Continuous improvement is integral to the success of an organisation. Bringing new and innovative ideas to the existing system of working – be it enhancement of quality and productivity – is what makes an organisation count among the best. No wonder, Eddie Bauer is today a brand that speaks what the consumers want.
“Continuous training leads to quality empowerment and utilising the right person for the right job improves both quality and productivity and that is what the customers want,” averred Vince Vu, Regional Country Manager, Eddie Bauer, Vietnam.
In a candid discussion with the team of Apparel Resources, he spoke about his company’s endeavour to ensure high productivity and quality standards that has made Eddie Bauer a pioneering retail brand in last 100 years. He also spoke about the importance of training with this regard.
Eddie Bauer has been manufacturing in Vietnam for over 25 years and is today associated with 14 factories each in the twin cities of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. While sourcing is still done in US, Vietnam centres mainly on improving quality and productivity.
Nothing precedes quality
Eddie Bauer has been working closely with all its factories with the sole intent of ensuring that it meets its commitment to ship all the goods on time with good quality. Quality is the only parameter that gets customers. The brand’s drive to enhance quality and productivity has also been instrumental in reaping rich benefits for its associated factories as well.
Corroborating on the above, Vince remarked “we are supporting our factories in innovations and development and simultaneously trying to bring the Eddie Bauer standards here so that they all understand what we really need in our products. This close association results in the making of quality innovative products, and which has made them lifetime warranty products.” He further adds that innovation is the most important aspect of product development today. It is not just about making garments but also about its fabrication and functional aspects too.
The company is also planning to set up a process with its associated factories wherein it plans to bring all its requirements on one platform. This could take the form of a comprehensive manual that talks about everything from product testing and safety to the latest trends available in the market. Elucidating on this vision of the company, Vince said, “Eddie Bauer is trying to encourage quality cultures with our vendors and thereby empower them for their internal quality team. We try to narrow the standard deviation. Each brand will have different market and different level of quality, so one of our jobs is to identify any standard deviation.”
The company also understands that each factory has its own working process and therefore it does not bring any new process. “Our intent is to just ensure that there is some effective process in place and there are some people to monitor the process,” said the young Regional Country Manager.
Training the workforce
When one talks of continuous improvement, training remains an integral component of it. One of the main key performance indicators (KPIs) of Eddie Bauer for the factories in Vietnam has been to have factory certified auditors (FCAs) to ensure there is no deviation between the people at Eddie Bauer and those in the factory. There are exclusive training classes to make this happen. “We train the FCAs for 6 months, which is more of on-job training. After training, we conduct exams and once these exams are cleared, they are certified as FCAs. Once certified, these FCAs can work independently – more as Eddie Bauer representatives,” explained Vince.
Certified FCAs are authorised to conduct self-inspections and final inspections, and finally release the shipment. There is no better way to educate than through such inspections and training programmes. Training results in quality empowerment and that is what Eddie Bauer is trying to achieve with all its associated factories in Vietnam.
Production efficiency to match projected efficiency…
The alignment of production efficiency with the projected efficiency is what every organisation aspires for and that is what Eddie Bauer has been working with its factories. “Like quality empowerment and training, production efficiency too is important as it directly impacts timely delivery.
“We first need to ensure right product for right person. Then, during our daily floor visit, if we find any inefficiency, we inform the vendors and also give them our ideas and observation. Normally factories have IE team and they work closely with factories based on our ideas and suggestions; so, it’s a kind of continuous improvement,” said Vince.
He also added that most of the factories in Vietnam are aware of the relevance of compliance – there is no other perspective bigger than this for the factories in Vietnam.
“Our constant efforts to find a gap in the system, fix those gaps and finally encourage a quality culture, have made us what we are today – a world class brand,” said Vince in a soft voice that exuded confidence.