My Footprint series- Setting an Example with Trims and Samples
Series intro: Today's citizen is engaged, concerned, and most of all, confident; confident in his or her choice as a consumer, confident in his or her power as an employee, confident that change is possible.
The Footprint Chronicles were developed to document the changes we’re making as a company to lighten our environmental impact and do less harm. These chronicles are as much an inspiration to Patagonia employees as they are an outgrowth of our personal values. The “My Footprint” series shares the stories of Patagonia friends and employees who have been inspired by the Chronicles, and whose inspiring lives help fuel the vision of what we can do as a company.
Their stories are offered here, glimpses of individual footprints spotted along the path toward positive change. We invite you to enjoy these personal accounts, and share your own in the Comments section included with these posts.
Two. Hundred. Thousand. Miles. If you’re an astronaut, that translates to a one-way ticket to the moon or about 8 trips around the Earth at the equator. Barring shuttle pilots, mileage like that demands respect. Car owners boast when their odometers coast into 6-digit territory. With the average American annually clocking just over 12,000 miles behind the wheel, 200K means 16+ years of driving. As someone who’s racked up 200,000 miles on his daily bike commute, Chris Carroll knows what each of those miles feel like. It makes him just the person you want to talk to when the subject turns to how small things, steadily accumulated, can add up to impressive results.
Chris is responsible for managing the warehousing and distribution of the various trims used on Patagonia garments. His Trims Department manages a staggering array of items: buttons, zippers, and snaps in colors to match virtually every Patagonia garment ever made; strips of elastic fabric for every arm, leg, waist, and hem of every sweater, jacket, and piece of Capilene® made over the decades; hook-and-loop closures for sleeves, luggage, messenger bags. And then there’s the easy-to-overlook things, things like size tags, clothing care tags, and of course, every version of the Patagonia label one can recall.
[Chris Carroll pedals past pallets holding a very small portion of the total number of "trims" needed for just one season's line of products. Photo: Lloyd Stradley]
Put simply, the items that fall under Chris’s care are the parts of your Patagonia garment that you’re least likely to notice. These same parts are what elevate Patagonia products from garden-variety garments to worthy representatives of our legendary quality. If you’ve ever struggled with a difficult zipper or purchased an off-brand item that just didn’t look or feel well-made, you have a sense of the role Chris and his team play in making sure we build the best product.
Over the years, Chris’s crew has turned their attention-to-detail to the second part of our mission statement “do the least harm.” At our Reno Distribution Center, his team receives much of the bulk material that is used in the construction of our sales sample products. These “sales samples” are fully functional models of future products—theyre what clothing and gear stores need to see and touch before deciding what to stock for the upcoming season. As suggested above, a fleece jacket requires multiple ingredients; often, each of these items (zipper pulls, size tags, etc.) comes from a different manufacturer. It is important to deliver all of these ingredients in an organized way to the factory building that jacket. To illustrate: imagine asking someone to bake you a batch of brownies. They agree, and you can now either 1) send each ingredient individually, at different times, and then call with the recipe at some future undetermined time; or 2) send all of the ingredients in one tidy package, complete with baking instructions. Chris’s team focuses on the latter strategy, and in so doing, ensures a much higher level of efficiency and accuracy – which translates to less waste.
After helping dial in the efficiency of our sample-manufacturing strategy, the question remained: how else can we streamline our processes? Being well-versed in efficient transportation, Chris logically turned to the extensive shipping and distribution of materials that was needed to make this whole process work. It didn’t take long to realize a solution. As Chris states, “one of the major improvements [we’ve made is] to no longer bring sales sample fabric into Reno, especially fleece 3000 miles from the East Coast [before] sending it back to Miami or Texas for forwarding to South America for sample production. Kudos to Casey Sheehan (Patagonia CEO) and Doug Freeman (Patagonia VP of Production) who ultimately agreed and pulled the plug on that environmental and economic waste!”
Chris’s rough estimates on the shipping dollars saved so far: $35,000 for our Spring 2009 samples and $45,000 for our Fall 2009 samples. It has not yet been determined how much of a positive carbon impact has been realized by this $80,000 annual reduction in shipping volume.
When asked if he has an idea of how much of a positive
impact his idea has had, Chris replies, “I didn’t do anything special, it just
made sense. I’m just satisfied that we are doing samples more efficiently.”
[Middle - Chris leans out of the way to allow a better view of the long row of the fleece fabric he's been trying to ship more efficiently. At approx. 5 feet long, 2 feet thick, and over 50lbs, each roll is bulky and expensive to transport. Bottom - boxes and boxes of zippers. A very small sampling of just one of the components needed to build a complete jacket. Photos: localcrew]