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Johnson Controls helps The Empowerment Plan stitch in time to sew up more coats for the homeless


The Empowerment Plan, which makes coats for the homeless, has gotten aid into the world of streamlined manufacturing from Johnson Controls Automotive Seating.

There are about 20,000 homeless in Detroit. They need to stay warm in the winter and a place to put their belongings in milder weather, and preferably a job.

201512565dfe0850ab2The Empowerment Plan, a Detroit-based non-profit, does both. It currently employs and trains 20 mostly single, homeless parents from local shelters to make coats that double as sleeping bags for the homeless in the winter and bags in the milder weather. Those individuals now can “earn a stable income, find secure housing, and gain back their independence for themselves and for their families,” says The Empowerment Plan.

It wants to do more and Plymouth-based auto supplier Johnson Controls Automotive Seating is ready to help. It is teaching the team how to become more efficient using its development and continuous improvement processes to improve The Empowerment Plan’s overall product design, manufacturing, supply chain approach.

This year the group produced 6,500 coats and has made more than 9,000 since it began in 2011. With Johnson Controls’ help, it can do lots more.

Since the new approach was implemented there has been a clear increase in output:

  • 51 percent increase in coat production per day (from 17-35 coats/day)
  • 20 percent reduction (two yards) in fabric per coat
  • Advancements in training, temperature ratings and testing

All this was accomplished without and drastic changes made to the basic design of the life-saving coat.

The Empowerment Plan’s studies show for each 1,000 coats distributed, it can save 14 lives and reduce healthcare costs by $58,800 annually. Each year approximately 7% of homeless individuals die from hypothermia. The coat reduces this statistic by more than 20%, the organization says. The increase in output will certainly make a different in lives and costs.

“What began with a financial donation from our company earlier this year has developed into so much more,” said Eric Michalak, chief engineer, Advanced Product Development for Johnson Controls Automotive Seating. “It’s been amazing to see how in just a few short months Johnson Controls’ expertise in engineering, manufacturing and supply chain could be applied to The Empowerment Plan’s coat and have such an impact.”

Michalak does not see this as an end, but rather a beginning of the company’s association with The Empowerment Plan.

Another way Johnson Control has come to the aid of The Empowerment Plan is to repurpose international shipping boxes so the coats can be shipped to other cities in 29 other states.

Detroit has long been a manufacturing powerhouse and committed to helping those less fortunate. The two have come together to bring more goodwill.

It costs $100 to sponsor a coat, which covers the cost of labor, materials, and overhead expenses. If you would like to help click here.

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