Lean Blog Interviews — 364: Mitch Cahn on Lean and Pivoting to Shields & Gowns at Unionwear


Joining me for Episode #364 is a returning guest, Mitch Cahn, the president of Unionwear, a Newark-based company. Back in Episode #234, we talked about how Lean manufacturing has helped them be competitive in the labor-intensive apparel industry, sewing goods in a union shop.


Today (in an episode that is also a video podcast), Mitch tells us how, a month ago, orders for political campaign hats and items evaporated as the Democratic presidential field consolidated. So, Unionwear needed to pivot and they started calling hospitals to find out how they might be able to help by making personal protective equipment (PPE) to help in the Covid-19 crisis.


In the episode, you’ll hear about the creation (and continued refinement) of face shields and gowns. These items were made using materials that they normally used for hats, backpacks, and plastic binders. Mitch also talks about how they’ve had to adapt their factory for social distancing and how some employees are sewing at home (and what they need to do to support the flow of materials and products). We’ll also discuss how Lean methods have helped them in this new journey.