Computer Systems Facilitate Scheduling, Worker Participation
FORT LEE, N.J. -- In this age of computers, where technology often strongly influences job productivity, Emanuel Weintraub Associates has developed two systems, the Automated Line Development Calendar and Improshare, in which worker behavior is...
FORT LEE, N.J. -- In this age of computers, where technology often strongly influences job productivity, Emanuel Weintraub Associates has developed two systems, the Automated Line Development Calendar and Improshare, in which worker behavior is equally as influential.
Firms often implement traditional line development calendars or "pre-planning calendars" to list the myriad of tasks involved in the creation-through-completion process of clothing lines. According to Weintraub president Emanuel Weintraub, his management company's Automated Line Development Calendar takes this listing process, which is often done manually, and automates it for use on a PC.
"The time is ripe for this system," Weintraub feels. "Because of the consolidation of retail into fewer hands, and with more and more private labels being purchased, the importance of getting production out on time has never been more crucial," he said.
The automated calendar identifies the various activities that take place during the line development process, pinpoints responsibility for each task and schedules them -- working backward from the line's release date -- in a way that permits each to be completed in a timely fashion.
"For example," Weintraub elaborated, "if you have two linked tasks such as ordering sample material and sewing it, if the yardage is not ordered on time you'll be late with the sewing. With our system," Weintraub distinguished, "if you're late on the sample yardage purchase, it bumps the sewing to recapture the fumble."
Weintraub emphasized that the program can only be successful with proper worker commitment. "It is a tool that brings discipline into the process," he said. "None of this means anything unless there is a written mission statement from the head of the company stating that the allocated dates will be followed."
The automated process can potentially lead to a highly sophisticated system that creates individual and master line calendars that can be printed for single or multiple seasons. It can also customize pre-production steps and departments involved to fit small or large companies.
Progress tracking is accomplished by entering the percentage that has been completed on each task. In this way, delays and problems are highlighted. The feature enables a manager to see the status of each task, which is displayed next to the calendar's task bar. By comparing the progress against the planned schedule, bottlenecks are exposed and can be remedied.The system is also broken up into a weekly task list and a monthly calendar, which designates company holidays and lists the start and finish date of all tasks.
Weintraub highlighted the industry's growing complexity as a reason why the automated calendar is an invaluable tool. "You're dealing with multiple sets of problems," he pointed out. "The apparel business is split between high-profile brands that have to come up with lines and with private label firms that don't make lines but have an equivalent of them. There are no longer single-issue issues."
Like the automated calendar, Weintraub's Improshare system -- a gain-sharing plan -- focuses on worker performance by encouraging worker involvement in increasing productivity.
"The difference between this plan and the piecework wage incentive plans is that with piecework you're paying for work-in-process, and ours pays a bonus on completed first-quality products only," Weintraub distinguished.
Improshare, an acronym for Improved Productivity through Sharing, encourages experienced workers to help novices to come up to speed. It also has the ability to include workers whose efforts are hard to measure. Measuring productivity during a base period, the plan then uses that measurement as a standard. It then shares all gains in productivity over that standard on a 50/50 basis between employees and the company.
A limit, usually 30 percent, is set on the bonus that can be earned by employees. Since productivity improvement is shared 50/50 between the employees and the company, this represents a potential 60 percent increase in overall productivity.
"The plan also works on employee empowerment with the installation of a productivity committee," said Weintraub. "You have a number of individuals selected from the facility who get together and talk about gains and losses, which are then posted up," he added.
Weintraub explained that the committee group can also act as a catalyst for change. "The systems problems are discussed in the group and they then percolate up to the top management. The workers benefit because they get the pebbles out of their shoes. Their constraints are eliminated.
"The group can also bounce ideas around until the useful ones emerge. Those can then be presented to the managers," Weintraub said, while emphasizing that the communal aspect of the program works well for distribution centers "with a high demand of urgency, where people move quickly from one job to another. It's one place where people can't say, 'This is not my job.' "The success of Improshare depends on joining worker goals with the organization's objectives. Due to the industry's quick response, EDI environment, Weintraub claims that Improshare provides the workers incentive necessary for companies to compete effectively.
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