Interview: Karine Chagnon
Post-production: Gabriel Laprade
Joe Bichai sits in the in the conference room of the Genfoot Factory in Lachine, Montréal. This explains why we see winter boots displayed against the white wall behind him. Here, he explains the novel concept he put in place in order to increase the manufacture’s productivity.
Using this concept, we decide to train versatile workers. To us, being versatile means learning to use the different machines. So, for sure people were worrying about it. We’re talking, people are looking at us, you could have heard crickets chirping, but you could tell by the body language that people were worried. And, a lot of the time, I’m looking at the other factories we own here, when we ask for volunteers, you almost have to physically drag them to do it. Not always interested, you know? So, you can imagine our surprise, when we needed 6 or 7 employees and nearly thirty of them wanted to participate. That was a good sign right there, staff was open to the idea. So, we ran our test. We started measuring, making notes, like a piece of leather that had taken 28 days to come out… trim a piece of leather, but him, now he’s trimming a whole lot at a time. Later we want to go to one piece at a time. But even a lot, a lot is like 12, that took, I’d wager, not even 10 minutes to be stitched because we were hip to hip and each operation took something like 30 seconds. We said: okay, now we know this gets a checkmark for meeting delivery deadlines. We just improved by several hundred percentage points.
Our training module had just confirmed the savings on paper. That was the moment when we started working with our mechanics so they could modify the sewing machines so you could work from standing. It really took a colossal effort from everyone involved. And you know, the beauty of it, the beauty of a factory like the one in Contrecœur is that the mechanic, whether we’re talking about Francis or someone else, they do a bit of everything. It’s not like, they’re used to making do with what they’ve got. Other than the Contrecœur hardware store, it’s not like there are services here, not like in a big city like Montréal where everything is within hand’s reach. They’re very resourceful and they do a bit of everything. So, we’re dealing with a sewing machine mechanic, but he can bend metal, weld, he has all the skills we need to make the very changes we need.