A #Lean Look at the #Baseball Jersey Manufacturing Process

Posted on April 2, 2013 | in Baseball, Ergonomics, Error-Proofing, Inventory, Manufacturing, Motion, Overprocessing, Sports | by

Meredith Marakovits YES Network Majestic Jersey Production New York YankeesRob Neyer of SBNation shared this great video from the YES Network on how Majestic manufactures the game jerseys for the New York Yankees.

With an eye on the eight Lean wastes and unique ways in which processes are optimized or automated, here is what we encounter.

0:15 – Early in the video we see a lot of jersey stock, grouped by team in large storage racks in distribution. It’s not clear whether these are blank jerseys or are prepared with players’ names in advance – there could be a customization shop near the distribution wing. While continuous flow and one-piece flow is the ideal Lean process setup, some seasonal processes with extended changeover times (such as producing baseball jerseys where materials are different from one team to another) consume the least amount of time when batch production is used.

1:02 – Computers for fabric cutting machines have set uniform patterns for each individual player programmed into its memory. A laser cutter is used to cut the pattern out of a piece of jersey fabric stock. However, there is a step with a paper tracing machine where the computer will draw out the pattern for the jersey components on paper first yet the laser cutter apparently does not use this traced paper pattern as a guide for cutting the pants on the fabric stock.

If the paper-tracing step is not necessary to completing the cutting process, why is it being used? The guide even says the laser is following the computer pattern and not the ink on the paper. It appears to be a wasteful step, but maybe I’ve missed something.

Also, a lesson for all of us regarding local sourcing of product – because Majestic is in close proximity to Yankee Stadium, the company is able to produce and deliver a brand new full uniform in an emergency situation (if a jersey rips or gets lost) if the order is received just six hours ahead of game time (1:00 p.m. for a 7:00 p.m. first pitch). That’s not happening with international production.

Granted, this does little to help out the other 28 MLB teams (I’m assuming the Mets also receive this privileged delivery option) but turnaround for those teams is still going to be relatively fast (within the week, at worst).

2:25 – Lots of manual sewing processes. Lots of sliding fabric in and out of sewing machines, lots of moving and stretching and turning and pinching.

At 2:40 it looks like there is some automation from the sewing machine (sewing the pocket well?). Automation has a common misconception in that people believe it means people are replaced by robots or heavy technology implementation. Automation is mostly about allowing a number of process sequences to be completed with limited inputs and with error-proofing applied as necessary. If a single input can initiate a chain reaction of activities down the line that have low likelihoods of failing, that’s automation. It just so happens that properly-implemented and designed robots feature the built-in automation of processes.

2:50 – Hand embroidery of player’s name and sizes for containment within the pants waistband – it makes me hurt just watching it.

4:08 – A vacuum unit with two large tubes is used to quickly turn pants inside out – how cool is this? Simple yet reduces wear and tear on operators. Brilliant!

4:35 – Our host Meredith attempts to use the sewing machine to stitch the navy interlocked Yankees logo on the front of the jersey. At 4:47 Nick the supervisor inspects Meredith’s work. Are there more error-proofed or faster ways to determine whether a stitched component is within spec (such as a template or standard or visual guide) so that an individual doesn’t have to apply so much human judgment in inspection? (The supervisor inspection might be a special case for this video, but it’s a question that should be asked.)

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Not being an expert or fully versed in the overall Majestic production scheme, I think there are a lot of opportunities for improvement that can be considered – more templates, more machine jigs, identification of unnecessary processes, and so forth. Overall, the sewing process appears to be very manually intensive.

It’s entirely possible that Majestic simply hasn’t been introduced to the Lean waste activities or any of the Lean tools for optimizing their processes.

Want to see more manufacturing processes?
Manufacturing Process of Baseball Bats
Manufacturing Process of Baseballs
Manufacturing Process of Wilson Footballs

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5 Responses to “A #Lean Look at the #Baseball Jersey Manufacturing Process”

  1. SDot says:

    Yankee jerseys don’t have names on the back, that one Marakovits is holding up in the photo looks stupid. You would think that YES Network knows these things.

  2. Pingback: A #Lean Look at the #Baseball Jersey Manufacturing Process | Michel Baudin's Blog

  3. Renaud says:

    Yes, I confirm that printing the patterns on paper is useless. Just put a piece of paper (or thin plastic) on top of the fabric, and let the auto cutter do its job.
    Handling pieces of fabric during sewing is always a challenge. In all sewing workshops. And here it seems like they pass the garment to different operators (the traditional way), which multiplies handoffs and handling.
    I also thought the equipment to turn pants upside down is a great idea!

  4. Chad Walters says:

    I watched another video from the Majestic factory, with the hopes that I might uncover answers to questions I posed in the article. Unfortunately no answers were found and no new information was shared. This might mean some deeper recon on why processes like the paper printing are included.

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