An efficiency conundrum hounding the Sri Lankan apparel industry over the past two decades has seen giants such as MAS Holdings giving up on trying to break through the production efficiency barrier to focus on the complete supply chain. In 2018, MAS’ factories are operating at 65 per cent efficiency, which is what they were operating at in 2000.
But technology has enabled production which took six weeks in 2003 to improve to four days today. The duration from purchase order to delivery which was eight weeks in 2003 has fallen to six days in 2018. The sizes of small orders have fallen from 10,000 to as low as 200. Improving efficiency alone has become irrelevant. In order to further minimize waste and speed up delivery times, the firm has adopted other strategies. Lean manufacturing has played a big part in eliminating waste across the value chain and bringing timelines and lead times down.
MAS Holdings has learnt from the automobile industry on how to seamlessly adapt resources to produce differing styles of the same product with minimum waste and delay. Employees on the production floor are now well trained in at least three skills, in order to allow them to rotate and not have production disrupted by absenteeism or skill shortages.