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Developing efficient production processes

How using SATRA TimeLine can help SATRA members.

by Stuart Irons

For the past 25 years or more, the larger footwear manufacturing operations have been mainly based in south east Asia. The availability of an extremely large labour pool has been a major factor for companies who wish to set up and make shoes. Other factors include a less expensive labour cost compared to that in the more traditional shoemaking countries and the flexibility of the manufacturer. China seemed the clear choice of where shoes could be made profitably and in the right quantities. However, footwear production has been affected by increasing labour costs in Asia, leading to many companies looking for other solutions and locations.

Under pressure to reduce the total process times (not only to lower the product cost, but also to meet higher standards of customer delivery), manufacturers in today’s production environment need to introduce new styles of footwear in the shortest possible time – often in a few days, compared to weeks which was common several years ago. This reduced time puts enormous pressure on the pre-production planning processes, such as costing and product engineering and scheduling, which can negatively impact material availability, delivery and quality assurance if not carried out correctly and accurately.

What is SATRA TimeLine?

SATRA TimeLine is a database and configuration tool that enables manufacturers to calculate the optimum time required to carry out virtually any shoemaking operation. These times provide data for labour costing, planning production, line balancing and machine utilisation requirements.

How does it work?

At the core of SATRA TimeLine is a well-established, predetermined international time system that identifies the time required to complete simple actions. SATRA TimeLine combines the above-mentioned internationally recognised time measurement principles with SATRA-derived research and experience of optimising manufacturing processes within the footwear industry. Work operations are broken down into a set of basic motions, such as 'move', 'grasp', 'position' and 'release', and standard times for each motion are calculated based on industry best practice. Each of these ‘elements’ is allocated a time based on the action plus the distance travelled. These have been coupled with specific machine operation times which have been developed from extensive research carried out by SATRA. They provide an unparalleled level of accuracy for understanding the optimum time required for all shoemaking operations.

Question screens

The operation time is calculated by answering questions which have element times linked to each option, so the total time is built up. The question screens ('definitions') are split into 'handling' and 'task' screens, thus making it easier to combine various handling methods with different tasks and the number of questions per screen can be almost limitless.

Greater flexibility

Users have the facility on most question screens to use an 'internal' digitiser to enter hand movements and features on the path, as well as types of stitching – for example, attaching or decorative. For more complex paths, the 'external' supplied digitiser can be used.

Multi-machine operations – such as sole pressing and backpart moulding – can be calculated, taking into account the overlapping machine/operator times. The user will be trained to create his or her own question screens for operations that are not included in the system. These can then be exported to other databases if the user has factories in different locations that are not connected to the same database.

SATRA TimeLine enables factory production planners to not only produce reliable and realistic direct labour times (and, therefore, a cost) for each operation (figure 1) based on the expected method, but also quickly evaluate any proposed variations. It is often possible to improve the way the product is made and how the production line is planned, laid out and balanced, in order to reduce operation times. The effect on overall efficiency can be considerable, and we have examples of significant improvements in total process time on the whole line when using SATRA TimeLine.


Figure 1: The non-value-added percentage of time can be clearly seen in red on the pie chart

Line balancing

A key aspect of SATRA TimeLine is the opportunity to examine the balance of ‘value-added’/’non-value-added’ aspects for each operation, and to identify unnecessary movement or inefficient working methods. SATRA TimeLine will also provide production management with a detailed operation analysis to assist with training and monitoring production efficiency. The system screen provides visualisation of the process sequence, enabling the user to run a theoretical production line (figure 2) before committing effort to the real thing. Potential production holdups, slow processes and imbalances can be quickly identified, after which the user can easily reconfigure the layout and check to see if it is improved. SATRA TimeLine is equally applicable to all manufacturers, regardless of size, construction type, machinery used, fashion content or product price bracket.


Figure 2: An estimated theoretical production line

Identify waste

It is often the case that factory values are based on inaccurate timing methods. In addition, methods and procedures often get changed without re-evaluating the effects on operation time. The result is an inaccurately predicted manufacturing time, which can lead to poor cost control and inefficient production. During the installation training period, the SATRA consultant will work with the users to help identify areas for improvement and waste.

The SATRA TimeLine package

The SATRA TimeLine package consists of a number of options, depending on the level of expertise of the factory production planning team. The general starting point will be 'entry level', consisting of a period of system installation, familiarisation and training. The factory will then be provided with an 'action plan' – a four- to six-week period for more familiarisation of the system and data creation (which can be sent back to SATRA for off-site analysis). SATRA will then visit again to provide further training, confirm competence, check method statements and workplace layouts.

Further training

For organisations wanting to further explore the principles of factory planning and industrial engineering, SATRA has an advanced level training programme available. We recognise that not all factories are familiar with industrial engineering techniques, and it may be necessary to provide operatives who have a basic knowledge with a pre-entry level appreciation course before commencing general SATRA TimeLine training. Any requirement for this will be determined by a test before starting entry-level training.


SATRA TimeLine has been specifically developed for use with other SATRA management systems, such as SATRA VisionStitch and SATRASumm. These, coupled with our comprehensive and unparalleled knowledge of shoemaking, operations makes the system unique.

The methodology that SATRA TimeLine imparts on the user is to question everything and to consider the whole sequence of operations. Some processes can be eliminated, combined or improved. Effective methods can be installed, and the time taken at all stages can be calculated and compared.

In conclusion

SATRA Timeline has currently been installed in 13 countries. The current increases in the cost of labour, materials, energy and transportation represent a major challenge to the footwear supply industry. SATRA offers members a range of proven products (SATRA Timeline, SATRASumm and SATRA VisionStitch), which can impact these costs, supported by training and consultancy from our specialists.

How can we help?

Please email for further information on how SATRA TimeLine and our other products can help to improve the control of your labour costs and manufacturing productivity.

Publishing Data

This article was originally published on page 38 of the April 2017 issue of SATRA Bulletin.

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