We are presented frequently with the opportunity to add value to our stakeholders and be aware that possibilities present themselves in various ways often at unexpected times. In this article I want to discuss how such situations presented to me, to someone I recently met and one for you as well.
Last week I received a call from a client complaining that the seat seam had failed on less than 1/10 of one percent of the stock pants we had shipped recently. My approach in this type of problem solving follows the medical model of ‘first do no harm’ and then ‘stop the bleeding.’ I spoke with our production manager and learned that the operation we were utilizing was not the best technique. I ordered the factory to stop production at this operation immediately. Although the failed percentage was very small, it made no sense to continue to produce with the incorrect method and risk further seam failure. But in the real world in which we exist versus the hypothetical problem world, we need to make delivery dates. Please know that my client had originally accepted the approval samples with the incorrect sewing method. Technically we were covered but I am not interested in winning the battle and losing the war. The war in this case is to look out for the interests of my client by taking care of the needs of my client’s customers.
We know the right method to use and I ordered a machine that will be delivered within one week of diagnosing the problem. And we will work extra time to make up any short fall in delivery. But the pants will be done right for now and for the future. Employing “double loop” learning enables us to take care of the cause of the problem and not just deal with the symptom. My client had wanted to take the risk, since the defect rate was so minute, of making another week’s worth of production with the incorrect method. To the wearer of the pants, one seam blow out is one too many. Here the opportunity presented to improve quality, add value and engender trust that we perform on our promise of quality.
In many situations there is often little time to plan for improvements and you’ve got to think on the fly. If adding value is part of your culture the opportunities should become obvious. I met a very successful retired executive, name Richard, this week who told a story of how he thought quickly and seized an amazing opportunity that added multi-billions of dollars in very profitable sales for his company. Some of you may remember the Commodore computer which was a very early, if not the first, compact or portable computer. This executive, who holds a CPA, was hired away from Arthur Anderson to work for Commodore which at the time was making calculators and digital watches. When he first entered the office he noticed a gentleman saying his “good-byes’ to the staff. Richard walked up and asked the man who he was and why he was leaving. The man responded that he was an inventor and was leaving the company because he surmised that a new executive team would mean that he would automatically be losing his job.
Richard asked him to show him what he had been working on and the inventor took him upstairs and showed him a mother board for a personal computer. At that time, the only computers in use were large enough to fill a room. No one was using desk top personal computers. To make a long story short, Richard retained the inventor and the Commodore computer sold billions of dollars worth. The moving van was already on the way to take the inventor’s furniture to another town. But because Richard acted quickly, was aware and concerned about the people in the company he turned the chance meeting into millions of dollars in profits.
What is the value added for you today? I would like to introduce the American Apparel Producer’s Network (AAPN) (www.aapnetwork.net) of which I am a long time member and currently serve proudly on the board of directors. Greco Apparel is currently a member of only this organization and of course the NAUMD. In the past year I have had conversations with Richard Lerman, executive director of the NAUMD and Mike Todaro and Sue Strickland of the AAPN. The AAPN consists of members representing the entire supply chain in the sewn products industry from fiber producers through end users such as some large like Guess? and Patagonia. Our members are primarily based in the Western Hemisphere with sourcing capabilities on a global basis. We can find sourcing for an order as small as one custom unit or more than 500,000 pants or jeans per week. And leads for these relationships can be started in literally minutes once the email blast is sent. In addition to sourcing expertise our members have demonstrated that they can provide consulting or information on wide range of subjects including fabric, trim, logistics, international trade laws and state of the art technology either directly or through some close contact. I suggest you check the website to learn more. The association members are quality business people upon whom you can rely. If you are involved in manufacturing or supply chain logistics then you and your company would benefit from AAPN membership. The AAPN has been on the vanguard to educate and implement Sustainability starting with their past meeting in Miami last May attended by more than 200 people from around the world.
The AAPN is considering attending the NAUMD convention next April. There are synergistic opportunities available to both sets of membership. I would like to thank Richard, Sue and Mike for their continuing dialog about how they can bring increased value to all of us.