By Kevin Meyer
It's been a while since we updated you on Joseph Abboud, the suit manufacturing that is leveraging lean manufacturing to keep its factory in the United States. Dan discovered them in early 2007, and that led to a series of posts on their operations. Why are they special? CEO Marty Staff and President Tony Sapienza truly understand the power of lean.
many retailers, carried with it hidden costs. Chief among them: the
company would lose control over the shipping time and probably be
forced to make more merchandise than needed because of production
minimums mandated at many overseas factories. . . . Abboud can better
manage its inventory so that it makes suits customers are buying,
rather than guessing six months ahead what they want. This agility is
important to meet growing pressures.
One of the changes
not in store, however, is the addition of multiple shifts. "We're a
one-shift factory," Mr. Staff said, explaining how that fits with the
family orientation of its mostly Portuguese workforce. How
refreshing to see a leader not only focus on the business side of lean
(reducing waste, providing faster response time, etc.), but recognize
that respect for employees is at the core of lean.
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.
Later that year I had the privilege of moderating a panel discussion at Kellogg on the topic of onshoring as a competitive advantage. Not really a popular topic in the outsourcing heyday of a couple years ago. But Tony showed up as did several others who believed in the power of short supply chains and highly creative people, and we had a good exchange. Coincidentally a panel on the joys of outsourcing ran right after mine, and of course I couldn't resist some pithy comments.
Tony Sapienza and Joseph Abboud are in the news again, and once again he's promoting the value of employees – not the cost. This time he's trying to squeeze more out of the lean nut by helping ensure his team can communicate.
Joseph Abboud Manufacturing Corp., whose
employees are almost 90 percent foreign-born, has been offering workers
English classes for nine years, an effort that was started with the
help of the employees' union.
Sapienza, president of Abboud, a New Bedford manufacturer of men's
clothing, believes proficiency in English helps businesses and opens up
more job opportunities to the workers.
I can't imagine what his industry has been like over the past couple years, but I'm sure like most it hasn't been pleasant. So to continue this level of investment in his people really means something.
Sapienza said English skills increase efficiency in a business, reduce errors and improve retention of the employees.
emphasizes these days an approach known as "lean manufacturing," which
involves teamwork. This type of collaboration is not possible with "15
different people speaking 15 different languages," Sapienza said.
Good to hear they're surviving. Anyone need a suit?
Douglas Burnette says
I’ve been reading some back posts on your blog, which I discovered recently.
Domestic manufacturing holds a special place in my interests, because of the way the entertainment industry works. On set, most of the equipment is domestic. Lights from Mole-Richardson, grip equipment from Matthews, audio equipment for Zaxcom and Sound Devices and K-Tek…Then some companies that rent/lease only, like Panavision, Fisher, Chapman-Leonard. The list is huge, and continues to grow.
They all have something in common: If I buy a product and it has a problem, I can call them up and talk with the person who assembled the thing. If they can’t solve it, then the designer, programmer, engineer and machinist are in the same building, and accessible in mere seconds.
…And for people with the money, they can, and will turn out customer variations of products quickly…Even if it means a serious chunk of machine time.
One of the audio manufacturers I mentioned above ran across a customer’s request for a feature on a discussion board. The firmware (software) update to make that feature happened was out within 24 hours, no questions, no charges, just the manufacturer realizing that the customer’s request made perfect sense for many other customers as well…And would be most helpful if it was available before that customer was off working on his next feature film.
The entertainment industry is interesting in the context of lean. We have a hugely efficient process in some ways, with vast waste in certain areas. I will have to learn more about lean to see how it applies.
You might also want to take a look around for info on the Toyota Sewing System, and it’s possible WWII precursor: the Training Within Industry program…Which was promptly forgotten to the annals of post-war complacency.