You are on page 1of 8

The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at

A study of the effect of time A study of the

effect of time
variations for assembly line variations

balancing in the clothing

industry Received March 1997

Chi Leung Patrick Hui and Sau Fun Frency Ng Revised March 1999
Institute of Textile and Clothing, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Accepted March 1999
Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Keywords Assembly lines, Clothing industry
Abstract The problem of assembly line balancing is to assign different tasks to individual
workstations for ensuring the sum of task times at any station not exceeding the station
time. Standard minute time is generally used in the clothing industry as a predictor of sewing
speed and production efficiency. In the clothing industry, the standard minute time derived from
the work study methods is generally assumed as a constant for line balancing. However,
a lot of factors cause variations on operational time of the same task such as the fabrics
and sub-materials, performance of the machinery, working environment and quality level
of the product. With the aid of an illustrating example selected from a men's shirt manufacturing
factory, the effect of time variations for assembly line balancing has been studied in this

Garment manufacturing in nature is complicated, it involves a number
of machines, hundreds of employees and thousands of bundles of sub-assemblies
producing different styles simultaneously. In the apparel industry, assembly lines
are widely adopted for mass production. Garment components are sub-assembled
and eventually completed by final assembly. The design of the bundle assembly
line is one important issue for efficient production. It consists of assigning
and balancing tasks between workstations of an assembly line in order to
minimise balance delay, labour force and ultimately minimising the total
production cost.
In assembly line balancing, an apparel manufacturer is interested in whether
assembly work will be finished on time for delivery, how machines and
employees are being utilised, whether any station in the assembly line is
lagging behind the schedule and how the assembly line is doing overall. The
role of supervisor is to ensure the tasks are allocated to each workstation as
evenly as possible and to assign appropriate operatives to each station of an
assembly line. The determination of the production time for each task is critical
in the line balance of an assembly line. Ideally each workstation on the
assembly line should receive an equal amount of work in time units; otherwise
a bottleneck may occur on an assembly line. In most apparel enterprises, the International Journal of Clothing
estimation of production time for each task is by reference to Standard Minute Science and Technology,
Vol. 11 No. 4, 1999, pp. 181-188.
Value, SMV. The characteristic of SMV is deterministic in nature, derived from # MCB University Press, 0955-6222
IJCST the method of work study. However, it cannot reflect the real production
11,4 environment because a lot of factors such as the properties of fabric and sub-
materials, performance of machinery, working environment and quality level of
the product may cause variations on the task time. Such variations on task time
cause the assembly line balancing problem in the clothing industry to become
more complicated.
182 This paper aims to review the time measuring method used for the assembly
line balancing in the clothing industry, to discuss their pitfalls and to
recommend the possible solution in order to improve the effectiveness of
assembly line balancing.

Definition of assembly line and classification of assembly line

An assembly line is defined (Baybars, 1986, p. 909) as a set of distinct tasks
which is assigned to a set of workstations linked together by a transport
mechanism under detailed assembling sequences specifying how the
assembling process flows from one station to another. A task is a smallest
indivisible work element, and the order in which the tasks can be performed is
restricted by a set of precedence relationships. The time required for the
completion of a task is known as the task time (process time). The cycle time
(station time) is the amount of time available at each station as well as the time
between successive units coming off the line. Generally, the cycle time is
predetermined based on the demand for the product in the given period (and/or
the given operating time for the manufacturing system in that period), in other
words, by what rate of production is desired.
A manufacturing item is fed to the first station of the line at a predetermined
constant feed rate. The production rate which associates with the feed rate is
one unit of the finished product which emerges from the last station along the
production line every T time units. Line balancing is classified into the
following categories according to the work of T.K. Bhattacharjee
(Bhattacharjee and Sahu, 1987, pp. 32-43):
(1) Single model line: deterministic task time. It is assumed that the task time
of work element in each station is constant and a unique product is
produced in each line.
(2) Single model line: stochastic task time. Same as (1) but the station times
are assumed to be independently normally distributed with known
means and variance.
(3) Multi/mixed model line: deterministic task time. It is assumed that the
task time of work element in each station is constant and an assembly
line produces more than one style of the same product.
(4) Multi/mixed model line: stochastic task time. Same as (3) but the station
times are assumed to be independently normally distributed with
known means and variance.
Time measuring method used in assembly line balancing in the A study of the
clothing industry effect of time
Several techniques have been used for determining time standards in the variations
clothing industry (Friend, 1981, pp. 43-5; Luk, 1982, pp. 65-7; Manufacturing
Clothier, 1988, pp. 49-51). It includes:
(1) time study;
(2) predetermined motion time systems;
(3) work sampling; and
(4) standard data development.
The predetermined motion time system (PMTS) has become increasingly
important in setting time standards for various work tasks. PMTS are systems
that synthesise operation times by combining pre-determined times of basic
human movements. Over the years, various PMTS have been developed for the
clothing industry. These have included Singer Data, Stamp and GMD (Garment
Making Data) using MTM (Methods Time Measurement), GSD (General
Sewing Data) using MTM Core Data and CME (Clothing Methods
The MTM is commonly used for evaluating the task time for each operation
in the clothing industry. According to the report of the Clothing Technology
Committee of the Clothing Institute (The Clothing Technology Committee,
1980, pp. 145-8), the definition of MTM is a procedure of analysing any manual
or the method into the basic motions required. Each motion is also assigned in a
predetermined time standard that is determined by the nature of the motion
and the conditions under which it is made.
Garment making is by nature more complicated than many other industries.
Many factors such as the properties of fabrics and human emotions will affect
the performance of the operatives that ultimately will cause variance on the
task time in an assembly line. In the study by Betts and Mahmoud (1989, pp.
427-45; 1992, pp. 23-33), the varying skill of operatives and stochastic task time
were considered for assembly line balancing in the clothing industry. In
practice, the variation of task time is affected not only by operatives' skill but
also other factors such as working environment, performance of machinery and
also the quality level of the product. As a result, the actual time for the
completion of each task varies between different operatives and such variations
also exist at the same task repeatedly performed by the same operative. Time
variation between each task becomes important for the assembly line
The skill level of each operative for each task of the assembly line has to be
known if the varying skills of operatives were adopted for assembly line
balancing. In real production environment, one workstation normally involves
more than one task. When there are several tasks to be carried out by an
operative in a workstation, it is difficult to determine the skill level of an
IJCST operative who works for a combination of various tasks. Therefore, it would be
11,4 more practical to consider the time variance of each workstation than the
variance of each single task for assembly line balancing.
Because of the time variations, the task time is not deterministic in nature.
As more than one style of garment would be produced in an assembly line,
assembly line balancing in the clothing industry belongs to the class of ``multi/
184 mixed model line ± stochastic task time'' according to Bhattacharjee's
classification scheme (Bhattacharjee and Sahu, 1987, pp. 32-43) as described in
the previous section. To measure the effectiveness of balance for this class of
assembly line, the smoothness index (SI) developed by Moodie and Young
(1965, pp. 23-9) was used in this study.

Criteria for measuring the effectiveness of balance in the assembly

Moodie and Young (1965, pp. 23-9) proposed the SI for measuring the
effectiveness of balance in assembly lines. SI is defined as:
SI ˆ …kˆ1 …Smax ÿ Sk †2 †1=2 k ˆ 1; 2; ::::; Nstns …1†

where Smax is the maximum station time, Nstns is the number of workstations
and Sk is the individual station time. The station time (Sk) of each station is
calculated using the relation
Sk ˆ Smean ‡ …Svar †1=2 …2†

where  is the confidence coefficient for normally distributed work element

times and Smean and Svar are the sum of the means and the sum of the variances,
respectively, of all the tasks allotted to that particular workstation. The value
of  can be varied according to the wish of the decision maker. For the
illustrating example in the next section, the value of  chosen is 1.
In equation (1), time variance is a crucial element in measuring the
effectiveness of line balancing. The smaller the SI, the higher the balancing

An example to illustrate the importance of time variations in

assembly line balancing
An illustrating example of the line balancing problem in making men's shirt is
shown in Figure 1. The data were collected from a men's shirt manufacturing
factory in Hong Kong. In this example, the total numbers of workstations and
tasks in the assembly line are 87 and 40 respectively. Each task is represented
by a circle, labelled by an integer number inside the circle as task number.
These circles are connected by arrows indicating the precedence relationship
between the tasks.
From the data illustrated in Table I, as computed by equation (1) and (2), the
SI without variance and the SI with variance are 540 and 485 respectively.
1 12 26 28 30 35 A study of the
effect of time
2 13 27 29 31 36
3 14 32 37

4 15 33 38 185
5 16 34 39

7 6 17 40

8 18

9 19

10 20

11 21


Figure 1.
Precedence relationship
24 of 40 tasks for men's
shirt manufacturing

The above computational results are supported by the following mathematical

In equation (1), SI ˆ …kˆ1 …Smax ÿ Sk †2 †1=2 ;
In equation (2), Sk ˆ Smean ‡ …Svar †1=2 ; and
If variance ? 0, it implies that Sk = Smean.
;…Smax ÿ Smean ÿ …Svar †1=2 †  …Smax ÿ Smean †
) SI…with time variance†  SI…without time variance†

Conclusion and recommendations

The nature of assembly line balance in the clothing industry is stochastic
because of the existence of task time variations. The smoothness index (SI)
developed by Moodie and Young (1965, pp. 23-9) is an appropriate tool for
measuring the effectiveness of assembly line balance in the apparel industry.
Based on the real production data collected from a men's shirt manufacturing
factory, the example illustrated in this study clearly showed that the SI with
time variance is smaller than the SI without time variance. The smaller the SI,
the higher the effectiveness the line balancing. This implies that the variance of
IJCST Station number Task number Station mean Station variance
1 24 30.67 0
2 24 19.55 9.27
3 38 6.22 4.35
4 08, 38 16.58 7.41
5 06 6.58 3.42
186 6 38 12.09 3.15
7 03, 06, 07, 35 14.67 5.4
8 38 13.17 2.45
9 03, 07, 35 6.91 8.64
10 05 3.29 2.16
11 27 3.67 1.72
12 25 9.80 3.77
13 25 28.64 7.11
14 25 22.78 11.08
15 25 28.73 9.91
16 09 1.86 0.87
17 25 22.88 12.44
18 18, 21 7.56 3.55
19 25 24.73 9.73
20 05 2.38 1.11
21 14 4.60 2.20
22 06 1.07 0.50
23 23 13.47 6.36
24 22 10.16 5.22
25 24 20.72 9.25
26 18 9.28 3.17
27 16 10.26 4.81
28 12 5.15 2.55
29 28 8.68 3.59
30 24 20.12 9.71
31 15 7.72 3.65
32 29, 32 21.73 11.54
33 23 13.83 6.22
34 29 12.96 6.07
35 29 6.64 2.96
36 17 11.91 5.11
37 26 3.83 1.80
38 22, 24 35.1 13.67
39 21 10.82 5.68
40 13 5.97 2.81
41 28 7.89 4.14
42 30 10.36 4.85
Table I. 43 23 5.89 0
Actual line balance of 44 18 7.95 3.58
making men's shirt in 45 18 7.06 3.54
terms of workstation 46 20 10.69 4.99
number, task number 47 19 10.11 4.74
to be performed, 48 21 12.32 5.17
station time and 49 29, 32 25.48 10.32
station variance (continued)
Station number Task number Station mean Station variance A study of the
effect of time
50 19 11.28 4.90 variations
51 26 3.84 1.80
52 31 6.03 2.73
53 23 12.74 6.36
54 17 8.29 6.45
55 20 11.02 5.53
56 34 2.81 1.32
57 06 2.74 1.19
58 33 4.28 1.97
59 20 11.85 4.75
60 06, 39 7.25 3.21
61 11, 22, 40 13.95 6.11
62 07, 08, 19, 38 30.5 17.7
63 38 9.36 5.00
64 06 1.73 0.79
65 07 3.68 1.70
66 39 3.14 1.69
67 09 3.75 2.67
68 06 7.05 3.08
69 04 16.13 8.73
70 08 9.18 5.33
71 38 9.73 5.23
72 01, 06 10.5 9.51
73 01, 06 12.37 10.27
74 04 13.37 7.52
75 04 19.23 4.64
76 37, 38 13.51 1.4
77 11, 19, 22, 40 15.48 7.69
78 01, 03, 09 16.1 13.36
79 01, 36 63.14 35.68
80 05 4.81 3.10
81 04 11.13 6.81
82 09 2.13 0.99
83 36 20.64 20.18
84 06, 10, 39 12.15 4.29
85 08, 38 17.29 9.47
86 02, 06, 19, 38 23.94 17.45
87 07 3.72 1.81 Table I.

task time in clothing production is significant in assembly line balancing. The

time variance should be taken into consideration for improving effectiveness of
line balancing. The study also found that using time variance of each
workstation rather than the time variance of each task would be beneficial for
assembly line balancing in the clothing industry.
Baybars, I. (1986), ``A survey of exact algorithms for the simple assembly line balancing
problem'', Management Science, Vol. 32 No. 8, p. 909.
IJCST Betts, J. and Mahmoud, K.I. (1989), ``Identifying multiple solutions for assembly line balancing
having stochastic task times'', Computers Industrial Engineering, Vol. 16 No. 3, pp. 427-45.
11,4 Betts, J. and Mahmoud, K.I. (1992), ``Assembly line balancing in the clothing industry allowing
for varying skills of operatives'', International Journal of Clothing Science and Technology,
Vol. 4 No. 4, pp. 28-33.
Bhattacharjee, T.K. and Sahu, S. (1987), ``A critique of some current assembly line balancing
techniques'', International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 7 No. 6,
188 pp. 32-43.
(The) Clothing Technology Committee (1980), ``Summary of PMTS'', The Clothing Technology
Committee Report of the Clothing Institute, pp. 145-8.
Friend R.L. (1981), ``Predetermined motion time systems: 2- general sewing data (GSD)'', Knitting
Ind. Tech. Rev., Vol. 1, August, pp. 43-5.
Luk, C.M. (1982), ``Operation standard time'', Textile Asia, Vol. 8, September, pp. 65-7.
Manufacturing Clothier (1988),``PMTS: a clothing industry update'', Vol. 71 No. 4, April,
pp. 49-51.
Moodie C.L. and Young H.H. (1965), ``A heuristic method of assembly line balancing for
assumptions of constant or variable work element times'', Journal of Industrial
Engineering, No. XVI, pp. 23-9.

Related Interests