How Value Stream Mapping revealed improvement opportunities at Interface
Interface, a modular carpet manufacturer from LaGrange, Georgia, USA started its Lean Product Development Journey as part of the new sustainability business strategy, a Directive Mission Zero established by its chairman and CEO in 1994.
To streamline the product development processes, Interface conducted Value Stream Mapping (VSM) workshops revealing several improvement opportunities enabling them to build an action plan to improve their product development process.
Continue reading to get more insights about how Interface planned, executed and used the findings of Value Stream Mapping sessions to continuously improve their product development processes removing waste focusing on value added activities.
The world’s largest manufacturer and marketer of modular carpets, Interface, is headquartered in LaGrange, Georgia, USA. The company’s modular carpet systems, marketed under the established global brands Interface and FLOR, utilizes carpet tiles cut in precise, dimensionally stable squares or rectangles to produce a floorcovering that combines the appearance and texture of traditional soft floorcovering with the advantages of a modular carpet system.
Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is one of the key methodologies used during a lean journey. It has been successfully applied in manufacturing processes and is now becoming increasingly used in the innovation and product development processes to reduce cycle time and identify improvement opportunities. It provides a simple and quick way to visualize all activities that deliver value and eliminate those that are not adding value.
Interface applied the Value Stream Mapping methodology following the following five steps:
The first task in any VSM methodology is to identify and document the problem that needs solving. In Interface, this was identified by the top management and the responsible team. Once the first description of the problem, scope and goals were finalized, a data gathering process was carried out. Looking through historical data gave insight to the product development process information, such as cycle time, bottle necks, frequent challenges, etc. All the findings, combined with Gemba walk information were then integrated, documented and shared to the core team selected to attend the mapping session.
2. PRIMARY (CURRENT STATE) VALUE STREAM MAP
A short (half-day) session was conducted in Interface Custom Design studio, to map out a current state and identify root cause of long cycle times that were negatively affecting the business. The current state Value Stream Map identified administrative (incomplete/ inaccurate information) issues with request submissions as a primary root cause. Action plan was develop to resolve the front of the project challenges and KPIs were set to be reported back to the leadership.
3. DETAILED PROCESS MAP
A process map detailing the activity and data movement was completed to provide more insight into additional constraints. To resolve them, a future state map and action plan were developed.
4. CUSTOMER NEEDS ANALYSIS
The Interface product development team developed formal customer surveys, which were distributed to customers and the results analyzed to better understand customer expectations. As a part of the process, a gap analysis was completed to understand customer expectations in comparison with the current state.
A process improvement idea emerged to empower sales department with inspiring ideas of multiple concepts of flooring designs and solutions to be shown to the customers and explore their ideas. It resulted in a shared folder between them and Custom Design studio where the latest created designs could be simply showcased to the customer.
5. DESIGN STUDIO PROCESS IMPROVEMENTS
A demand analysis was completed for the Design Studio, where customer requests were categorized into an internal complexity index to work with the formal Kanban created as a visual factory tool to communicate demand and complexity to the designers and the Pilot Plant. The Design Studio’s operators, when receiving a customer order, they categorize it into one of five categories depending on the complexity of the tasks related to the request. Designers are as well categorized according to their skills, from the most junior designer responsible for only simple modifications on existing products, to senior designers that take over complicated new product development orders. Kanban has significantly helped improve efficiency and the ability to assign work to those designers that are able to efficiently complete the order.
Several other improvements were implemented in Interface as a result of the value stream mapping.
Some of the main benefits of applying Value Stream Mapping in the product development are:
- Visualize the product development end-to-end process, identify owners of different tasks and workloads
- Collaboratively map the process to visualize value-added and wasteful activities
- Enable team engagement to agree on a common vision, future state and commit to an action plan
- Provide the foundation to develop an action plan to optimize the process and reduce cycle time
- Simple and inexpensive methodology to introduce in any organization small or large
Interface’s Best Practices are presented and described on more than 25 pages in the Lean Product Development Best Practices book. Interface’s chapter is only one out of the 10 chapters presenting the real-world application of lean product development in multinational companies.
The hard copy of the book with the 10 cases is available for only 74.99 EUR.
Interface’s Lean Product Development case is available digitally free of charge to our members.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
Lean Analytics Association
Doroteja has 3 years of experience working on lean product development with background in mechanical engineering and ultra-precision technologies. She has worked with global organizations from various industrial sectors, either leading or supporting the development and introduction of bespoke lean innovation and new product development solutions.
Doroteja is interested in innovation capability development and over the past years she has developed several training courses to support organizations achieving quick and efficient knowledge transfer through customized simulated sessions. Being a certified Service Design Thinking Facilitator she believes in “Doing, not speaking” and supporting developments of truly customer-centric products and services.
Doroteja is a co-author of the Lean Product Development Best Practices book, and conference publications.
Billy Ingram is a Lean Product Development Director at Interface, learner, innovator and inventor. He specializes in new business model creation and sustainability re-engineering. He strives to build more sustainable business models through the practical application of innovation frameworks, improvement methodologies and socially responsible engagement practices.
Lean Analytics Association
Dr. Flores has over 20 years of experience collaborating as internal or external consultant in different manufacturing and services organizations, leading several initiatives related to Lean Thinking, Business Process improvement, Six Sigma, Supply Chain, Change Management, Open Innovation, Digital Transformation and Human Centered Service Design; providing also training and coaching.
She is co-founder and president of the Lean Analytics Association (LAA) and visiting scholar at the College of Management of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.
She carried out her Post-doc at EPFL collaborating at the Lean Product and Process (LeanPPD) FP7 European project from 2009 to 2013. She completed her PhD in 2006 at the Politecnico di Milano studying Open Innovation Models to enable Industry-University collaboration for innovation. She obtained her Master’s Degree in Manufacturing Systems in 1999 and a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Monterrey Tec (ITESM) in 1996.