Zale Corporation

Jewelry makers at Zale Corporation in Dallas now work in smaller teams as part of their new Lean manufacturing process. The new process has reduced the time to manufacture a pair of earrings from three weeks to three days.


North Lake College


Lean principles in manufacturing and management for line workers and leadership to increase jewelry production. Lean principles were first created by Toyota to reduce waste by defining, measuring, analyzing and improving processes in manufacturing. Lean management seeks to eliminate wastes of time and money through team-based problem solving.


Zale Corporation is a manufacturer and retailer of jewelry products with executive offices in Irving. Growing from a jewelry store founded by brothers Morris and William Zale in 1924 in Wichita Falls, the company posted $10 million in net earnings in 2013 and was acquired by Signet in 2014.

Goal and Target Population

Zale had been through at least one reorganization and needed to increase manufacturing capacity while reducing costs to stay competitive. Company executives wanted to implement Lean principles within leadership and manufacturing divisions.


Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) awarded a Skills Development Fund grant in the amount of $331,128 for customized training courses in lean manufacturing processes. Funds for tuition and materials were included.



The contract provided training for 93 Zale employees, with additional grant partners Sprint and Product Support Services, Inc., for a total of 9,841 hours of training to 281 individuals, including 41 new hires.

Challenges and Solutions

Factory line employees were at first skeptical of proposed training suggesting production line changes. A process for making earrings took approximately three weeks, and employees were used to building them a certain way. As training progressed, they not only spotted inefficiencies in the process but began to give unprecedented input. Along with their supervisors, the workers themselves came up with solutions that reduced manufacturing time from three weeks to three days.

Strategies for Success

An employee does some final cleaning of a diamond ring before it's ready to be packaged and shipped to a retail store for sale.

Regular and consistent communication with the business partner is essential, along with collaboration of subject experts, to create effective training. Instructors become the eyes and ears of the program, and are often the best judges of necessary training shifts as projects roll out.


As a result of the training in Lean manufacturing provided under this grant,

  • 11 new jobs were created
  • 25 jobs were retained by reducing outsourcing
  • Six employees were promoted to lead positions
  • Zale uses fewer temporary employees and pays 50% less overtime, while meeting increased customer demand
  • Cost savings have allowed Zale to invest $45,000 in its plant
  • The company reports a productivity increase of 25%, better attendance and less stress among employees, even in rush periods
  • Lean training encouraged input from all organizational levels to build new production expectations and measures. Leadership can now use those measures, with full buy-in of employees, to hold everyone accountable

Lessons Learned

Agility is one of the most important attributes in serving business clients, since needs change frequently. Training initiatives must be ready and equipped to deal with changes in rapid response.

What Our Partners Say

Todd McCalip
Senior Director, Zale Assembly Process
“ This process allowed us to understand our capacity and learn how to schedule the work and control production. There is a better sense of ownership and pride, and people feel more at ease to make comments and suggestions. It was culture shock for our team, but we have changed from an environment of isolated individuals to an environment of teamwork. ”

For More Information

North Lake College
Workforce Education and Continuing Education