Monday, January 7, 2013

D’Addario string sets now coiled in pairs. Why?

Over the last five years we have implemented Toyota’s Lean manufacturing systems at D’Addario. Lean is a culture of continuous improvement that was perfected by the Toyota company and is utilized by hundreds of thousands of businesses around the world. It has helped us improve our quality, improve our customer service and control our manufacturing costs.

In fact the Lean transformation has been so effective in teaching us world class manufacturing principles that we have been able to apply the disciplines we have learned to every area of our business; from the harvesting of cane in France and Argentina for our Rico Reeds, to developing new products, to the assembly of Planet Waves Pro-Winders in New York.  An example of the success of “Lean” at D’Addario is the fact that we have been able to re-shore 50% of our Planet Waves products that were previously being imported from Asia.

In our string production area we have made countless manufacturing improvements. You may not be aware, but D’Addario produces nearly 800,000 strings a day at our Farmingdale New York headquarters. We are proud that even though our volume exceeds our nearest competitor by a factor of two or three times, our quality control and manufacturing consistency has continued to improve and is the benchmark for the industry. We are also proud that all our strings, drumheads, reeds, drumsticks and many of our accessories are Made in the USA. In fact 95% of the products we design and produce are American made.

Recently I visited the Woodstock Luthiers Festival where 98% of the guitars on display were strung with D’Addario strings. When talking to each luthier they all told a common story. When they set out to build their guitars they use D’Addario strings exclusively, because of the quality of their sound and their consistency set after set. D’Addario strings are the reliable reference they use as they build and ultimately set up their instruments.

Part of the DNA of the D’Addario family and company is that “We are the most difficult people to please, not our customers ”. We also have a deep respect for our planet and try our best to minimize our impact on our environment.

In the late 1980’s we began to develop and pioneer the environmental packaging we use today. It was a major breakthrough as it eliminated the individual envelopes that were required to identify each of the six strings in a set. It created other issues in production that led to the creation of a conveyor system where operators coiling strings for each note in the set would drop their string on the conveyor as it kept indexing. The conveyor would then deliver complete six string sets to the end of the line where they were bagged in a corrosion barrier bag and then inserted in a recycled paper outer envelope. Two pieces of packaging replaced eight; a 75% reduction in packaging material being discarded.

This system eliminated the need to cut down tens of thousands of tress and also improved productivity. It also resulted in a significant price decrease in the early 1990’s and has helped us to hold future price increases on our string sets to a minimum.

It is our culture to respond to every single comment, question or suggestion we receive from our end users, in a timely and respectful manner. We also carefully monitor any quality concerns regarding our products and take them very, very seriously. After all it is our culture to maintain the reputation as the highest quality producer of music strings and accessories.

While we only receive a handful of complaints each week historically the most common complaint has been the occasional incomplete set. A user may open a package and find he is missing a string. On our packaging conveyors it was difficult for the person packaging the sets at the end of the line to identify if all six strings were present.

We tested sophisticated check weighing systems to flag incomplete or incorrect sets, but none could detect the many combinations of errors that could occur during the process. About two years ago, someone had the revelation that if we coiled the strings in pairs it would be much easier for the operators at the end of the lines to detect if they had a complete set. Visually it is easier to see three neatly coiled pairs of strings than six randomly mixed individually coiled strings.

We set up one line to package sets this way for over a year. Tens of thousands of sets were put into the market place and we found that this new system virtually eliminated the issue of incomplete sets.

While have seen a handful of complaints from customers in regards to the new coiling system, we trust that the reassurance that all 6 strings will be in the package when you need them will outweigh the negatives.

I would also like to point out that D’Addario offers a complete range of single strings that are neatly packaged in individual envelopes; electric singles here & acoustic singles here.

I hope the information above helps you understand the reasons why your favorite string sets are now coiled in pairs and not individually. If you have any questions on this topic or any other please direct them to or comment on this blog and we will for sure get back to you.

Thanks for listening.

Yours Truly,

Jim D’Addario

 New winding
Old winding


  1. I think you should dehydrate them then we can just add water???

  2. I have 21 guitars, all equipped with your strings :)

  3. D’Addario strings are the best. I buy in sets of ten for my guitars

  4. I swear by these things!!! "ProSteels"!! "Xl's"!!,you name it, i'll use long "D'Addario" is on da pkge!!! If you're reading this and you're using something else...SHAME ON YA!!!

  5. Well I'm afraid I'm probably in the handful ...but I hate the new system when I restring I have another string lying around until I get it put on ..
    If I snap a string while playing now I cant do the squeeze test to find out if I have an E or B etc and again I have another string that has to be recoiled :-/
    I also use a lot bigsbly style guitars and like to string the two outer E's so then I have the A and B strings lying uncoiled not only that but actually trying to uncoil TWO strings at once is a lot frustrating and has resulted in one if the strings getting a kink or suchlike ... 30yrs 23 gtrs very very happy .....not now :-(

  6. Lean manufacturing is about giving the customer what they want for the lowest cost. It's NOT about giving them something else because it's easier to make (I do this for a living!)

    This customer doesn't want strings coiled in pairs - he wants a full set of strings coiled singly. I nearly kinked a string trying to untangle the mess that happens if you try to only un-coil one string.

    Also, the last lot of strings (in the transparent bag) turned my fingers black the first time I used them - are these REALLY as good as the older bags??

    I wonder how DR pack their strings ...

  7. For the last ten years or more I've used D'Addario strings exclusively, primarily because they had the right gauge for the best price. Others have pointed out why this change is so annoying. I must admit I assumed the change must have been made, not to benefit customers, but to save a few cents per set and make more profit.

    It has been great to read D'Addario's side of the story. Maybe if this had been communicated clearly at the time I would never have thought to switch brands. Instead I have switched (to GHS) and I found a gauge I prefer at a better price than D'Addario offer, with strings still individually coiled and packed like they always used to be!

    Let's step back a minute. The blog post is saying:
    "we made our manufacturing more efficient and solved a problem for the customer"

    ... but the real story is more like this:
    - we had a manufacturing problem
    - we failed to solve it
    - we found a half-arsed workaround
    - we swapped an issue that occurred rarely, for one that annoys the customer every single time they use our product

    Frankly I find it incredible that a company with the size, resources and sales volume of D'Addario was unable to find a technical solution to the problem of counting six strings into a packet. This is really the best you could do?

    Why are D'Addario failing on the basics (6 strings in a packet, not annoying the customer) instead of using their strong position in the market to innovate?

    It seems odd to me in the 21st century, when complex items like cars and laptops are custom built to order on high tech production lines, that I still have to buy strings in standardised sets. I realise you sell singles, but they cost even more than your less common sets so are not a reasonable option.

    Why can’t I buy custom sets in bulk direct from D’Addario?

    Why can’t I buy single gauges in bulk (e.g. 10x or 25x boxes) for the same or cheaper price as the equivalent in sets?
    (as a bonus they wouldn’t need their little paper envelopes and they’d be easier to count if they were all the same gauge, no?)

    I am hopeful that this first (backward) step with Lean manufacturing will eventually lead to better things for your customers. In the mean time, good luck!

  8. Been using your strings for over 25 years and I love them, but this change, like others have said, is really annoying. I can't find a single reason adjusting to this.
    instead of finding an elegant solution for your QA problem, you've made your customer's life harder and this is very disappointing from such a big and innovative company like D'addario.
    well, I guess it's time to look elsewhere.