, this approach is not practical: for realistically
sized problems the number of variables, zij, prohibits explicit computation. Furthermore, most
apparel manufacturers who would use these solution methods do not have sufficient computing
capability on-site to utilize sophisticated integer programming solvers.
Therefore, the development of heuristic algorithms to solve COP focuses on finding
computationally efficient procedures for finding good (i.e., relatively low cost) solutions to COP
for a robust set of problem instances. We have selected two types of algorithms for development
of such heuristics, constructive and improvement. A constructive algorithm takes the input
data and builds a feasible solution using intuition, clues from the spatial aspects of the problem,
and guidelines found in the mathematical model. An improvement algorithm begins with an
existing feasible solution and attempts to change the solution in some manner so that the cost of
the solution is reduced while feasibility is maintained. The value of the cost function associated
with the feasible solution produced by one of these heuristic methods can then be compared with
some numerical bound, or other benchmark solutions.
There are three greedy heuristics presented in this section. Two of these algorithms, Savings and
Cherry Picking, are constructive in nature. The Savings heuristic assigns size combinations to a
section based on the fabric savings achieved by combining them into one section as opposed to
having them assigned to separate sections. The Cherry Picking algorithm builds sections by
combining certain sizes based on the best utilization of fabric. The algorithm picks the first and
second most numerous sizes in the order and places those in sections first, then repeats until all
sizes are assigned to a section. The third heuristic is an improvement heuristic rather that a
constructive one. The Improvement algorithm takes a current solution and tries to improve it by

exchanging sizes in different sections or by combining existing sections into one section. These
three methods are detailed in Table 2 and the paragraphs following the table.
Table 2. A Summary of COP Heuristic Algorithms

Step # Savings Heuristic Cherry Picking Heuristic Improvement Heuristic

0 Begin with no units Begin with no units assigned to a Begin with all units assigned to a
assigned to a section. section. section.
1 Assign each unit to a Let q1 be the largest quantity of any Consider the next portion of one
separate section, using the size remaining in the order, and q2 be section.
initial ply height of 1. the second largest, where q2 < q1. If
there is no such q2, then set q2 = q1.
Form set S by selecting all sizes
remaining that have a quantity greater
than or equal to q2.
2 For each pair of sections, The new section will have ply height Attempt to reassign the portion from
compute a list of savings* = min{q2, max ply height}. Combine its original section to one or more of
(see below) achieved by the sizes from set S to minimize the remaining sections, satisfying
combining them into a fabric use. All combinations of the the feasibility checks** (see below)
single section. sizes in set S should be considered listed on the next page. If feasible to
that do not exceed the maximum reassign, compute the savings* (see
number of sizes allowed per section. below) that would be achieved by
making the reassignment.
3 Feasibly merge sections Reduce the order demand quantities Perform the reassignment based on
based on the maximum for the sizes in set S by q2. the best savings computed.
savings achievable. Start over at Step 1.
4. Continue merging other If the order contains a size with The iterations must be tracked. In
sections with this one until positive quantity larger than the the current iteration, if there are no
it contains the maximum number of units allowed under the improvements after examining all
number of units. This specified demand, go to step 1. possible exchanges, then the
section is saved and algorithm terminates.
becomes ineligible for
further merges.
5 After k mergers in Step 3,
update the savings list (k
being an arbitrary input
6. Continue until no more
savings can be achieved or
no mergers are possible.

All algorithms were coded in ANSI Standard C and implemented on a DOS-based IBM PC
platform. The results described in the Section 4.0 were obtained with a 386/20MHz processor,
with each solution completed in less than ten minutes.
*Savings Computation: Step 2 of the savings algorithm and Step 3 of the Improvement
algorithm require a computation of savings achieved for combining two sections into one.
Described below are the details of this computation, based of whether or not the two sections to
be combined contain the same set of sizes, denoted Case A and Case B.
Case A: The two sections contain exactly the same size(s). The merger can be accomplished in
one of two ways:
(i) Increase ply height by spreading one section on top of the other and making no change to the
size combination in the section, as illustrated in
Figure 4. Note the length of fabric required for
the section is the same before and after the
merger, and hence has no
effect on the cost savings for the merger.
Therefore if only fabric cost is being considered, L
the savings for this case is equal to zero. L

However, if cutting costs must be considered, let

e represent the number of cutting inches in the
pattern (i)for the size combination in the two
sections being considered. Then e is also the L

number of cutting inches required for the merged

section as well. Recall that U = cutting cost per
Figure 4. Illustration of Case A
Thus, Ue + Ue = cost of cutting the two unmerged sections, and Ue = cost of cutting the merged
sections. Hence, under this consideration, Ue = the savings in cost obtained by merging the two

The merger could also be accomplished by:

(ii) Changing the size combination, leaving the ply height the same, as illustrated in Figure 5.
Here the savings will be the decreased cost of fabric required for spreading the merged
Assume the following notation:
li1 = length of fabric required to cut one layer of the 1st unmerged section,
li2 = length of fabric required to cut one layer of the 2nd unmerged section,
li3 = length of fabric required to cut one layer of the 3rd merged section, and
p = ply height of the unmerged and merged sections.
Recall that c is the unit cost of fabric.

Then, the savings can be computed as cp(li1
+ li2 - li3).


Figure 5. Illustration of Case A (ii)

Case B: The two sections do not contain the same size(s). Figure 6 illustrates this case. (i)
If the ply heights are the same, this case is precisely the same as case A(ii). We simply merge
the size combinations, leaving the ply height unchanged. Then, the savings can be computed as
cp(li1 + li2 - li3).
(ii) If the two sections do not contain the same size and have different ply heights. The only
way to merge two such sections is to merge the
size combinations, choosing the ply height so
L L that overages or underages are minimized.
This again is the same as case A(ii). Hence the
savings computation is cp(li1 + li2 - li3). If
overages/underages are not allowed, this option
is simply denoted infeasible, and the savings
computation is equal to zero.
**Feasibility Checks for the Improvement
Algorithm: The feasibility of such mergers is
based on two conditions:
(1) Will the maximum number of sizes allowed
per section be violated? If so, do not
Figure 6. Illustration of Case B
(2) Will the maximum number of units over and under the demand be violated? If so, do not

4.0. Computational Results

4.1. Testbed Data
We developed a set of problems representative of an industrial application to evaluate the
performance of the heuristic algorithms. These problems were based on a problem provided by
an apparel manufacturer, and were structured with test cases to examine the robustness of the

algorithms relative to various problem instances. The testbed data contains twenty problems,
which range from one to six sizes per order. The various parameters of the problem were varied
according to the experimental design described below. These factors are listed in Table 3.
Estimated marker lengths for the various size combinations were obtained using a COP
commercial software package.

Table 3. Factors for the Experimental Design

Factor Factor Description Values Used

A Fabric Cost $0.50 or $10.00
B Number of Pieces in the Order 48 or 1200
C Distribution of Sizes In Order uniform or non-uniform
D Number Sizes Within Order 1 or 6
E Cutting Labor Cost $10 or $30
F Spreading Labor Cost $8 or $25
G Maximum Ply Height 47 m or 108 m
H Order Filling Requirements exact or approximate
I,J,K Estimating Sample Error
To facilitate the experimental trials, two order types, normal and pathological, were defined. We
used the normal orders to represent typical industrial problems, and, in this case, implying that
both ply height and order quantities are multiples of twelve. We chose pathological orders to test
algorithmic performance on odd numerical combinations, in this case, ply height and/or order
quantities which are not multiples of twelve. Three normal orders and two pathological orders
were created. For these five orders, three alternative ply heights were specified for different runs.
In addition, the results from the algorithms were recorded before and after the improvement
algorithm was applied. These various combinations of the problem parameters resulted in twenty
problem instances, presented in Table 4. In addition to the results shown in this table, one more
trial was run with all factors set at their "high" settings in order to perform validation of the
model results.

Table 4. Experimental Problem Instances

Problem Normal Order Ply
Instance d1/d2/d3/d4/d5/d6 Pathological Order Height Applied?
1 72/144/360/360/144/72 48 No
2 72/144/360/360/144/72 48 Yes
3 72/144/360/360/144/72 108 No
4 72/144/360/360/144/72 108 Yes
5 0/0/0/0/960/240 48 No
6 0/0/0/0/960/240 48 Yes
7 0/0/0/0/960/240 108 No
8 0/0/0/0/960/240 108 Yes
9 0/0/0/0/1200/0 48 No
10 0/0/0/0/1200/0 48 Yes
11 0/0/0/0/1200/0 108 No
12 0/0/0/0/1200/0 108 Yes
13 163/239/599/45/124/30 47 No
14 163/239/599/45/124/30 47 Yes
15 163/239/599/45/124/30 108 No
16 163/239/599/45/124/30 108 Yes
17 200/200/200/200/200/200 47 No
18 200/200/200/200/200/200 47 Yes
19 200/200/200/200/200/200 108 No
20 200/200/200/200/200/200 108 Yes
We used this testbed data to obtain results for the various problem instances using two
commercial software packages which are widely applied to solve the COP in industrial settings.
The seven performance measures of interest were as follows:

1. Total Cost ($)
2. Number of Patterns
3. Number of Sections
4. Total Ply Count
5. Number Units Over Demand Required
6. Number Units Under Demand Required
7. Fabric Utilization
Using the output from the trial runs, we performed a statistical analysis based on a 12-run
Plackett-Burman [9] design. The analysis indicated the performance measures were not sensitive
to most of the factors shown in Table 3. The most conclusive finding of the analysis is the
significantly large impact of the cost of fabric on the total cost of the cut order planning process.
Not only does this conclusion make logical sense from the problem environment, but is a fact
which can be capitalized upon for solution of the cut order planning problem. Since fabric cost is
directly related to fabric length, we used the criterion of total fabric length alone to compare the
performance of the algorithms. The remainder of this section will describe the results of our
experimental study to examine the performance of the COP algorithms.

4.2 Empirical Testing of the COP Heuristics

The performances of the algorithms described in Section 3.0 were compared to each other and to
the results obtained from two commercial COP packages. Additionally, we applied the
improvement algorithm to all of these solutions, as well as to randomly generated solutions.
To illustrate the results, the normal orders with ply height 48 are given in Figures 7 and 8. In
Figure 7, the solutions denoted “Improvement” are the result of applying the improvement
algorithm to an initial solution composed of each size in the marker in a separate section of the
marker. Note that in each case this solution is relatively close to the best of all the others.
Solutions for the problems with ply height 108 and normal orders are similar and consistent with
these results.
Figures 9 and 10 show the objective solution value for the pathological orders with ply height 47
before and after improvement, respectively. Similar results were obtained for the pathological
orders with ply height 108. These figures are displayed on the following pages.

P LY H E IG H T 48 P kg B
S av in gs
20 000 C h erry
P kg A
19 000 Im pro vem en t

18 000

17 000
In che s

16 000

15 000

14 000

1 2 3
72/144/360/144/72 0/0/0/0/960/240 0/0/0/0/1200/0
O rd ers

Figure 7. Total Fabric Inches for Normal Orders with Ply Height 48

P LY H E IG H T 48

19000 Im pro ved P kg B

Im pro ved S avin g s
Im pro ved C h erry
Im pro ved P kg A
In ch es




1 2 3
72/144/360/360/144/72 0/0/0/0/960/240 0/0/0/0/1200/0
O rd ers
Figure 8. Total Fabric Inches for Improved Normal Orders with Ply Height 48

P LY H E IG H T 47
200 00

190 00 P kg B
S av in gs
180 00 C h erry
P kg A
170 00 Im pro vem en t
In ch es

160 00

150 00
140 00
1 2
163/239/599/45/124/30 200/200/200/200/200/200
O rd ers

Figure 9. Total Fabric Inches for Pathological Orders with Ply Height 47

Figure 10. Total Fabric Inches for Improved Pathological Orders with Ply Height 47

4.3 Interpretation of Experimental Results
Three primary conclusions can be drawn from the numerical results:
™ The Savings algorithm performs significantly better than the Cherry Picking algorithm.
™ The Savings algorithm provides solutions which are as good as or better than the
commercial packages.
™ The Improvement algorithm is able to make improvements in all solutions, even the
commercial ones. After the improvement algorithm is applied, all solutions are similar
in the total required fabric length.

5.0. Conclusions and Extensions

This research documents the first known experimental verification of fabric cost being the
dominant determinant of the cut order planning solution. This drives home the point that
heuristic solutions, including those used in commercial packages, are critically dependent on the
estimation of fabric length required to cut a particular combination of sizes together in a marker.
Therefore, it is important that this information be obtained from historical data or correctly
estimated by experienced operators. Ideally this data would be available from the actual markers
used in the cutting process.
Major analytical contributions of this paper include the development of a mathematical model
and its complexity analysis, and the improvement algorithm. The mathematical model for the cut
order planning problem is new to the apparel manufacturing literature. The complexity analysis
described in Section 2.2 establishes NP-Completeness. For large scale industry problems, this
means no solution method (including commercial packages), based on current computational
capabilities is likely to guarantee mathematically optimal COP solutions. Simple heuristic
methods were shown to be at least as good as the commercial packages, and an improvement
algorithm was developed which increased fabric utilization when applied to solutions obtained
from commercial software. Exhibiting versatility, this method was able to produce solutions
from a random starting solution which were essentially equivalent to improved solutions from
commercial packages and other simple heuristics. This means that COP can be solved easily by
anyone with a desktop computer, an improvement algorithm, and accurate information for
marker lengths.
The cut order planning problem as addressed here is performed independently of downstream
production considerations. This is done even though the output of COP is the direct input for
marker making and the cutting room. Given the ever changing status of current orders, current
work-in-process (WIP) in the system, and production configuration, there is a significant
opportunity to make the production system more efficient and responsive by better coordination
of dynamic, integrated planning and scheduling of WIP release, WIP movement, and
configuration of the associated flexible production capacity. For these reasons, it is
recommended that future COP research extend this work to capitalize on the adaptive capabilities
of the improvement algorithm. Such extensions should explicitly include material flow control
considerations. This will allow for consideration of the current
status of the assembly operations and the reflection of competing system objectives. This
extension will bring the cut order planning process closer to true integration within the total
production planning process.

The results reported here expand readily into the more comprehensive planning environment. An
illustration of this concept is presented in Figure 11.

L is t o f p e n d in g o rd e rs F e as ib ility C he c k s -- M a te ria ls,

D e cis io n : W h ic h o rd e r(s ) s h o u ld C a p a citie s , W o rk sta tio n la din g
b e p ro c e s s e d this tim e p e rio d ? & W orkflo w ?

C o n v e n tio n a l C O P
D e te rm in e : W h ich o rd e rs to c u t to ge th e r A lso in clu d e :
N u m b e r o f s e c tio ns M in to ta l in ve n tory co s ts ,
W h ic h s iz e s in e a c h s e c tio n ra w m a te ria ls , W IP ,
S e ctio n ply h e ig h t & le n gth fin is h e d go o d s
M in im iz e C o sts : F a b ric, C u ttin g & M a x th ru p u t a t s h o p floo r
S p re a d in g la b o r, a n d M a x u tiliz a tio n o f
M a rk e r M a kin g im p a c t re s ou rc e s: E qu ip m e n t,
S u b je ct to : S p re a d in g re s tric tio n s m a te ria ls , p e o p le , e tc .

H um an S c he d u lin g T oo ls, in c lu d in g
S u p e rv iso r E v alu a tio n & S e ns itiviy ;
A id D e c is io n M a ke r

M a rk e r M a k in g S h o p F lo o r P la n n in g S h o p F lo o r R e a l T im e
C o n tro l

Figure 11. A Comprehensive Cutting Room Scheduling System

Proof of NP-Completeness
We will show our COP model is equivalent to the integral knapsack problem, which is known to
be NP-complete (e.g., [3]). Consider the linearized formulation for COP developed in section
J I li
(COP) Minimize ∑ ∑ [ c li + T L ] zij + [ Mi + U ei ] xij
j=1 i=1

Subject to:
∑ ∑ dsi zij + ds = ds ∀s
j=1 i=1

∑ ∑ li xij ≤ L
j=1 i=1

zij ≤ xij P ∀i,j

zij ∈ { 0, 1, 2, . . ., P} ∀ i,j
xij ∈ {0, 1} ∀ i,j

Now consider a special case where:

(a) c = 0, T = 0, and
(b) all dsi = 0 and δs = ds.
Let Mi + U ei = Wi, ∀ i. The model for this special case then becomes:

(SCOP) Minimize ∑ ∑ Wi xij
j=1 i=1

Subject to:

∑ ∑ li xij ≤ L
j=1 i=1

xij ∈ {0, 1} ∀ i,j

Now let ui ∈ Z+ where ui = ∑ xij. The SCOP formulation becomes the following:

(K) Minimize ∑ wi ui

Subject to:
li ui ≤ L
ui ≤ J∀i, ui ∈ Z+
K is the formulation for an integral knapsack problem, and so is NP-complete (e.g., [3]).

I. Proposition: xij solves SCOP.

If we let ui = ∑ xij, then ui is feasible in K.

(1) ui = ∑ xij ≤ ∑ 1 [xij ∈ {0,1}]
i=1 i=1

= J
=> ui ≤ J, ∀ i

(2) ∑ liui = ∑ li ∑ xij = ∑ ∑ li xij ≤ L.
i=1 i=1 j=1 i=1 j=1

(3) ui = ∑ xij ∈ Z+ „

II. Proposition: ui solves SCOP.

If ui = 0 let xij = 0 ∀j
If ui = d ≠ 0, let xi1 = xi2 = . . . = xid = 1
xij = 0 for j > d.
Observe that ∑ xij = ui.


(1) xij ∈ {0,1} ∀ i,j.

(2) ∑ ∑ li xij = ∑ li ∑ xij = ∑ li ui ≤ L. „
i=1 j=1 i=1 j=1 i=1

With I and II we have shown that feasible solutions to K are also feasible in SCOP. Since K is
NP-complete, then so is SCOP. Since SCOP is a special case of COP, then COP is also NP-
complete. „

The contributions of the following people are gratefully acknowledged. We would like to
recognize Mr. Bill Warden, who worked tirelessly to perform the computational work for the
Plackett-Burman study. Also we offer many thanks to Dr. Donna Llewellyn, in the School of
Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Tech, for her development of the complexity
proof. We offer our gratitude to the two apparel vendors (who wish to remain anonymous) for
providing us with their software for use in this work, and to Ms. Cynthia Holeridge from a very
helpful apparel manufacturer who spent long periods on the telephone with us to provide and
validate our testbed data. Other thanks go to Randolph Case of the Georgia Tech Research
Institute for moral support as well as for giving us his best graduate student for this project. At
the Apparel Demonstration Center on the Southern Tech Campus, many instances of help and
assistance are cited. Our thanks to Dale Stewart and Carol Ring, at the Demonstration Center,
for their patience and assistance. The presentation has been significantly improved by the
helpful comments of the associate editor and three anonymous referees. Finally, we must
acknowledge the interest and encouragement in this work by our sponsor's representatives,
Donald O'Brien, Dan Gearing, Helen Kerlin, and Julie Tsau. This work was supported by the
Defense Logistics Agency under contract number DLA-87-D-0018-0012.


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