New Balance Shoes, Lean and American Made


Lean Manufacturing Blog: New Balance Shoes Uses Lean

I've highlighted New Balance before (see the link above for any article from April). I just bought a pair of NB running shoes (not that I run that much), partly because I know they are American made. A tag was attached to one of the shoes, it reads, in part:

“Many of of shoes are produced in one of six United States factories. While most of the footwear industry has moved its productoin oversears to take advantage of low labor costs and generally cheaper production costs, we continue to have many of our shoes made in the U.S. and have expanded production substantially. Since 1995, we have increased our manufacturing jobs by 65%. We at New Balance are proud to provide jobs to the U.S. workforce, and proud of our well educated, high quality associates who can compete with anyone in the world. Through their hard work, we are able to make many of our models of shoes in the United States despite the competition from lower cost imports.”

I admire New Balance for their stance. Yes, profits are important, but so is providing jobs (something W. Edwards Deming always preached). Although I don't drive a Toyota (out of family loyalty and discounts from GM), I can support an American manufacturer who is trying to succeed with lean…. New Balance.

Update 3/23/07: It's great to see that New Balance is still at it, with Lean. See this post at Evolving Excellence.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. New Balance seems to be making shoes in America and also having them made overseas.

    They are not the same in fit or in quality, and neither appears to have what Americans have long expected in the performance shoe arena.

    America is suffering a crisis in footwear, as in other products of late, and the market is saturated with low quality goods.

  2. I saw the same thing when I was trying to buy some new shoes lately… the New Balances I found were made in China. Disappointing.


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