In the furor over Toyota's recent recall failings, it's easy to forget what made Toyota one of the most admired companies in the world: An unsurpassed production process and supply chain. And Toyota hasn't been stingy with its learnings. One of the beneficiaries was Herman Miller, one of our 2010 Innovation All Stars. Apparently, Herman Miller, eager to boost its efficiency, hounded Toyota for help. Toyota eventually relented--and proceeded to send a production expert to refine Herman Miller's processes. That expert ended up staying for five years, on Toyota's dime:
A bit of background. The backbone of Toyota's process is, of course, something called Kaizen. The idea is to empower individual managers and their production teams to continually tinker with and improve their own work flow. For Herman Miller, what resulted was a 99% error-free supply chain--and without that, its global growth would probably have been impossible.