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T-Shirt Manufacturing: 4 Important Factors


In accordance to Elliot, operation management is “in its essence, scientific management involves a complete revolution on the part of the working man engaged in any particular establishment or industry — a complete mental revolution on the part of these men as to their duties toward their work, toward their fellow men, and toward their employers“. The major operation which a T-shirt manufacturing organization has to undertake is completely simple and basically an automated process. The basic operations such as stitching, cutting, and assembling are performed by special machines that have been integrated together. The four major factors which help us to understand the different operations of a T-shirt manufacturing company allowing us to differentiate among them, have been called the Four V’s of operation and include – variety, volume, visibility, and variation in demand. They are very important for an operations manager since they affect his planning decisions and an organization’s strategy.

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Although a T-shirt manufacturing organization’s services are similar, they differ in the above-mentioned dimensions. The organization’s operations are different with respect to the variety of the T-shirts manufactured, the volume of the T-shirts, the extent of visibility they have with their customers, and the variations in demand which they have to cope with. All of these four dimensions are important since they help the operations managers to predict the market situation much easier, with which an operation can function at much lower costs. As a result, these four V’s are extremely important for any project manager because these four dimensions help the manager to reduce cost by a good margin.

  • Volume – An operations manager uses this dimension to determine how many T-shirts the company should produce through its operations. Since the company produces thousands of T-shirts per day, it has a high volume, and high volume is normally related to low cost. This particular dimension has different significances based on its being on a high or low level. If the company produces T-shirts in low volumes, the company’s functioning will have specific characteristics, like a low repetition of its daily procedures, employees have to perform multiple jobs, higher unit costs, and reduced systemization. But if the organization has a high volume, then the characteristics of the company’s operations will be like repeatability of daily procedures, systemization, specialization of employees, lower unit costs, and greater capital intensive. Since the company produces T-shirts in high volumes, systemization or proper formulation of everyday processes is an extremely important component of the operations since only through the utilization of an efficient work strategy can the company achieve low unit costs.
  • Variety – An operations manager uses this dimension to determine how many different types of T-shirts the company produces through its operations. Since every individual being has different needs for clothing, T-shirt manufacturing has to have variations in its product, but it has a low variety as it only produces T-shirts. Variety too has its individual significance depending on its being either wide or low, but normally low variety is related to lower cost. Although having a greater variety of products allows the organization to have much more flexibility than others in its different procedures, the organization will also have to keep in mind the basic needs of the customers, will have to face complex procedures, and will also have to bear a comparatively higher unit cost. But being on the lower side of the variety scale enables the company to have very well-defined procedures, standardization, routine, and a comparatively low unit cost. The product, T-shirts, is described as being well defined since the organization manufactures only T-shirts but in numerous different sizes, shapes, colors, materials, and stitching techniques. For the company to carry on with the changes in fashion trends, it needs to have skilled staff that can implements changes swiftly, along with fixed supplier contacts serving as a backbone.
  • Variation in Demand – An operations manager uses this dimension to determine by how much the levels of demand for the T-shirt changes with time. The T-shirt manufacturing organization has a low variation in demand since we have a well-defined product, and its demand is very steady and quite predictable as it depends on the changing trends of fashion. The variation in demand dimension takes into account how sales volumes are influenced by the seasons and demand patterns. But since people wear T-shirts almost in every season and with every fashion, the variation in demand for the operations of the T-shirt manufacturing company is rather low. We normally associate low variation with low cost, and for an optimized turnover rate, the organization must perform capacity planning. The characteristics of the T-shirt manufacturing company display the basic variation in demand dimension. On the higher side of the scale of variation, a company will face a high level in its demand variation, which will lead to more flexibility, changing capacity, continuous anticipation as to what the customer might want, connection with trends in demand, and a relatively higher unit cost. But being on the lower side of the variation scale, the T-shirt manufacturing organization will have a moderately predictable and highly stable demand. Also, its utilization of raw materials and resources will be high; it will follow a standard routine and have a comparatively lower unit cost.
  • Visibility – An operations manager uses this dimension to determine how much exposure the internal workings of the company’s operations get from its customers. The visibility dimension displays how many operations of an organization are visible to its customers. Another significance of high or low visibility is that it allows the customers to track their orders at the various stages of their transaction. The degree of visibility totally depends on customer contact, which the organization has to maintain, and normally we associate lower customer visibility with lower cost. An organization having the advantage of the dimension of higher visibility will have customers more satisfied. This is because once the customers are aware of the operational procedures of the organization, it is logical to believe that they would be more loyal to the organization. The satisfaction will be governed by their customer’s perception, employees need to possess customer contact skills, and their receive variety is certainly greater than others. However, the T-shirt manufacturing organization has low visibility, which decreases the time interval between its production and consumer consumption and creates standardization. In such cases, consumer contact skills are not considered important and thus, are not required, but the organization must possess centralization and higher utilization of its staff members. Here customer skills are irrelevant since the personals of the T-shirt manufacturing organization never directly meet any of the end-users.


From the above, we see that even though the basic operations of the organization are the same as they work towards transforming inputted resources into end products, which is T-shirts, they differ as per the dimensions of variety, volume, visibility, and variation in demand. To attain higher sales volumes while at the same time maintaining their precision, repeatability, and accuracy of operations and processes requires that the T-shirt manufacturing organization follow the patterns of the Four V’s along with utilizing modern technological innovations. However, the organization must also be flexible in its ways to meet the ever-changing demand of the end-users. They could manufacture a small volume of their T-shirts in order to get the preference of the customers. If the customers like the product, then the organization should be ready to produce more of them promptly since any stoppage in the production process could decrease capacity utilization, thus affecting the production process. If the customers receive their goods after a delay, a hold-up gets created in the processing operations. Thus, the fundamental aim of the operations manager should be to balance the level of demand for T-shirts with that of its supply. The operations manager should also consider the needs of the customers from time to time which involves making the company operations visible to them. But this could be costly for the company. In order to address this issue, the operations manager could use a mixture of both high well as low visibility operations for contacting the customers. For this, they could sell the T-shirts at retail stores and online, thus increasing their scope.

Although T-shirts have a low variation in demand sometimes due to the material used, a seasonality demand comes into play. Say, for example, woolen T-shirts are more in demand during the winters and cotton ones in the summers. So, the operations manager, along with other manufacturing personals should carefully plan the various choices available to deal with such variations in demand. The operations manager must either prepare capacity planning where an equal amount of staff and required equipment are deployed wherever necessary all through the entire year, and the T-shirts produced are later transferred to the inventory with the expectation that they may be necessary to handle future demands. The T-shirt manufacturing organization can also have a chase demand plan where the number of resources used or the number of personals employed by the organization varies, reflecting the fluctuation in demand for the T-shirts. But since t-shirts can be stored for longer periods of time, this is not an optimal option. A third choice would be the formulation of a demand management plan using which an operations manager could try to shift the demand for T-shirts from the peak periods to a quieter time through the use of customer incentives. However, the T-shirt manufacturing organization can also use a combination of the above-mentioned approaches. For example, the operations manager could devise a plan where the organization has a huge warehouse from where the T-shirts could be collected, during holiday seasons they could produce more volumes of T-shirts for accommodating more customers and they could also reduce their prices for shifting products which have become out of fashion. No matter which combination the operations manager chooses, he must first organize the resources of the company as per the four dimensions.


Variety, volume, visibility, and variation in demand are not the only dimensions that are important for the operation of a T-shirt manufacturing organization. Operations managers also need to follow the performance objectives, which are – flexibility, dependability, cost, speed, and quality. Other factors like the value chain, which include infrastructure of organization, service, operations, marketing and sales, and inputs, also affect the planning, thinking, and working of the operations manager. They also must consider other dimensions like the relative complexity that all processes have to deal with, the value of the individual T-shirts being produced, decision making, and the degree of discretion of the staff members and risk faced by the organization in case something goes wrong with the processes.

Works Cited

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  2. Elliot, Brian. Operations management: an active learning approach. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 1997.
  3. Erel, E. “Coordination of staffing and pricing decisions in a service firm”. Applied Stochastic Models in Business and Industry 24.4 (2008): 307-323.
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  5. Heizer, Jay, and Barry Render. Operations Management. London: Prentice Hall PTR, 2005.
  6. Kara, Sami. “The role of human factors in flexibility management: A survey”. Human Factors and Ergonomics in Manufacturing 12.1 (2005): 75-119.
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  10. Slack, Nigel, and Michael Lewis. Operations Management: Critical Perspectives on Business and Management. London: Routledge, 2003.

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