In the 3+ years that Detroit Sewn has been operating, I’ve seen every kind of sewer: rudimentary, experienced, enthusiastic, inquisitive, speedy, slow, opinionated, stubborn, aware, not aware at all. But the sewer I appreciate most, no matter the skill level, is the one who is confident.
It’s tough to teach confidence. It can be done to some degree, but there are sewers who want no part of it. And there’s nothing tougher than working with a sewer who has no confidence.
I once employed a sewer who was decent fulfilling her tasks, especially on a single needle. She used this machine more than any other, and had her one preferred machine that she knew almost as well as her own kid. She often did repetitive steps, as many industrial sewers do, but no matter how long she worked on a job, how many times she did that one step on that one machine over and over and over, she never got faster.
It wasn’t that she didn’t want to get faster. She really did. She simply lacked the confidence in herself as a sewer to believe she could go faster and then achieve it.
It didn’t matter how much I encouraged her, or eventually, pleaded with her, because I really liked her as an employee and as a person and didn’t want to have to let her go, she was unable to sew faster. She didn’t believe she could do it and still get a good result. And she proved herself right.
As long as you have confidence, you can learn and grow as an industrial sewer. You don’t have to believe you are the best, or that you are going to master an operation on the first try. You just have to believe you are continuously getting better, and that you are going to learn that operation and get comfortable with it. And once you do that, the door is wide open for you to increase your speed.
Once sewers have completed an operation about 20 or so times, I ask them to start doing timing tests utilizing the stopwatch function on their phones, so they first get a baseline of number of minutes it is taking to complete an operation, and then to begin challenging themselves. Every few hours they do another timing test, and if they aren’t getting any faster, it’s a good opportunity to check in with their production manager for some tips on how they might increase their speed.
At the end of each workday, the sewers report to the production manager the number of pieces they completed for the day, and there is nothing more fun than hearing a sewer proudly announce that she has once again beaten her record. We celebrate that person because it is, indeed, an achievement. And, even more important, it’s how a factory makes money.