“Not long ago, the production process at New Balance’s Norridgewock shoe factory spanned eight days…Today, the plant makes shoes in 70 minutes from start to finish, thanks to recently adopted production techniques pioneered by Toyota Motor Corp.”
It’s interesting to note some very special stats from New Balance:
- The plant can make some 7,700 pairs of shoes daily with a staff of roughly 360.
- A few years ago, Norridgewock had a “batch” production system, in which different sections of the production line worked largely independently, said Wentworth.
- Executives learned the process at Toyota’s Georgetown, Ky., plant. Shoes now move down the line continuously, assembled in 44-second intervals (the goal is 38 seconds) by workers at 32 stations.
- New Balance recently adopted a scheduling system called “kanban,” which means “sign” or “billboard” in Japanese.
- Wilson said kanban matches demand, inventory and production, allowing the company to receive materials and make shoes at the same rate they are shipped.
- New Balance eliminated some 35 jobs with the changes, but Wentworth said quality improved and production time dropped to 70 minutes. In addition, the plant eliminated $500,000 in inventory costs and is making shoes in less floor space.
- Wilson said that although labor costs at the U.S. plants are more than 13 times higher than those in Asia, the domestic plants have an efficiency advantage.
- “We are more than 13 times productive than they are,” he said.
- “Single piece flow” manufacturing also lets New Balance ship shoes on the same day they are made, meaning less wait time for customers, a competitive advantage in North America.
- “If you make a shoe in Asia, the lead time is at least a month. And if you air freight it, it costs seven bucks or more a pair,” he said.
- New Balance makes and ships the custom shoes immediately so they arrive anywhere in the country in four to eight days.
Looks like a major win for New Balance and kanban. Would it be biased to buy American-made shoes that are built in an Agile-like fashion? Meh. I think my next pair of shoes are going to be New Balance.
[HT: Online Sentinel]