• 03.05.10

Video: What Herman Miller Learned From Toyota (Before the Recall Disaster)

Herman Miller owes a big part of its current success to Toyota, which schooled the furniture maker on its legendary production philosophy.

Herman Miller

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.

About the author

Cliff is director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.