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Int J Adv Manuf Technol (2005) 27: 152–158 DOI 10.1007/s00170-004-2161-0

ORIGINAL ARTICLE
ORIGINAL ARTICLE

W.K. Wong · C.K. Kwong · P.Y. Mok · W.H. Ip · C.K. Chan

Optimization of manual fabric-cutting process in apparel manufacture using genetic algorithms

Received: 28 November 2003 / Accepted: 1 March 2004 / Published online: 26 January 2005 © Springer-Verlag London Limited 2005

Abstract In apparel manufacturing, experience and subjective assessment of production planners are used quite often to plan the production schedules in their fabric-cutting departments. The quantities of cut-pieces produced by fabric-cutting departments based on these non-systematic schedules cannot fulfil the cut- piece requirements of the downstream sewing lines and mini- mize the makespan. This paper proposes a genetic algorithms (GAs) approach to optimize both the cut-piece requirements and the makespan of the conventional fabric-cutting departments using manual spreading and cutting methods. An optimization model for the manual fabric cutting process based on GAs was developed. Two sets of production data were collected to vali- date the performance of the model and the experimental results were obtained. From the results, it can be found that both the makespan and cut-piece fulfilment rates are improved in which the latter is improved significantly.

Keywords

Production scheduling

Fabric-cutting · Genetic algorithms ·

Nomenclature

X

Job (fabric lay)

N

Maximum number of jobs

i

Job setup (spreading) order and i = 1, 2,

,

N

j

Job processing (cutting) order and j = 1, 2,

,

N

σ i j Setup and processing sequence of jobs

 

φ

Production order of job X and φ = 1, 2,

,

PO

W.K. Wong () · C.K. Chan Institute of Textiles and Clothing, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hunghom, Kowloon, Hong Kong E-mail: tcwongca@inet.polyu.edu.hk Tel.: +852-27666471 Fax: +852-27731432

C.K. Kwong · P.Y. Mok · W.H. Ip Department of Industrial System and Engineering, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hunghom, Kowloon, Hong Kong

χ Quantity of garments of job X

ϕ Length of fabric lay of job X

s(X i ) Setup (spreading) time of job X i c(X j ) Processing (cutting) time of job X j Number of spreading tables in the fabric-cutting department

m

1 Introduction

In apparel manufacturing, fabric cutting is done before assembly. The performance of the cutting department, which is generally neglected by manufacturers, is a critical factor on the smoothness of downstream operations in sewing lines and hence the overall efficiency of the apparel manufacturing plant. Since the late 80s, some apparel manufacturers have implemented the computerized fabric-cutting systems in their apparel manufacturing process. The demands on fabric-cutting departments for greater accuracy, faster throughput, larger fabric and labour savings have driven the adoption of computerized cutting systems. However, many manufacturers still rely on the manual method for the fabric-spreading and cutting operations in their fabric-cutting department. Before daily spreading and cutting operations start, the production planners of cutting departments need to plan the production (spreading and cutting) schedule so as to minimize the idle time of operatives and fulfil the fabric cut-piece requirements from different sewing production lines. The production planning is normally based on their experience and subjective assessment which is not a systematic method and an optimal schedule cannot be obtained. As a result, idle times occur on the spreading and cutting operatives which in turn increases the overall makespan of cutting departments. The cut- piece quantities produced cannot fulfil the different requirements of each downstream sewing production line. As most of the apparel manufacturers and researchers em- phasize the importance of sewing process, research has been done to improve the operation of sewing lines. However, the pro- ductivity of cutting departments, which plays a significant role

on the smooth flow of work in the sewing lines and thus the whole manufacturing plant, is often neglected. Jones [1] inves- tigated a table loading system to which a rough spread/cut ratio was proposed by comparing the estimated total spreading time to the estimated total cutting time so as to assist management in handling balancing problems. The further the spread/cut ratio for a specific spread was from the optimum ratio, the more dramatic the effect of this spread would be on balancing the tables. How- ever, the determination of operative assignments relied on the experiences and subjective assessment of the production plan- ners of cutting departments. Another limitation is that decisions are made on an “as-needed” basis without planning. Hui et al. [2] attempted to solve the problem of fabric roll planning in spreading using genetic algorithms. The opti- mal combinations of the fabric roll sequences for each fabric lay were derived in order to minimize fabric wastage during spreading. Though the fabric roll sequence for each fabric lay was studied, the spreading sequence for all fabric lays, which has a great impact on the productivity of cutting departments was not considered. A lack of proper planning and scheduling causes much anguish among manufacturers when the supply of cut pieces do not meet the requirements of production units. Skyes and McGregor [3] proposed the use of object-oriented technology to design a computer simulation model for the pin- ning and cutting processes in apparel manufacturing such that the fabric-cutting manager of fabric-cutting departments could estimate the effects of various resource allocation to meet pro- duction goals. Wong et al. [4] proposed a spreading and cut- ting sequencing model to minimize the idle time of a com- puterized fabric-cutting system. Studies of optimizing cut-piece fulfilment, which refers to the quantities of cut-pieces required by sewing lines, has been neglected. This is a critical factor on the smoothness of downstream operations in sewing lines, which affects the overall efficiency of the apparel plant and the delivery date of the whole production order to the customers substantially.

2 Mechanism of job placement in manual fabric-cutting systems

One of the major objectives of a job sequencing problem is to minimize the makespan/idle time. The job placement mechan- ism of a manual cutting system is first described to explain the way for calculating makespan time. The manual cutting system investigated in this project is assumed as an efficient model. The model is referred to the fabric pieces being taken away, after spreading and cutting operations, from the spreading ta- bles for bundling operations, which can help to make room for the new fabric lay spreading. In an efficient fabric-cutting de- partment, a group consisting of four operatives is assigned to each spreading table. The group is divided into two subgroups in which two operatives are responsible for fabric-spreading. The remaining operatives are responsible for cutting the fab- ric lay which has already been spread. The division of labour allows operatives to focus on their competent operations, thus

153

improving the overall operation efficiency. Spreading operatives need to continue to spread new fabric lays (jobs) once they have finished the present jobs. The purpose is to reduce de- lay due to switching from spreading to cutting. However, be- cause of the limited length of spreading tables, idle time can occur when there is not sufficient free area on the spread- ing table available for the new fabric lay. In a cutting de- partment with multiple spreading tables, m, a first-come-first- serve rule is applied. For a given job sequence, jobs are allo- cated to different spreading tables with the use of the following rules:

, m), to the m spread-

1. Allocate the first m jobs, X i (i = 1,

ing tables.

2. If any of the spreading table has enough room for the job X i+1 (free area > fabric length φ(X i+1 )), allocate X i+1 to the first available spreading table and set i = i + 1.

3. If there is no spreading table available (free areas of all m tables < fabric length φ(X i+1 )), wait until enough spread- ing area is obtained by clearing up the cutting jobs X j queues.

4. Repeat procedures 2 and 3 until all the jobs in the sequence are allocated subsequently.

In manual cutting systems, cutting operatives cut the fabric lays according to the spreading sequence, i.e. σ i = σ j , at each spreading table. However, idle time occurs when the cutting op- eratives have finished the current job while the new job is still being spread and not yet ready to cut. According to the described job placement mechanism, the operation sequences at different spreading tables are defined for a given job sequence. Thus, the system makespan time, which is defined as the maximal op- eration duration of the m spreading tables, and the completed number of garments of different production orders, φ, at various instants can be calculated accordingly.

3 Optimization model for the manual fabric cutting process using genetic algorithms

3.1 Coding or representation

In this paper, genetic algorithms (GAs) are used to optimize the job processing sequence in a manual fabric-cutting de- partment. To apply GAs in solving an industrial optimization problem, it is usually assumed that a potential solution to the problem may be represented as a set of variables. These vari- ables (“genes”) are joined together to form a string of values (“chromosome”). The string can be of binary digits, integers or real numbers. Although the binary representation proposed by Holland [5] is the most widely accepted one, GAs are not restricted to binary representation. The choice of representa- tion in GAs is related to the nature of the problem. In this job sequencing problem, it is convenient to use integer chro- mosome representation to indicate the job sequences. It can be noted that the setup sequence (spreading) is the same as the processing sequence (cutting) in manual cutting systems.

154

An example of integer chromosome representation is shown below.

Chromosome:

Job sequence:

3

7

10

1

2

5

8

4

6

9

X 3

X 7

X 10

X 1

X 2

X 5

X 8

X 4

X 6

X 9

It has been defined early in nomenclature that each job has its attributes such as production order (PO) number, φ, number of garments, χ, spreading time, s, cutting time, c, etc.

3.2 Fitness function

In GAs, a fitness function is defined to measure the fitness of each individual chromosome to determine which to reproduce and survive into the next generation. Thus, given a particular chromosome, a fitness function returns a single numerical score, “fitness”, which is proportional to the “ability” of the individ- ual that the chromosome represents. The “fitness” score assigned to each individual in the population depends on how well that individual solves a specific problem. In most of the job sequenc- ing problems, minimizing the makespan/idle time would be the objective. In a fabric-cutting department environment, job se- quencing sometimes not only requires minimizing the makespan, but also requires maximising cut-piece fulfilment rates. Let Π denote the set of feasible sequences between fabric lays (jobs). For a given sequence σ Π, fitness Φ(σ) can be defined as

Φ(σ)

σΠ

where Φ makespan (·) and Φ order (·) are the makespan fitness and cut-piece fulfilment fitness, respectively. In Eq. 1, makespan fit- ness, decreases as the makespan time, T makespan , of job sequence σ increases.

(1)

=

Φ makespan (σ) + Φ order (σ)

Φ makespan (σ) = T target /T makespan ·w T

(2)

In Eq. 2 T target is the target completion time, and w T is the weighting for makespan factor. The cut-piece fulfilment fitness is defined as

Φ order (σ) =

PO

CR

φ=1 ι=1

(ι)

φ

C

/D

(ι)

φ

·w

(ι)

φ

(3)

are the respective completed and re-

quired number of garments of the φth production order (φ =

, is the corresponding cut-piece fulfilment weighting.

1, 2,

where C

(ι)

φ

and

D

(ι)

φ

,

PO) at the ιth checking run (ι = 1, 2,

CR), and w

(ι)

φ

3.3 Initialization

The evolution procedure begins by randomly generating an ini- tial population of integer strings (chromosome) in which each such string represents a processing sequence, σ , of the job. Each chromosome is processed according to the manual cutting job placement mechanism described in Sect. 2, and thus obtains the makespan time and cut-piece fulfilment rates which facilitate the fitness evaluation using Eq. 1.

3.4 Genetic operators

In GAs, crossover and mutation are the two major genetic oper- ators to provide genetic variations to the population by bringing in chromosomal changes. Crossover, as the name implies, ex- changes information (“gene”) among chromosomes. Mutation randomly alters some genes in chromosomes. However, apply- ing such genetic operators may cause lost features in some genes and result in infeasible solutions. In order to prevent such infeasi- ble solution in the job sequencing problem, uniform order-based crossover and inversion mutation are adopted.

3.4.1 Uniform order-based crossover

Uniform order-based crossover has the below procedures.

1. Randomly select two parents for mating from the population.

2. Generate a mask binary string with the same length as its parents.

3. Fill in some of the positions in the children by copying them from parents wherever the mask binary string contains a “1”.

4. After that, a list of the elements in parents associated with a “0” in the mask string is recorded and these elements are permuted so that they appear in the same order as they appear in the mating parents.

5. Finally, these permuted elements are filled into the gaps in

the children in the order generated in the previous step. The uniform order-based crossover preserves part of the first parent while it incorporates information from the second parent. More specifically, this operator respects the absolute positions of jobs in one schedule and the relative orders of jobs in the other string. Figure 1 illustrates the uniform order-based crossover em- ployed in this job sequencing problem. Crossover is not usually applied to all pairs of individuals se- lected for mating. Indeed, the crossover operation is a random

process with an application likelihood, which is called the prob- ability of crossover: a typical probability of crossover is between

0.6 and 1.0. If crossover is not applied, offspring are produced

simply by duplicating the parents.

is not applied, offspring are produced simply by duplicating the parents. Fig. 1. Uniform order-based crossovers

Fig. 1. Uniform order-based crossovers

155

155 Generate a random number, θ , between zero and the total fitness. 2. 3. Return
155 Generate a random number, θ , between zero and the total fitness. 2. 3. Return
155 Generate a random number, θ , between zero and the total fitness. 2. 3. Return
Generate a random number, θ , between zero and the total fitness. 2.
Generate a random number, θ , between zero and the total fitness. 2.

Generate a random number, θ , between zero and the total fitness. θ, between zero and the total fitness.

Generate a random number, θ , between zero and the total fitness. 2.

2.

3.

Return if the first population member whose fitness is added to the one of the preceding population members, is greater

than or equal to θ .
than or equal to θ .

than or equal to θ . θ.

than or equal to θ .

In roulette wheel selection, the chance of a parent being se- lected is directly proportional to its fitness. In the example shown in Fig. 3, from a population of ten chromosomes with a set of fit- ness evaluations totalling 80, six individuals are selected by the biased roulette wheel scheme, according to six random numbers generated from the interval of 0 to 80.

3.6 Elitism

Since the biased roulette wheel selection processes are based on the survival of the fittest and are in random nature, there is no guarantee that some fit individuals will be selected. In order to

that some fit individuals will be selected. In order to Fig. 2. Inversion mutations 3.4.2 Inversion
that some fit individuals will be selected. In order to Fig. 2. Inversion mutations 3.4.2 Inversion
that some fit individuals will be selected. In order to Fig. 2. Inversion mutations 3.4.2 Inversion
that some fit individuals will be selected. In order to Fig. 2. Inversion mutations 3.4.2 Inversion
that some fit individuals will be selected. In order to Fig. 2. Inversion mutations 3.4.2 Inversion
that some fit individuals will be selected. In order to Fig. 2. Inversion mutations 3.4.2 Inversion
that some fit individuals will be selected. In order to Fig. 2. Inversion mutations 3.4.2 Inversion
that some fit individuals will be selected. In order to Fig. 2. Inversion mutations 3.4.2 Inversion

Fig. 2. Inversion mutations

3.4.2 Inversion mutation

In GAs, mutation is another genetic operator that is applied to each offspring. Compared with crossover, mutation is only seen as an “background” operator in GAs. However, previous research shows that though mutation is of a generally low probability of use (small value of mutation probability), it is a very im- portant operator because it becomes more productive while the population converges [6]. In this job sequencing study, inversion mutation is used. Under inversion mutation, two points are cho- sen randomly along the length of the chromosome. The genes within the two selected positions are inversed in order and the rest of the genes are left as they were in the parent. Thus, for ex- ample, Fig. 2 shows an illustration where genes between the fifth gene and the seventh gene are mutated.

3.5 Parent selection

In nature, different individuals compete for resources in the en- vironment. Some are better than others. The better ones are more likely to survive and propagate their genetic materials. This pro- cess of natural selection is mimicked in GAs using selection schemes in which parental chromosomes with higher fitness have a greater chance to producing offspring than parental strings with lower fitness. One of the most widely used selection schemes is called the “biased roulette wheel scheme” in which each current string in the population has a roulette wheel slot sized in propor- tion to its fitness [7]. The biased roulette wheel scheme can be described as follows:

1. Sum the fitness of all the population members; call the result total fitness.
1. Sum the fitness of all the population members; call the result
total fitness.

Fig. 3. Biased roulette-wheel selection scheme

Fig. 4. Flow diagram of genetic algorithms

156

improve the selection mechanism, De Jong [8] therefore intro- duced elitism. Elitism is an addition to many selection methods that forces the GAs to retain some of the best individuals in each generation. This elitist strategy copies the best individuals of each generation directly onto the succeeding generation. Such individ- uals might be lost if they are not selected to reproduce, or are destroyed by crossover or mutation. The elitist strategy can in- crease the speed of the domination of populations using the best individuals and provide an improvement of the GAs’ perform- ance. Elitism is thus considered in this job sequencing problem.

3.7 Evolution

After the initialization, evolution is caused to occur in accor- dance with the standard genetic operations of crossover, muta- tion and selection. The evolutionary process is allowed to con- tinue until no further increase is obtained in the finesse of the fittest binary string or the pre-defined maximum number of gen- erations is reached. Thus, the fittest string will result and the optimal job sequencing can be determined. The operations of GAs can be represented by a flow diagram as shown in Fig. 4.

4 Case studies

Two sets of real production data denoted as cases A and B, are used to demonstrate this multiobjective job sequencing optimiza- tion problem. All the data listed in Table 1 was obtained from the fabric-cutting department of a Hong Kong-based garment manufacturing company in China. These two-day spreading pro- duction schedules were recorded in the fabric-cutting department

Table 1. Detailed job characteristics

department Table 1. Detailed job characteristics Fig. 5. Layout of a fabric-cutting department consisting of
department Table 1. Detailed job characteristics Fig. 5. Layout of a fabric-cutting department consisting of
department Table 1. Detailed job characteristics Fig. 5. Layout of a fabric-cutting department consisting of
department Table 1. Detailed job characteristics Fig. 5. Layout of a fabric-cutting department consisting of
department Table 1. Detailed job characteristics Fig. 5. Layout of a fabric-cutting department consisting of
department Table 1. Detailed job characteristics Fig. 5. Layout of a fabric-cutting department consisting of

Fig. 5. Layout of a fabric-cutting department consisting of four spreading tables with examples of fabric lays being spread

in which each schedule 48 jobs were setup and processed by a manual cutting system. The cutting department consists of four spreading tables, each of length 600 ft, as shown in Fig. 5. The job sequences for the cases, A and B, adopted by the industrial practice are shown in Figs. 6 and 7, and those job sequences generated by the GAs are shown in Figs. 8 and 9, respectively. The results obtained by GAs are maximized for the fitness function explained in Eq. 1, where the target com- pletion time (makespan) is T target = 960 min and the cut-piece fulfilment rates are evaluated at two checking times, 480 min and 960 min, for both cases A and B. Assuming the makespan fitness, Φ makespan (·), and the cut-piece fulfilment fitness, Φ order (·), are of equal weightings, thus the weighting parameters are defined as

w T =

PO

2

φ

ι

(ι)

w φ

(4)

(A)-Job (X n )

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

Production order (φ)

41376888875

9286296266248

Qty of garment (χ)

30

116

114

66

15

224

224

224

300

118

300

10

200

300

98

14

4

200

42

52

42

140

13

21

Marker length (ϕ)

103

136

139

132

89

130

130

130

130

172

158

106

175

130

169

87

85

175

91

171

91

170

93

73

Spreading time (s) 50

90

90

57

30

161

161

161

209

104

233

20

170

209

87

29

19

170

60

53

60

121

28

34

Cutting time (c)

24

47

47

47

24

47

47

47

47

47

47

47

47

47

47

24

24

47

24

47

24

47

24

24

(A)-Job (X n )

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

32

33

34

35

36

37

38

39

40

41

42

43

44

45

46

47

48

Production order (φ)

96572763939

1843666422349

Qty of garment (χ)

2

33

300

94

33

14

140

146

8

2

3

78

224

53

228

316

14

58

104

98

316

94

6

5

Marker length (ϕ)

68

91

158

132

91

137

170

140

81

73

72

105

130

171

148

170

87

170

171

169

170

132

101

81

Spreading time (s)

17

48

233

77

48

23

121

113

23

16

18

59

161

96

172

254

29

57

174

87

254

77

21

20

Cutting time (c)

24

24

47

47

24

47

47

47

24

47

24

47

47

24

47

47

24

47

24

47

47

47

24

24

(B)-Job (X n )

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

Production order (φ)

21132222223

10

11

10

3

1

10

1

1

3

1

2

3

3

Qty of garment (χ)

33

140

316

224

3

8

316

4

14

5

21

94

118

94

116

13

146

33

30

300

200

140

224

224

Marker length (ϕ)

91

170

170

130

72

81

170

85

87

81

73

132

172

132

136

93

140

91

103

158

175

170

130

130

Spreading time (s)

48

121

254

161

18

23

254

19

29

20

34

77

104

77

90

28

113

48

50

233

170

121

161

161

Cutting time (c)

24

47

47

47

24

24

47

24

24

24

24

47

47

47

47

24

47

24

24

47

47

47

47

47

(B)-Job (X n )

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

32

33

34

35

36

37

38

39

40

41

42

43

44

45

46

47

48

Production order (φ)

53126612431

1312124115242

Qty of garment (χ)

14

78

58

42

300

300

42

2

228

224

6

14

300

104

10

15

98

114

98

53

66

200

2

52

Marker length (ϕ)

137

105

170

91

130

130

91

68

148

130

101

87

158

171

106

89

169

139

169

171

132

175

73

171

Spreading time (s)

23

59

57

60

209

209

60

17

172

161

21

29

233

174

20

30

87

90

87

96

57

170

16

53

Cutting time (c)

47

47

47

24

47

47

24

24

47

47

24

24

47

24

47

24

47

47

47

24

47

47

47

47

Fig. 6. Job sequences adopted by the industrial practice for the case A 157 Fig.

Fig. 6. Job sequences adopted by the industrial practice for the case A

157

adopted by the industrial practice for the case A 157 Fig. 8. Job sequences generated by

Fig. 8. Job sequences generated by the optimization model using GAs for the case A

Fig. 7. Job sequences adopted by the industrial practice for the case B
Fig. 7. Job sequences adopted by the industrial practice for the case B

and w

orders are PO = 9 and PO = 6 for the cases A and B, respec- tively. The production targets at check-time 480 and 960 min are

listed in Table 2. The makespan and cut-piece fulfilment rates are compared in Table 3 for job sequences adopted by industrial practice and those optimized by GAs. It can be found that with the use of GAs, the makespan was improved slightly from 1209 to 1200 min for case A and from 1209 to 1203 min for case B. In addition to the makespan improvement, the cut-piece fulfilment

= 1 for all production orders. The total production

(ι)

φ

Fig. 9. Job sequences generated by the optimization model using GAs for the case B

Table 2. Production targets of different production orders ( PO)

(A) PO φ

(1)

D φ

D φ

(B) PO φ

(2)

(1)

D φ

(2)

D φ

123456789

97

422

292

103

300

484

146

759

16

194

843

584

206

600

968

292

1517

32

123456

561

463

856

339

99

300

1122

927

1711

678

198

600

Table 3. Comparison on makespan time and cut-piece fulfilment rates of job sequences adopted by industrial practice and those generated by GAs

(A) PO φ

C

C

C

C

(1)

φ

(2)

φ

(1)

φ

(2)

φ

/D

/D

/D

/D

(1)

φ

(2)

φ

(1)

φ

(1)

φ

(B) PO φ

C

C

C

C

(1)

φ

(2)

φ

(1)

φ

(2)

φ

/D

/D

/D

/D

(1)

φ

(2)

φ

(1)

φ

(1)

φ

 

Cut-piece fulfilment rate

 

makespan

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

Avg.

Ind.

0%

100%

67%

100%

0%

100%

100%

0%

100%

64%

1209 min

Ind.

100%

71%

100%

100%

50%

67%

100%

49%

100%

82%

GA

100%

47%

100%

100%

100%

55%

100%

69%

100%

86%

1200 min

GA

100%

89%

84%

74%

100%

70%

100%

65%

84%

85%

 

Cut-piece fulfilment rate

 

makespan

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

Avg.

Ind.

100%

100%

0%

67%

100%

0%

61%

1209 min

Ind.

72%

74%

55%

100%

100%

50%

75%

GA

97%

100%

35%

100%

100%

100%

89%

1203 min

GA

59%

92%

73%

100%

100%

100%

87%

158

rates at check-times were improved significantly. In case A, the average cut-piece fulfilment rates have increased from 64 to 86% and from 82 to 85% at the check-time 480 and 960 min, respec- tively. In the case B, the average cut-piece fulfilment rates have increased from 61 to 89% and from 75 to 87%.

5 Conclusions

This paper proposes a genetic algorithms approach to solve the optimization problem of the manual fabric-cutting process for apparel manufacturing. Experiments were conducted to validate the performance of the proposed method. The experimental re- sults have indicated that the production (spreading and cutting) schedules generated by GAs can improve both the cut-piece ful- filment rate and the makespan using the same number of opera- tives. The results also indicated that the shop-floor management in the industry is capable of generating a production schedule with a short makespan since slight improvement can only be ob- tained by using GAs approach. However, their schedule with a short makespan cannot guarantee that the cut-pieces provided by the cutting department can fulfil the requirements of sewing lines. The proposed GAs approach has been proven as an effect- ive method to increase the cut-piece fulfilment rates significantly which directly affects the smoothness of downstream apparel as- sembly processes and thus ultimate delivery time of apparel to

the customers. Extensions of the proposed method to incorporate the influence of the skill level of operatives, fabric characteris- tics, complexity of apparel style, etc. on the production schedule using fuzzy concept are now under investigation.

Acknowledgement The authors would like to thank The Hong Kong Poly- technic University for the financial support in this research project (Project No. G-YD75).

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