Re-engineering the White Sox

Welcome back for National Manufacturing Week here in the home of the defending World Series champion Chicago White Sox. When the White Sox won the World Series in October (a sentence that still brings a smile to my face) the city of Chicago threw a parade that drew an estimated 1.75 million people. For the occasion, the city rented eight confetti cannons to shoot thousands of tons of shredded n...

By Bob Vavra, Editor March 1, 2006

Welcome back for National Manufacturing Week here in the home of the defending World Series champion Chicago White Sox. When the White Sox won the World Series in October (a sentence that still brings a smile to my face) the city of Chicago threw a parade that drew an estimated 1.75 million people. For the occasion, the city rented eight confetti cannons to shoot thousands of tons of shredded newsprint on to LaSalle Street for the modern version of a ticker tape parade.

This, of course, is an inventory management issue. Who has the phone number of their local confetti cannon supplier? And, if you’re like the White Sox, who hadn’t won a World Series in 88 years, do you buy or rent?

What the White Sox did this past season does, in fact, have something to say about such manufacturing issues. If you look at what was accomplished in just one season, you find that it’s not just a cheap excuse for me to write, again, that the White Sox won the World Series. There are some real lessons out there for everyone.

Look at the comparative regular season numbers for the White Sox between 2004 and 2005:

Year HR SB ERA Wins
2004 242 78 4.91 83
2005 200 137 3.63 99

The White Sox had 21% fewer home runs (the kind of thing that gets you on ESPN each night) but 76% more stolen bases and an ERA more than one run lower every game. Wins were up almost 20%. They did this with only a modest increase in price and in costs.

Wins, for our analogy, equates to productivity increases. Wouldn’t your plant floor celebrate a 20% increase in productivity? How would that enrich your bottom line?

So what are the lessons from the 2005 World Series Champion Chicago White Sox?

  1. Power helps — but how fast are you? Can you get to market faster and more efficiently? Some of the biggest companies don’t move fast enough to change, and some very fast companies need more power. It’s that combination that wins.

  2. Build with pitching . It is precisely in tougher times when a strong marketing message helps you differentiate yourself in a market. A good pitching staff —your marketing and sales team —can carry you. So can a compelling message.

  3. If it doesn’t work, fix it ! In retooling their team by trading away some power for speed and by improving their depth (think second-shift productivity) the White Sox went from also-ran to wire-to-wire champion.

  4. Don’t rest on your laurels . In the off-season, after the franchise’s most successful season in almost a century, the White Sox replaced 32% of its roster. They re-examined what made them successful and found room for improvement.

    1. Are you ready to examine your organization, figure out what it takes to succeed, and make the needed changes to win? A few wins in manufacturing could keep those confetti cannons pretty busy.