On the 11th of December, the entrepreneurs traveled to East London as a part of their 2-day Eastern Cape field trip. After a restful night’s stay at The Premier Hotel Regent, the entrepreneurs visited the Mercedes-Benz manufacturing plant, where they received a lesson and tour of the plant as well as its manufacturing processes in order to learn how they can improve upon their own business’ manufacturing and supply chain. This surprising yet practical link between the fashion and automotive industry was brought to light by a lecture given on the topic of Lean manufacturing, which was conducted by Anita Stanbury, former CEO of the South Africa Fashion Council. Lean manufacturing refers to a systematic method for minimizing waste without wavering productivity and is a key reason for Mercedes-Benz’s manufacturing excellence. Many researchers along with Stanbury believe this mode of manufacturing is extremely applicable to other industries, particularly our local fashion industry.
Waste management is a particularly important activity to ensure Lean manufacturing takes place. During the entrepreneurs’ tour of the Mercedes-Benz plant, many of them found themselves astonished when viewing the conditions of each workshop. Where one would expect to find oil stains and excess chunks of steel, they were instead greeted with a well-managed, pristine factory. Each Mercedes-Benz employee is required to perform one course of waste management each year as waste and material management is a paramount part to Mercedes-Benz’s production processes.
“What is measured is managed, that is our philosophy.” – Mike Du Plessis on @MBInspire_SA field trip. #ThreadsBySB
“What is measured is managed, that is our philosophy.” Explained Mike Du Plessis, a Mercedes-Benz retiree. This insight into Mercedes-Benz’s waste management poses an important lesson for the fashion entrepreneurs, particularly pertaining to the management of their own materials as well as keeping their workspaces clean and well-organized in order to minimize waste. Majda Rabin, one of the Thread’s candidates and the creator of the brand Chimpel, creatively used ostrich material off-cuts in order to create one of her most popular products, the stylish ‘Hunters Clutch’. Through doing this, she fully encompassed what it means to perform lean manufacturing as she both minimized her waste while improving her productivity and profitability. This further emphasizes how lean manufacturing can be applied to all industries.