Lean PD Best Practices: Interface
Interface, Inc. is the world’s largest manufacturer of modular carpet, with headquarters in LaGrange, Georgia, USA, and manufacturing sites in six countries worldwide.
The Interface created its new business strategy in 1994 when its founder and chairman, Ray Anderson, started a sustainability journey known as Mission Zero. Through its journey, Interface established best practices in several aspects of Lean Product Development. The organization, as a whole, maintains an inviting environment for improvements and innovation.
Interface produces Make-to-Stock (MTS) and Engineer-to-Order (ETO) flooring solutions. Interface’s product development area includes a number of functions with very diverse responsibilities which collaborate cross-functionally and create solutions for customers.
In the past, Interface achieved several innovation successes which redesigned commerce. Net Works and Tac-Tiles are innovations which grew from Interface’s idea on sustainability, involving the use of recycled material as well as the reduction of waste to introduce new products and offer value for customers.
Lean thinking has been particularly used in the Custom Design Studio which works on engineer-to-order flooring solutions. The department leveraged lean best practices to improve the design process from manufacturing at Interface’s Pilot Plant. Through Kaizen events, the team initiated a continuous improvement process in the Custom Design Studio where it is crucial that customer needs are understood and their wishes are translated to the “designers’ language” correctly. Interface frontloaded the design process and created a Kanban system that allows an administrative person to allocate work according to the complexity and the designers’ level of skills.
To encourage collaboration and co-creation of knowledge, Interface has introduced the LOOP social media platform that serves as a knowledge co-creation space and sharing space. Its use is encouraged by top management and it is seen as an opportunity for positive self-promotion and achieving recognition by peers throughout the company.
A particularly strong practice Interface follows in continuous improvement, is assigning 10% of people’s working time in product development to continuous improvement activities.
Throughout its journey, with great results reported as associated with lean and sustainability, Interface has realized that sustainability and lean concepts are not only compatible but also complimentary.
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