Lean Suits Story on NPR


    NPR : Suit Maker Goes ‘Lean' to Keep Jobs in U.S.

    I'll comment more on this later, but this was on NPR this morning. Overall, positive mentions of lean, although there was a common complaint from a worker about having to do more of a variety of work tasks instead of sitting and doing nothing but large batches of sleeves all day. Some people love the variety and the flow that comes with lean, some people hate it.

    Some workers like the new system. Others don't. Among the latter group is Louise Sanchez, who has worked for the Abboud factory for the past 17 years doing the exact same thing: stitching sleeves.

    Sanchez preferred working alone at her own speed. Now, she's part of a team. And if she doesn't move fast enough, other workers give her a hard time, because it affects everyone's pay.

    “It was just me doing a bundle. And I used to finish the bundle, tie it up and just put it aside,” she says. “But now, I do a sleeve and I have to pass it on to the other operator. It's just, it's just a little nerve-wracking.”

    Lean is right for the customer though, and the piece features that.

    “Today, if a Nordstrom wants more Joseph Abboud product in the middle of September — because the weather turned cold and folks ran into the store and started buying suits and stripes were popular — we can't deliver mid-season goods,” he says. “Whereas in a lean environment, if we can make a sufficient quantity in a two or three-day cycle and ship it to the store, we can actually fill replacement orders and drive a business.”

    I'm glad it wasn't a Lean-bashing piece.

    Evolving Excellence had some articles on Abboud earlier this week also.

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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. Sounds like pay is connected to output? That’s doesn’t sound very lean!

      If they are working to a Takt, then how could the pay change?

      This sounds like a move to flow, but without the 3 pillars of standardized work (Takt, SWIP, Std Work Seq). That’s a dangerous formula!

      If people are pushing production for higher pay, I can’t see where the incentive is to stop for defects and problems. Having your coworkers pester you to make their numbers is a recipe for defects.

      As for Louise, I hope someone is looking at her work and asking why she feels like she is under more pressure. I wonder if Tony Sapienza is on the shop floor every day looking for problems to solve like any good leader should??

      Sounds like a good start, but some fundamentals to work out!

    2. I didn’t have to comment on it earlier, but that’s the one thing I don’t like, the piecerate pay system.

      It’s an improvement that the system appears to be team based, based on suit production, as opposed to being based on individuals cranking out piles of sleeves!

      I agree, a good start. Nobody is ever perfectly lean. I hope Abboud, the company, doesn’t get too high on their positive press coverage!


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