Back from Houston

[This post has been amended to include the sign.]
Good to see all is well upon my return with the exception that paypal has redesigned the color of their buttons to an annoying shade of orange that clashes with my red H1 tags. ~sigh~. Was everybody good while I was away? It seems to get awfully quiet around here when I’m gone. Best I can tell, everyone’s home no worse for wear. Haven’t heard from our host Mike yet, beyond his comment after hearing that Vesta stole the sign hanging in his office (best get used to it Vesta, I’ll be hitting that theme for more than it’s worth). I don’t know where to start. I think I’m going to hold off on anything approaching a technical discussion of the lean implementation while waiting for the attendees to submit trip reports of their impressions. Hopefully between Fit Couture, me and America’s 21st, we can fill in the gaps. For now, here’s some random mostly social stuff.

Thursday night, some of us got together for dinner. Most of those pictures didn’t come out. Here’s one of Christy. It was her birthday too.

I took a bunch of pictures of people at Mike’s place, here’s one of Milena. She’s a mechanical engineer from Canada. She wants to manufacture coats. She made the mistake of having me navigate Houston traffic so she probably hates me now. We’re going along chatting, I’m affirming what’s she saying with “right, right” till she starts veering off to the right and I panic “Left! Left!” She asked me a very interesting question that I hope I remember to post about later. She said she would write about it but that was before I was her navigator.

Below is Alex and Marnie, again from Canada. I didn’t get the chance to visit with them about their product line. Bad me.

Here’s a picture of Richard, also an engineer. I do seem to attract those. He has a full time job doing something else right now and I don’t want to get him in trouble.

Here’s a picture of Susanna and Gary. They want to start a line of classic separates for professional women. They brought samples made by Gary’s mother. The work was absolutely exquisite.

Below is Carla Hilbig. She’s from north of Houston and manufacturers women’s tennis apparel.

Below is Vesta (Ellaroo) chatting, perhaps in collaboration with her henchmen, masterminding her pending theft of the sign in Mike’s office.

Below is Jennifer Murphey. She has a line of infant related products.

Below this is Jennifer’s contractor, Sister Mary Eileen (with Fernando of America’s 21st in the foreground). Sister Mary’s operation hires women not likely to be otherwise employed; she will only produce products of organic materials.

Below is Len Egan, owner of America’s 21st, the company that installed Mike and Amy’s lean cell.

Below are Fit Couture’s stitchers, Maria and Naomey. Maria is a pistol. I don’t know if she told Mike and Amy but she was trained to sew in Guatemala. She is quite funny and opinionated, a little taciturn. Naomey is from Honduras and seems to be more easy going. She told me she wasn’t Fit Couture’s first choice, they wouldn’t hire her at first but she got called back later after another stitcher they’d hired didn’t work out. Neither were very productive with us watching their every move.

Their other full time production person is a cutter. I forgot his name. I’ll have to ask Mike. He was kind of a flirt and also from Honduras.

Mike and Amy also have a new hire, Christina, who handles all the orders and will be stepping into some of Amy’s duties once their baby comes. Christina’s features are well defined in real life and she is quite attractive, not that you’d know from this photo.

The picture below doesn’t really belong in this mix but I didn’t want to forget it. Mike says not to buy this machine (a Thermopatch HS11). It’s one of those machines that heat sets your label onto the garment. While they do love the concept, this machine has broken several times and has been a lot of trouble. Also, the instructions say to peel while hot. Don’t do that.

Here’s a group picture of all of us.

Left to right is Amy (with little baby Jack pre-partum), Mike, Alex, Marnie, Susanna, Peggy (Amy’s mom, I thought she was cool!), Richard, Jennifer, Milena, Carla, Len, Vesta (too busy plotting to face forward?), Gary, Sister Mary Eileen and lastly, Fernando right in front.

Below is a repeat but with me stuck in there. Please note my socks (courtesy of the Sock Lady) do match although it is not obvious in the photo. Amy, I hope you like those socks because your mom certainly did. That baby of yours is going to end up with several pairs.

One person not shown in the group photo because she left early was Kay King, the chair of the fashion department at Houston Community College. Below she’s wearing my hat. She says her scarf was an Issey Miyake that someone bought for her off of eBay.

The preceding was people pictures from Friday at Fit Couture. Friday night, some of us went to the Flash N Trash fashion show put on by the Houston Community College. That was a lot of fun. Below is a picture of me with Ken Simmons. See, I can clean up. Check out my hat (courtesy of Amy Downs, it was perfect for this event). Ken is an instructor at HCC and was master of ceremonies. He’s a doll. If I looked good, it was because Milena did my make up. Thanks Milena! Vesta braided my hair when she wasn’t plotting.

I’ve put up the photos of the outfits in a separate web album so go see those. For now, I’ve included only a few. First up is a piece entitled “Trojan Warrior”. Yep, those are all condoms there. This was probably the funniest piece although the one made entirely of orange, lemon and lime rinds was quite funny too.

Actually, the naming of the pieces were all quite clever. All I could do was shake my head. It’ll take years -years- to get the naming of pieces out of these people’s heads. The piece below is the one that won, called “Sticks of Fury”, made entirely of chopsticks and the wrappers. The picture is lousy, you had to have seen it. The back had an asymmetrical drape made of the wrappers. Blame the judges (I was one by the way) if you like but there was no dissension. This was everyone’s first choice.

Below is our second choice called “Cola la la la”. I wish I knew the names of the designers. A suggestion for next year would be that the designer’s name appears under each piece on the judge’s tally forms. There was a separate program that I’m sure listed the names but of course, I don’t have that.

I guess this wraps it up. Be sure to see the web album for more of the student’s designs.

This is the joke about the sign. In Mike’s office, on the wall directly behind his monitor, was a taped sign obviously written by Amy. We all got a laugh out of it. Vesta stole the sign and made some modifications (below):

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  1. Mike C says:

    The cutter is Jostin, he’s Noemy’s son.

    We came out of the open house no worse for wear here, though we immediately jumped into our hectic Monday schedule.

    My impression was that a lot of the attendees got as much (if not more) value from talking with their peers than they did from looking over the actual lean implementation.

    We’d probably be willing to host another session at our facility sometime next year, though I’m hoping to convince Kathleen (and maybe some others) to collaborate with us and put on a two day mini-conference next summer that could include a factory tour but would also have more in-depth offsite portion that didn’t require us to TALK REALLY LOUDLY whenever our air compressor fired up.

    I bought a lock that I was going to use to control access to our inventory storage room, but have since decided to put on my door in case Vesta “sticky fingers” Garcia comes back.

  2. Kathleen,

    Thank you SO much for the photos. I’ve been eagerly awaiting a report, and I just loved the photos. I don’t know how you chose a best design at the Flash ‘n Trash show. They were phenomenal! Thanks also for the link to those photos.

    I look forward to reading more as reports come in.

    And, I want to see Vesta’s photo of the infamous sign. I’m so curious to see it!


  3. Milena says:

    The funniest thing about driving with Kathleen was that she would give me an order, i.e. “Get on this freeway” or “Do a U-turn” and expect it to be excecuted at that moment, as if she were driving. It takes me about 5 seconds to process what she wants, make sure everything is safe, etc, while she mutters “I would be driving a lot more agressively if I were you”. …I love Kathleen!

    Seriously, it was an amazing day on Friday. It was so nice to meet people in all stages of product development! So I think everyone will have gotten something different out of it. Thank you Mike and Amy for organizing such a great get-together!

  4. christy says:

    The Friday get-together looks like it was a lot of fun, I’m jealous. Hoping Mike and Amy will let me stop by sometime and check out their system… maybe I can steal some stuff while I’m there, too!

    Love the Cola la la la outfit!

  5. Marnie says:

    I just want to say that we had an amazing time in Houston. Thank you so much to Mike and Amy for having us, and to Kathleen for organizing the day. We learned an incredible amount and really enjoyed meeting everyone.

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