By  on February 3, 1994

FAYETTE, Ala. -- Introducing European technology and know-how into a domestic deep South men's tailored coat factory has reduced delivery times in Lanier's refurbished plant here from three weeks to 10 days.

Lanier recently invested $750,000 to overhaul machinery in the 35,000-square-foot sewing facility. "We think it's a showpiece," says Wayne Brantley, president of Lanier, of the updated Fayette, Ala., plant.

Frank Reeves, vice-president, private label/branded, adds, "It will let us remain competitive for a longer period of time and it gives our product more hanger appeal in a competitive environment."

The project has worked so well, said Brantley, that "we know enough now that we'll be adapting a lot of this in our other locations. This process may be the way clothing will be made in the U.S. in the future."

The reason Lanier invested so much in a plant onshore is simple, he continues. It offers better opportunities to check quality and consistency. "It adds value to the product."

But it's also made operations simpler, sewing operators' jobs easier and increased turnaround.

According to Errol Tootle, vice-president and staff director of the Fayette facility, Lanier's work-in-process time in its plants is usually two and a half to three weeks.

That's now been reduced to 10 to 12 days "comfortably." He adds, "We'd like to get it down to less than that."

To outfit the Fayette plant a manufacturing task force visited 13 or 14 manufacturers in Scotland, England, Canada and France, going through their operations and choosing ideas.

Some of the microprocessor-controlled sewing and pressing equipment and some European techniques had not been used before by Lanier in the U.S., according to Tootle.

For instance, the plant has begun hanging coats through the production line rather than sending them through in bundles, a technique that Lanier learned in the European plants it visited. According to Brantley, this reduces final pressing needs and in-plant waste and enhances quality.

So far, Lanier executives are very pleased with the results. "We're actually putting more interlining inside the garment than we do in our better products," says Brantley.

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