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Life inside a garment factory
At Murray, we have a long experience of designing and manufacturing quality uniform and workwear to a range of clients across multiple industries. But what common factor brings them together? Their garments are all made in a factory! Today we bring you a fascinating insight into what actually happens there, from receiving the fabrics to the packing and shipping.
We work closely with our suppliers to ensure the factories we receive garments from are producing the best quality but just as importantly, in an ethical way. For information on our Sedex membership, please get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org
Receiving the fabrics
Many garment factories receive fabrics from overseas manufacturers. The delivery often comes with big bolts of fabric with cardboard and sometimes it also arrives in piles, bags or plastic centre tubes. Fabric is delivered in shipping containers and requires forklifts to unload. Workers store the fabric bolts in warehouses located in or near to the factory.
The next step is to relax the fabric. Fabric relaxing is a small part, but it is crucial to manufacture a good quality and consistent production run. The main goal is to relax and contract the fabrics to get them ready for manufacturing.
With many stages in the manufacturing process, the fabrics undergo tension which may result in shrinking. Fabric relaxing allows it to shrink first to minimise the shrinkage and shape change when the customer uses the finished garment.
During the fabric relaxing process, manufacturers may also perform a quality check on the material. Workers lay a surface on the back of the fabric to spot any defect of the fabrics, for example, colour inconsistency. If workers detect flaws, the factory will return the fabric back to the manufacturer.
Layout and cutting
After completing the fabric relaxing, workers cut them into uniform lengths and spread them to enter the cutting process. The spreading can be done by a computer-controlled system and this step is to initially detect fabric flaws, check the tension / slack and ensure the correct alignment of each fabric.
Based on the fabric type and size of the garment order, workers decide on the numbers of piles to spread. Then, they lay the patterns of the fabric on top of the spread on a computerised cutting system. The finished result is a garment form in the desired shape.
Workers lay paper patterns or use software to determine the most efficient way of laying and cutting garment patterns. Large pieces are laid first and then smaller pieces are arranged. The smaller pieces are carefully placed to save the fabric used in the process. The material is cut through hundreds of layers so it is important to maximise pattern placement efficacy.
The marking paper is a printed paper with symbols to indicate the position of each component and to make sure that each piece follows specific grain lines. Workers put pins or staples on the fabric to ensure the marker stays in place. However, some manufacturers also use adhesive paper and heat them to seal the top layer of the fabric.
There are several rules to ensure that the fabric is fully used to aid cost-saving…
The length of the garment needs to be parallel to the edge of the fabric.
The pattern is placed on the right grain.
The parts are placed on the edge of the fold.
The laying process is done on the wrong side of the fabric.
The design of fabric needs to be placed in the exact direction of the garment when laying paper patterns. This is especially important on printed fabric.
The checks and stripes also match the seams.
Cutting is a very important part of the process. After finishing with the spreading, laying and marking, workers continue with the important task of cutting the fabric.
If any problems occur when cutting, the sewing process is affected and so is the final result. Nothing can be done to fix serious defects post cutting, therefore the utmost care is taken at this stage. As a result, the cutting machine uses a straight, sharp knife to complete the cutting process.
Embroidering and screen-printing
The embroidery and screen-printing process requires direct requests from customers. For example, sports brands can give orders to print specific images on the T-shirts and embroider their brand logos or other embellishments on the shirt.
More specifically, the production line includes 10 to 20 embroidery stations that automatically apply the same embroidery patterns on many garments at once. Alternatively, the screen-printing process can apply paint-based graphics on the garments. These printing machines use presses and textile dryers.
All the pieces of the garments are collected in sizes, colours, and quantities which are then ready for the next step of sewing or stitching. Basically, this process is done by workers using sewing machines. They are assigned with bundles of cut pieces and sew the same portion of the garment, then pass the next portion to the next worker to sew the other part.
Sewing machine operators work in manufacturing lines which mean there are workers who only sew the collar of the shirt to the shirt body, then pass it on the next worker to only sew the sleeves. This rule optimises the time to finish sewing a complete garment.
Checking and laundry
There will be check and quality assurance at the end of the sewing line where workers need to ensure the correct assembly of the garment without any manufacturing flaws.
Clothing manufacturers have a specific standard of checking to properly ensure the garment quality. This process is done to minimise the percentage of garments rejected by customers. During this checking process, workers could notice any stains, cosmetic flaws or spots on the garments due to the cutting and sewing process. Normally the spots or stains have occurred because of workers in the previous process. Therefore, all garments are taken to the laundry, deep within the factory to address these issues.
Fusing and pressing
These are two important steps that decide the finished appearance of the garments. While fusing puts the foundations down, e.g a collar on a shirt is fused to give it structure compared to the rest of the body, pressing makes the final seal on the garments. Hand irons with vacuum on a press table, scissor press, carousel machines and a steam dolly are the machinery used to complete the fussing and pressing process.
Packaging and shipping
This is the final step in garment manufacturing where workers fold, tag, size and package garments based on customers’ requirements. All garments are packed in protective plastic bags, then placed in cardboard boxes ready to be shipped to customers’ centres.