Excessive working hours is one of the most common and persistent issues at the facilities making our branded apparel. Several factors can contribute to this: Facility managers may request overtime to meet tight deadlines or boost sales, workers may choose to work more hours to increase their pay and buyers’ purchasing practices such as rush orders can lead to more overtime.
Recognizing our role in this, we participated in a program to improve our understanding of how our purchasing choices can lead to better outcomes. As part of Better Buying’s beta test, we enlisted suppliers from South Korea, Sri Lanka and Hong Kong to evaluate our purchasing practices and provide feedback on their impacts. Using the results of that project, we will seek to incorporate insights into our core business operations, such as improved forecasting and giving appropriate lead times.
The issue of capacity adds another layer of complexity to purchasing practices. Apparel facilities typically work with five to 10 apparel brands at any given time. Despite their efforts, facilities often miscalculate their capacity or buyers change orders at the last minute, which means facilities may face too much or too little production, which directly affects working hours. To address this challenge, we have created a team devoted solely to capacity planning. This allows us to build more balanced purchase orders and ultimately help our suppliers improve how they manage their own operations such that we can address the issue of working hours.
We impose several requirements that address working hours:
- Workers must be allowed to refuse overtime without any threat or penalty of punishment.
- Workers must not be required to work more than six days in a row.
- Facilities must take corrective actions to limit excessive overtime, which can include analyzing the root causes of issues, adjusting production schedules and improving management systems.
Based on each country’s laws, we set the total number of allowable working hours per week, including overtime. Our facility ratings system identifies and implements consequences for serious overtime violations.