Reorganising everything to new ways of working

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I am Nguyễn Thị Nhường (Su Nguyen), Founder and CEO of LOC Group Fashion Joint Stock Company

Su left university to start a research and production programme on rimless bras in February 2016, and officially launched her lingerie manufacturing business in July 2016 with Loc, her boyfriend, naming the company after him. She later graduated from Ho Chi Minh City University of Medicine and Pharmacy as a doctor.

As the competition is fierce like war, the elimination and “natural selection” are increasingly taking place on a broader scale requiring Vietnamese businesses to adapt to survive and thrive whether they like it or not.

From the beginning, LOC had asked questions and looked for answers: How to develop in the fashion industry that has this fierce competition? Fortunately LOC has found our partners Teal Unicorn who teach us and give lots of useful advice.

After participating in the training course “Becoming an agile Manager, agile enterprise” and a workshop “Applying new ways of  working and managing” – simulating a business that has changed from an ineffective bulky business into an agile business – we have applied these concepts to LOC’s manufacturing practices. This is the story of LOC.

The problems in the past:

The production division was not well organised: The cutting section was far from the sewing line, as well as the  quality control (QC). It took a long time to transport from cutting to conveying, exchanging, returning and replacing wrongly cut goods. The QC department was away from the assembly. There were isolated working areas and poor information flow.

QC department found many product errors, lots of conflicts occurred. More products defects showed up even after delivery to customers.

The warehouse took  a lot of time to search for raw materials. Warehouse staff were not aware of the orders to be put into production, so they did not know in advance what materials to prepare. They often gave wrong or incorrect amount of materials to the factory.

We did not track the amount of goods needed to produce an order, especially urgent orders, or goods with special details.

Percentage of errors, damaged, or moldy products were high.

Productions which didn’t have all sizes done remained in the warehouse for so long that it led to fading of color, poor quality and the need to throw them away.

Information flow between different units was not good and clear which lead to confusion and slowing.

Some people in some sections had to do too much. As a result, there were bottlenecks in different places.

The whole organization was overloaded, busy but productivity was low.

The improvements LOC have made:

1.  Rearranging the sewing factory:

Relocating to a new location to have more space and more facilities. Every section is located at the same place.

All units were rearranged flowing a Value Stream.

Units are separated by a dividing line on the floor. Better information flow, people can see each other’s work, better support each other.

Renaming units according to their functions to show what they create.

Describe the work of a coordinator and a tailor-made model so that more qualified people work for more specialized jobs.

Rearranging threads, dividing into 3 main areas: the most common thread colors, only for the sewing collection, the less used threads, stick lace with threads. Reduced time for searching thread and comparing thread to lace.

Arranging padding types, colors, size of the pads, dividing cup sizes and their colors before cutting to reduce a lot of time in the process.

Giving each sewing worker a basket to put the items that were used during the day. The end-of-day unprocessed product will be put in a carton to continue working the next day. Personal belongings were stored in a shelf to avoid having too many objects around production line causing confusion and difficulty to find items.

Glue baskets on production line to divides two categories of goods: urgent orders and normal orders, from which all members can see the product flow making it easy to control and very easy to find them.

Display them in different colors so the priority mode is clear  for each different type of goods. All employees see the colors and they know which goods are prioritized then they can complete quickly and timely.

Replace  transparent plastic card with a note inside with paper showing product specifications to avoid paper loss during the movement on the production line, thus ensuring the right model and right number after completing.

Rearrange wire parts by specifying quantity and color sizes of each type of wire, eyelet or hook. Reducing time to search for them and everyone can get the materials they need.

Contain materials that are waiting for assembly, assembling, or already finished products in plastic boxes with lids, and glue on clear information to reduce dirty, moldy parts,  and make them easy to find.

2.  Reorganise the  warehouse and its operations

Rearrange the warehouse of raw materials, control the amount of in and out  and inventory.

Warehouse staff know in advance the amount of materials needed for upcoming orders and actively prepare enough quantities.

3.  Improving wire cutting unit and QC

Check the execution time at stages and then divide it into work groups to reduce errors and arrange work in cadence.

Rearranging the workflow to create a seamlessness between workplaces: sewing line – QC – putting pads.. The cutting unit has changed the pattern to help it done faster, easier to sew, less cropping. Reduced cutting time and saves more materials.

A week after changing, the productivity increased to 150% and all inventory in the QC department was resolved within 2 weeks.

4.  Visualise  workflow and information flow

Encourage all departments to make a kanban board so everyone can see the workflow.

Support each person, each department to ensure people know each other’s work and manage their work well.

Using pictures to visualise customer feedback so that everyone understands the value of their work

Organise every morning standing up meetings, list the tasks that everyone will do today and the priorities.

Top priority is the flow of information: after receiving the information, a coordinator will notify each department with a note of the latest information and place it in the most visible place.

Agree on common principles to ensure that everyone is aware of the change and correctly understand the change, which helps to avoid incomplete or incorrect information.

Develop models and specifications for each product category then provide information, catalogs and products to all divisions.

  1. Creating a united environment throughout the company

Organising Monthly birthday parties for employees who have a birthday in the month..

Playing games, write thank you cards to each other …

Doing meaningful activities together such as go to picnics, playing team building games, planting plants, cleaning the factory daily, weekly …

Agreeing on how to behave with each other.

Encouraging each member to find problems, discuss the root cause of the problem, and encourage people to propose a solution to the problem.

Agreeing the next stage is customer of the previous stage.

Teal Unicorn know nothing about the manufacture of lingerie. We coach and train on the principles of New Ways of Working and Managing, and suggest ideas to try based on those general principles.  The solution lies within the staff and system of the client – we facilitate them finding it.

Results LOC achieved

After doing a lot of gradual improvements over a period of nearly 5 months, most of the aforementioned problems have been resolved, the productivity of LOC has increased by 68% compared to the past. We are grateful to Mr. Rob and Cherry for guiding and consulting to help us continuously improve and always be asking: Can we be more lean? Can we do it better? Can we do it faster? Many questions are posed to find greater answers about breaking through, innovating, and further developing to meet our customers’ demand better.

Most importantly, we have built LOC into a family where everyone feels they belong, where managers have learned how to be gardeners, where they look after and grow staff every day so they are constantly striving for the best quality and service for everyone who loves the products of LOC.

Teal Unicorn are so proud to be servants of Su and Loc. Su is a strong and dynamic woman who has made her own way against the resistance of Vietnamese culture, to be a successful liberated feminist woman beloved by her family and staff. Loc has supported and stood by her all the way, contributing his own intelligence as well. Cherry loves their beautiful comfortable products. They are now our friends.