A visit to the factory in Almansa
I promised to write a little excerpt from my time in the factory. A look behind the scenes. So here goes.
As you all know, the town the factory is located in is called Almansa. It is a quaint little town, about 1 hours drive from the airports of Valencia and Alicante. I usually stay at the same hotel, as I’ve gotten to know the owner very well. It’s a budget traveller’s hotel above a gas station, but the breakfast is really good and the owner is the nicest guy I know. The first time I visited Almansa I had arrived by public transport, and the owner offered to drive me to and from the factory every day.
I got there on Monday afternoon, at around 3 in the afternoon. In Spain, this is when the factories are on lunch break. Basically, the workers work from 7AM to 7PM, with a 2 hour break between 2 and 4PM, and the office works from 8AM to 8PM, with the same break. I was baffled when one of the workers there, about my age, told me he wants to work full-time, as he now ‘only’ works 40 hours a week. 50 hours a week would net him a bigger salary. I’m self employed so I don’t have fixed working hours and never really ‘shut down’, but 40 hours is common in Belgium, and I don’t know of anyone that works for an employer that does 50 hours a week, at least not officially.
Anyway, I get there around 4PM, and what I always do first is take a picture of the situation. My account manager prints the order forms, and tells me where I can find everything. From that moment, I spend most of my time on the factory floor, as it’s the place where I can learn and see the most. Would be a wast of time for me to spend my time behind a laptop while I’m in Spain. There are basically five large ‘entities’ inside the factory: the leather storage room, the cutting & stitching room, the construction area, the finishing department and then the warehouse. I go through each of these entities, opening boxes, picking up shoes, looking on carts, until I find all of my own shoes. After day 1, I have a pretty clear view of where everything is, and what problems there might be.
Second day, it’s time to solve those problems. This is the reason why I visit the factory while production is close to an end. From the moment you place an order to the time the shoes are finished, about 2 to 3 months go by. But the shoes are only in production for about 2 to 3 weeks. The rest of the time is spent by the factory placing orders for the different materials, preparing invoices, payments, planning in the order, shoe boxes that need to be produced, quality control, shipping etc. So there is only a small window for me to visit the factory and make sure everything is on track. I can assure you, there are always problems. To name a few: ‘lost’ leather, no stock of Dainite rubber soles, unfinished shoes that are put into boxes, shoes with poor quality pieces of leather, not enough boxes, not enough bags, questions about how to finish certain types of leather etc.
But in the end, all of those problems are solved before I leave. Spanish have a very can-do attitude. Anything is possible, it only takes a bit of time.