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In China, Shirtmaker TAL Uses Data Analysis for Efficiency Boost

One thousand one hundred and sixteen seconds. That’s exactly how long it should take to stitch together a men’s dress shirt, according to Eugene Lee, a plant manager at Hong Kong’s TAL Group. He knows, because his job is to get the production line at the factory he oversees in Dongguan, China, to run with Japanese-style precision. Each team of about 30 workers is assigned targets. Attaching a collar? That should take 23 seconds. A cuff? Twenty seconds.

Lee’s line supervisors will sometimes stand behind workers at sewing machines, stopwatch in hand, to assess whether a team’s working too fast or too slow. The information is posted on a whiteboard, so managers can identify bottlenecks. “In the old days a leader used a gut feel, but a lot of times the analysis was incorrect,” says Lee. “We’re using real data.”