The auspicious journey of a Vicenza firm that draws on Japan’s Kaizen method, known for its “5 S” strategy, to make fabric a victor over paper
The Veneto, Japan.
A family business with a Zen mentality.
The precious nature of water and time.
Environmental benefits of Italian-made fabrics as opposed to the pollution caused by paper.
The history and current identity of the Lavanderia Tiziana, led by a sister-brother team — Antonella and Maurizio Bolcato — in Lonigo (near Vicenza), were crafted to expose more than one truth. Starting with harmony among the generations, pursued like a company creed, by involving many young people, like Chiara Bolcato, daughter of Maurizio and his wife Rosella (also employed by the company) in the daily operations.
Here everything works together to remind us that we live in a world without borders. But then, the quest for a cleaner and more livable environment now finds most people in agreement, whatever their income or politics.
It is comforting to find this validated in a company that is still a classic example of “Made in the Northeast”, like the Lavanderia Tiziana. In 2013 it marked 30 years of history, to the delight of those who, since its inception, have never ceased to pursue the idea of creative, well-structured innovation, sensitive to input from the surrounding world. And the words “no waste” and Kaizen, clearly visible on the company website, are there to remind us of this.
It is Kaizen particularly, that offers a key to the past, present and future of the Lavanderia Tiziana. Established 30 years ago as a textbook example of the kind of small businesses that have fueled the fortunes of the Veneto area, it is “a typical dry-cleaning shop that bears the name of our sister, Tiziana,” explains Maurizio Bolcato, “but in just a few years, the machines and staff were moved to a plant whose size and structure are more suited to an industrial firm”. We are here, at company headquarters, the same place where linens arrive soiled and leave clean, bound for the two main sectors upon which Tiziana successfully focuses its business: food services and beauty salons/spas.
One of the key breakthroughs in the company’s history occurs with the discovery of Kaizen, a Japanese method of corporate development based on a basic idea of improvement, not just continuous, but shared by all the employees of the company. “We found out about it during a research project at the CUOA business school, located nearby, and since then, we have put it to good use,” says Maurizio Bolcato as he and production manager, Loris Checchetto, show us around the plant.
A visit that clearly demonstrates the application of the famous “5 S” system Kaizen is based upon:
1) Sort (“Seiri”) – Constantly separate necessary items from the superfluous through daily organization of the workplace, work loads, and scheduling of vehicles in and out.
2) Streamline (“Seiton”) – A shared commitment to the work priorities and objectives, embraced by all staff, and reinforced by notes posted on a large wall board at the center of the plant.
3) Clean (“Seiso”) – Activities based on valid, lean, “no waste” principles, and also on constant monitoring of the water used during operations, through a non-stop water purification system, must be used to maintain the highest environmental standards.
4) Standardization (“Seiketsu”) – Regularly monitored automation, and improvement, of work cycles.
5) Discipline (“Shitsuke”) – Constant dedication not only to work optimization but also to ongoing research, aimed at producing table linens, towels and work wear (for cooks, cleaners, hairdressers, and others) where the benefits of fabric are highlighted in a convincingly effective manner.
“Kaizen reminds us that the use of so-called disposable paper items”, explains Maurizio Bolcato, “is easy and cost-effective. Only if we start with this idea in mind can we produce something better, because it is cleaner, lasts longer and is more beautiful”.