Productivity Centre Assists Uniform Manufacturer to Boost Output

Photo: JIS Photographer Minister of Labour and Social Security (MLSS), Hon. Derrick Kellier (left), listens to Supervisor at the Uniform Centre (UC), Sandra O’Meally (2nd right), while on a tour of the factory on May 16. At right is Managing Director of the company, Gregory Khan (right). Accompanying the Minister on the tour were Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Alvin McIntosh (3rd left); and Advisor in the Ministry, Phyllis Mitchell (centre).

The Kingston-based Uniform Centre is reporting an increase in efficiencies and productivity as a result of interventions received through the Jamaica Productivity Centre (JPC) in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.

Managing Director, Gregory Khan, tells JIS News that output has grown by 38 per cent since the company began implementing recommendations made by the JPC.

He says the company, which produces uniforms for the local market, and also exports to Cayman, St. Lucia and the Turks and Caicos Islands, is now producing between 15 and 18 pieces of garments per worker, per day, up from 13 pieces.

Mr. Khan is pleased with the improvements and says he is more than willing to share his experiences with other businesses “to demonstrate what was done and what can be done”.

“For us here the possibilities are endless,” he states.

The road to more efficient operations for the Uniform Centre began in October 2010, when the company approached the JPC for a productivity assessment. Having identified the shortcomings, JPC was asked to develop a proposal to assist the company in delivering improvements over the short-term.

Over a three-month period, JPC was involved in training the staff and implementing measures, which focused on issues such as waste reduction, energy conservation, factory layout, and production scheduling.

“They helped us with our production flow, production management, looked at our inventory systems and even touched on our marketing, and demonstrated the importance of having adequate and proper documentation,” Mr. Khan outlines.

Among the recommendations was putting in place a strong and active board. “We (also) developed our Human Resources (HR) policy, our HR manual and all of the basic things needed to take our company forward,” Mr. Khan tells JIS News.

Other major benefits from the JPC’s intervention included the development of an energy policy, which led to the replacement of incandescent bulbs with LED lighting, thus reducing energy costs by 10 per cent. Employees were also trained and taught the principles of the 5s – Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain, in order to create a more efficient working environment.

As a result of the JPC’s intervention there have been improvements in the work process, which have resulted in increased output, allowing the company to be better able to reduce waste and adequately meet its customers’ demands with regard to time and quality issues.

Absenteeism, which accounted for approximately five to 10 per cent of lost production weekly, has been virtually eliminated.

The company realised it could not achieve growth and increased productivity without having a pleasant working environment. As a result, Mr. Khan says, the company has implemented a discussion activity called “WIFLE” (whatever I feel like expressing) on Friday afternoons, when employees are allowed to share their thoughts and make suggestions.

“We hold hands and each person will say something about what it is he/she feels like discussing or mentioning. Some of those thoughts are then acted on. People can come to me at any time; they do sometimes, and we have an open door policy,” he informs.

Mr. Khan says that employees, who are parents, are given time off to attend Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) meetings. “It is important, partly because of our close relationship with the schools in the area and the wider community,” he notes.

He informs that more than 20 employees are residents of nearby communities.

The company had been assisting several schools, donating cash and facilitating students at the company to gain work experience.

Going forward, Mr. Khan says the Uniform Centre will be focusing on staff training, waste reduction, and overall improvement in productivity levels and diversifying its marketing efforts.

While pleased with the improvements, Mr. Khan tells JIS News that there is “far more to go when you assess productivity in terms of the international benchmark.”

He notes that the factory’s efficiency level is approximately 60 per cent as benchmarked against an international standard of 85 per cent. “So, we have some way to go. We are little but tallawah and we are just taking it step- by-step,” he tells JIS News.

Labour and social Security Minister, Hon. Derrick Kellier, who toured the facility recently as part of Workers’ Week activities, said he was pleased with the successes at the Uniform Centre.

“What we have found out is that there has been great improvement in the productivity levels. It is not yet where we expect it to be in respect of where other countries are but they have made a giant leap and we want to congratulate them,” he stated.

The JPC is the national organisation responsible for promoting and facilitating productivity enhancement at the national, sectoral, industry, and enterprise levels.

It is a tripartite organisation comprising the Ministry, the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU), and the Jamaica Employers’ Federation (JEF).

BY ELAINE HARTMAN RECKORD

JIS Social