Kaizen – the way forward.

As an A-level economics student, I remember watching a case study on a Japanese car manufacturer and their ‘Kaizen’ approach to working practices.

Translated, it means “change for the better,” and has become a term to describe a business philosophy of continuous improvement across all business functions and every member of staff.

Most memorable, was a thousand employees, dressed in immaculate orange overalls, singing the company anthem and doing stretching exercises before the working day began.

Whilst my tight hamstrings and sloppy vocal chords might grumble at such shenanigans, in principle, I think it’s a great idea.

Singing hymns during morning assembly at school was a great way to blow away the cobwebs before a days academic enrichment, and brought teachers and pupils together as a ‘team,’ before the days lessons began.

I’m not suggesting Team Michelsberg will be engaging in 7am pilates sessions, followed by a rousing chorus of “At The Name of Jesus,” but anything that promotes the bonding of team-mates and creates a positive, upbeat, healthy environment has to be a good thing.

To be honest, a long lunch and a pint after work are more along my line of thinking, but the bit I do really like, is continuous improvement.

I have never, nor will I subscribe to the, ‘if it’s not broke, don’t mend it,’ gang. I consider it absolutely vital to try new things and keep raising the bar.

Naturally, I am always looking at potential new suppliers, but loyalty to my existing partners is paramount, and whilst there will always be a new kid on the block, I think you can get more out of people with whom you have an existing relationship.

They say your best customers are your most demanding. I have been working with my Yorkshire based tailors for over eight years and they’d certainly agree with that! But, like L’Oreal products, I’m worth it!!

We’re a bit like a dysfunctional family, they have their ideas, I have mine, but last Friday morning in the workroom was a moment of “Kaizen” magic.

There are things about the cut and construction of their garments (half canvas) that I love, but the recent trend towards ‘softer’ tailoring has gone against them. Hence, the introduction of my new Italian style made-to-measure line.

Heavily padded shoulders, a stiff canvas in the chest, and a ‘fused’ front produce a more (keenly priced) durable garment with a more formal and robust feel, but more of my customers are now looking for something more relaxed.

So, they have worked with me to produce a full canvas product.

This basically means hand-sewing a layer of very soft canvas (pictured below) to the cloth to provide stability and shape to the garment; rather than using a glue-embedded membrane, called a fusible, which is applied to the cloth under heat and pressure.

Michelsberg Full Canvas

Bottom line, it takes much longer to make, the canvas is much more expensive than the fusible, but the feel and fit is second to none. It follows the line of the body like a second skin, gives a lovely roll to the lapel, and help maintain the shape of the garment after cleaning and pressing

Here is my colleague Mr Anderson in a forward fitting of the new prototype.

Charlie Anderson Full Canvas

We’re also been trialling new shoulder pads and sleeve head roles, and cut the top of sleeves with more fullness, to try and provide me with another thing I’ve been mewing about for ages – a roped shoulder.

Roped shoulder

Finally, they have developed a slimmer ‘block’ (the starting point for a customers bespoke pattern) providing a more contemporary fit that should also make it easier to deal with more complex figurations.

My excitement at the difference compared to the half-canvas product was palpable. I could feel the difference in a flash. We’re not there yet on the shoulder (I’d like a fuller, rounder finish) but we’re certainly on the right track.

So big respect to the boys and girls in the workroom for taking the time and effort to do something different.

Change is never easy, but if you don’t move forward, you get left behind.