By Kevin Meyer
Two or three years ago I began telling you about JA Apparel which makes the Joseph Abboud clothing line, in particular men's suits. The company was leveraging lean to be globally competitive from factories in the United States at a time when most manufacturers were chasing cheap labor overseas. That series of posts led to meeting Tony Sapienza, COO/President of JA Apparel. A few months later I was asked to moderate a panel discussion at Northwestern's Kellogg business school on Onshoring – Domestic Manufacturing as a Competitive Advantage and Tony agreed to be part of the panel. We had a great discussion that did a good job of shaming the pro-outsourcing panel that came after us.
Last Friday I purchased my latest Joseph Abboud suit – a sharp traditional gray number that should last me a few years. And another pair of Allen-Edmonds shoes – another great manufacturer I have written about that has decided to stay domestic and leverage excellence instead of taking the easy route of chasing cheap labor. Long-lasting quality has value to me, which is why I've been exclusive to Abboud and Allen-Edmonds for many years.
The purchase prompted me to check in on Abboud and JA Apparel, where I found that they are about to make the New York Giants look pretty snazzy. The Giants could use the help. But I also found a sad article about one of Abboud's competitors.
In the latest push to keep Hugo Boss workers in Northeast Ohio, factory workers are planning a rally Wednesday afternoon. The
workers will be joined by Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, actor Danny Glover;
Congressman Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and Brooklyn Mayor Richard Balbier
Boss had previously announced its intent to close the facility in
December, citing that the plant was not globally competitive.
A couple months ago I get quoted in a New York Times article alongside Henry Waxman, now I'm somewhat aligning myself with the likes of Dennis Kucinich. Better keep an eye on your pigs.
Hugo Boss could do better. They could find ways to make their plant globally competitive. Unions are a problem? Sure the traditional seniority-based rigid work rules can kill productivity, but how about following the example of Sapienza and Abboud and working with them?
Sapienza, president of the Joseph Abboud suit factory, and
Pepicelli, who runs its union, are working hand in glove. Union and
management are collaborating to revamp timeworn garment-making methods
in favor of manufacturing techniques pioneered at Toyota Motor Corp.
Their goal: Survival in the face of cheaper foreign competitors.
To speed production and cement the factory's edge over foreign
workers, [CEO Marty] Staff read up on Toyota, poring over the book "The
Machine that Changed the World: The Story of Lean Production." He asked
Sapienza, his team and the union to embrace Toyota principles,
including "kaizen," a Japanese word meaning continuous improvement.
The union agreed.
Try another path. Work together. Create excellence. It's not easy, but what real achievement is? The desire to create real excellence also has value to me, which is another reason I wear Joseph Abboud.