Lean Manufacturing Certification

At the risk of having my bookmark permanently deleted by the majority of my readership, I’d like to mention that it would appear that a Lean Certification standard is under way as per this month’s issue of Standardization News from ASTM. Yippee! Although I’ve written of ASTM in the past, I reiterate that the American Society of Testing Materials -of which I am a member (and a voting member no less -what was the membership committee thinking?)- is the outfit that supplies this industry with all manner of specifications and standards used in the manufacture of sewn products. This minimally includes labeling requirements, seam specifications and sizing standards (see my previous post for details on standards you’re most likely to use). From September’s Standardization News:

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers, the Association for Manufacturing Excellence and The Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing are working together to develop a new standard for lean certification. The organizations are collaborating with industry and academia in the initiative, which has been encouraged by lean constituents. The certification scheme is being designed for manufacturing professionals who want recognition and credentials to illustrate their knowledge and application of lean principles. Certification candidates will have to serve as mentors and be mentored, provide a portfolio to illustrate how lean principles were applied in organizations, and pass an examination.


The Shingo Prize (sometimes described as the “Nobel Prize” of manufacturing) website states:

The Lean Certification is currently comprised of four levels. The first level is intended to measure knowledge of Lean principles. Candidates at the second level should be capable of applying lean principles and tools to drive improvements and show measurable results. This is not intended as an introductory or knowledge survey evaluation. At the third level, Lean practitioners are expected to be senior employees/team leaders who are capable of applying Lean principles and tools to drive improvements and show measurable results plus orchestrate the transformation of a complete value stream. At the highest level of Lean certification, the practitioner is at a point of influence and authority over assets, processes and people, with a solid understanding of all aspects of Lean transformation across the entire enterprise.

Here you can read a press release covering the certification program, while this link provides the full brochure (1.3MB) complete with misspellings I might add. I find misspellings in material put out by quality organizations to be ironic, don’t you?

Now before you go away, you might want to check out the September issue of Standardization News because this month’s focus is the Textile Industry. Usually the magazine covers something of absolutely no interest to me such as the nuances of uncoated steel strands for use in pre-stressed concrete or test methods for determination of slow crack growth parameters of advanced ceramics by constant stress flexural testing stress rupture at ambient temperatures -and you guys think I’m anal- but this issue includes an interesting discussion regarding Apparel and Sewn Product Automation with universal data exchange. This simply means that ASTM is determining standards that every CAD software/hardware developer will need to integrate into their systems so that your Gerber graded patterns can be printed out via a Lectra systems plotter with no data loss or distortion. There’s also an article on Textile Test Methods, Cotton Fiber Standards and how Imports to the United States are governed by ASTM D-13 standards. The latter is a must-read item for my non-US readers bent on getting products into US stores.

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7 comments

  1. Why should you care about (lean) manufacturing?

    The Lean Certification is just one of the ways the Society of Manufacturing Engineers helps to improve manufacturing, particularly in lean.

    But if you aren’t a manufacturer, why should you care? Well, lean methods keep costs lower and quality higher – if you use contract garment assembly companies, that ought to be important to you.

    And lean can keep companies manufacturing onshore, not half a world away. So instead of a six-month lead time to place your orders, you might be able to get six weeks, six days, or six hours. Depending on what colors, sizes and styles your line includes, you can change the mix during the selling season. Do you know exactly what will sell six months before your designs hit the stores? Does your retailer?

    Another issue with offshore manufacturing – respect for your intellectual property – your designs – can be pretty low. You almost guarantee the production cheap copies in some countries.

    And what if there’s an interruption of service in a major port or transportation system. Will your entire season’s production be sitting it out in Long Beach, when it could be in stores?

    Your initial order for the season can be smaller – tying up less cash (yours or your retailer’s) and leaving a minimum of unsold goods at the end of the season. You can reduce your retailer’s risk — could that make you a more favored supplier?

    One of lean manufacturing’s key concepts is the value stream — everything that happens between the idea in your head to the end customer’s enjoyment of your garment is linked together. Wasted time, money or material anywhere in the value stream is your problem and will cost you money or lost sales.

    While the Society of Manufacturing Engineers isn’t known well in the apparel industry, assembly is assembly, whether it’s a car or a shirt. And design is design. If you are ready to learn more about lean manufacturing, check out our web site at http://www.sme.org/lean. It will show you where to find people, events, books,videos and other stuff to help you on your journey.

    Believe it or not, I am personally fascinated with lean and I’m not just placing this post because I have a job here. It is the reason why Toyota is profitable while our big three auto companies are in the red. And the people doing it are smart, funny and interesting – I love working with them.

  2. Toronto Fashion Incubator

    I like the Toronto Fashion Incubator even though they ignore me. You’d think I’d rate a link but no such luck. Still, if I only wrote about people that gave me the time of day, you’d have very little to…

  3. Anushree says:

    Hii i m a student of apparel manufacturing and interested in knowing how lean manufacturing is applied in Apparel industry. can u please shed some more light on it.

  4. Kathleen says:

    Hello Anushree
    Your first step is to look under “categories” in the lower right side bar. From there, select “lean manufacturing”. There are tons of articles to read there. Second, if you’re interested in learning how to operate a lean company, I’d recommend buying my book. It will teach you how to start and stay lean. I don’t mind answering what questions I can -provided I don’t cannabalize my own sales since the book is what supports this site financially- but the first step is to read what’s available and from there, pose your questions.

  5. Bob says:

    Is there a specific layout of machinery that would facilitate a lean implementation for hi volume costume manufacturing?

  6. Kathleen says:

    I’m sure there is but it is highly dependent on the design engineering of your product. Unlike the traditional factory, lean cells are customized to product requirements. Ideally -if each style had enough in common with each other- you could use one cell to produce a variety of styles.

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