Herman Miller also believes in producing
homegrown furniture. In an age of manufacturing overseas, Herman Miller products sold
in the U.S. are made in the U.S. (Furniture
sold overseas is manufactured in England or
China.) Mojzak notes, “One hundred percent
of the chairs that we sell in the U.S. are
designed and assembled with the help of suppliers within 75 miles of Zeeland.” Because
Herman Miller’s lines are manufactured in its
own backyard, problems on the assembly line
can be quickly addressed to meet the company’s exacting quality standards.
For example, when its Caper line of chairs
were being produced, a quality engineer noted
that the pneumatic cylinder, a part that
enables the chair to go up and down, was
faulty. The cylinder would get momentarily
stuck, which meant the chair didn’t lift or
depress smoothly. The engineer called attention to the flaw and the supplier replaced the
cylinders, solving the problem.
“Employees are empowered to find solutions to ensure quality, just like the engineer
who stopped the assembly line to fix a problem,” Mojzak says.
A century-old ethic lives on
Michael Ramirez, director of corporate
social responsibility, says Herman Miller lives
up to its mission of helping the community in
a variety of ways, including its commitment
to be 100 percent carbon neutral by 2020,
meeting 70 percent of its current power needs
through green energy and giving each
employee 16 hours a year off to volunteer.
Recently assembly workers suggested a
campaign to collect recyclable bottles and cans
throughout the company, which resulted in
donating $1,800 to purchase HydrAid water
filters, produced by the nonprofit International
Aid, to purify water for poor communities.
“We want employees engaged and want them
to have a voice,” Ramirez says.
The company’s commitment to its employees makes good business sense. It enables them
to attract the best and the brightest, who then
develop innovative products. “It’s our competitive edge. We don’t just want to be a furniture company; we want to create a better world
through the environment, office and community,” Ramirez says. “That’s the Herman Miller
way of doing business.” C
Gary M. Stern ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance writer in New York City.
1999: Caper chair