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BEHIND THE SCENES | ENTREPRENEURS WHO MAKE GREAT THINGS HAPPEN

Inside a Factory Makeover

How Filson created a production facility as fresh as its hip outdoor apparel--and boosted luggage output 50 percent. Roll over the numbers below to take a closer look.

BREAK ROOM
No more eating at the workstations
The kitchen in Filson’s old factory was cramped and featured only two small tables. As a result, most of the company’s 100 or so production workers ate lunch at their worksta- tions. The new facility has a spacious break room with several tables, an array of appliances, and lockers for storing personal belongings. “Now, people get an actual break at lunch- time,” says Whittaker, who has worked at Filson for 21 years.
WORKSTATIONS
A comfy chair goes a long way
In the old facility, workstations consisted of mismatched tabletops held together with duct tape. The new stations feature two tables with matching gray laminate tops, an adjustable LED lamp, and a specialty sewing chair with a padded seat and back (the old chairs were wooden).
Smooth operator
Prior to the move, workers transported bundles of material from one workstation to the next in unwieldy industrial carts that were large and deep, requiring workers to bend down to retrieve items. Now, bundles move on rolling carts with a shelf. Workers can grab and replace bundles on the shelf while seated, which saves time and cuts down on physical wear and tear.
CORPORATE OFFICES
Show and tell
The corporate offices at Filson’s old location were crowded and rundown. The second, third, and fourth floors of the new headquarters feature an open-plan office with 125 desks and workspaces and enough room for five product showrooms.
PRODUCTION FLOOR
Going with the flow The production floor is more than 12,000 square feet larger than the previous one. It is broken into three departments, each of which includes roughly 32 workstations and focuses on making 10 types of products at any given time. Previously, workstations were organized by machine. Now, they are arranged according to the flow of the production process, represented at left by the colored arrows: Each bundle snakes up and down the aisles seam- lessly rather than moving across the room between steps. “It saves a huge amount of time, and nothing gets lost,” Whittaker says.
LOBBY
Zen and the art of manufacturing
Transparency was a key part of Filson’s vision for the new building, says CEo Alan Kirk. The lobby features two walls of windows that look directly onto the production floor. The windows were originally designed to give visitors a peek at the manufacturing process. Production workers also like looking out at the serene lobby, which includes a rock garden, plants, and a grand staircase. “They tell me it’s like a Zen garden,” Whittaker says. “All those rocks have a calming effect.”
FINISHED PRODUCT
In the bag
Filson’s original briefcase, which is made of twill and leather and costs $248, goes through 69 production steps. Each bundle of 11 bags spends from three minutes (placing snap components on luggage flaps) to 30 minutes (assembling shoulder pads) at a station. “It’s very physical,” Whittaker says. “You’re always pushing or pulling the leather.” The last step: a 38-minute inspection.
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IMAGE: Whitney H. (BecauseUAreHere)/Flickr
From the November issue of Inc. magazine




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