How Did Our System Help Kaas Tailored Fulfill the Need for PPE?

In this series, Jeff Kaas explains what the Kaas Tailored team learned about continuous improvement as we transitioned from making furniture to making PPE during the COVID19 global pandemic. In our first episode we explain why Kaas Tailored started making PPE, Today, Jeff talks about how our systems helped us fulfill the need for PPE.

There’s a couple of things that go into answering this question. The first thing was that because we’ve been doing tours for so long, the people of Providence actually knew who we were. They knew if we said we could do something that we actually believed, that we could do it. 

Additionally, we always say the who is more important than the how or the what. In this case, the who was aligned well. Like-minded people, knowing that the goal was to actually protect people and that these regulatory things actually might kill people. It’s crazy to me that in America still today, we’re receiving product from a country that is known for being awesome at counterfeiting. They will take an N-95 mask from that country over one that has been made by us knowing exactly what it is because it meets regulatory standards. That is almost the definition of insanity.

For us, I think it was a reputation, and having a relationship, and having a customer who, they were very courageous, and they had their ducks in a row. They knew what they were doing. I believe that there was a crisis. I believe they really had a need and they were really willing to run. So, I don’t think we can take credit for it. I think we can say, there was excellent leadership at Providence. The leader said, “You know what? People are going to die. We need to protect people. Some protection’s better than none. Please get to work. Please tell the world.” They did it publicly, and we just answered the call. So, I don’t really feel like we can take credit for it, but they knew us.

To go from a text message to production the next day has never happened in my career ever. That’s never, never happened. That’s the power of relationship. Contracts and stupid business behavior, and outsourcing, and low price has prevented many human beings from enjoying work. Some of the stupid crap that’s between me and my customers over $5 is just so stupid, where we could be enjoying working together creating value.

In March of 2020, Providence Health and Services started the 100 Million Mask Challenge. The hope was to reach out to their local community to help create much-needed PPE, due to the COVID19 global pandemic. Within a few days, Providence and Kaas Tailored formed a partnership to rapidly-produce face shields and face masks for caregivers. As the new normal settled in, we realized how much we missed hosting guests in our factory and leading Waste Tours. We hosted a zoom call in early June and asked participants to send in their questions about waste and continuous improvement so that we could share what we’d learned about continuous improvement as we transitioned from making furniture to making PPE. Stay tuned for the rest of the series.