Herman Miller is committed to creating inventive designs, technologies and related services that improve the human experience wherever people work, heal, learn, and live. The company has been named for nine consecutive years to the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index and was named among the 50 Best U.S. Manufacturers by Industry Week. This week we interview RPA member Cindy Doman.
RPA Editor: Describe Herman Miller’s view of the role/importance of reusable packaging in the manufacturing process.
Doman: Reusable packaging is the preferred method of packaging for incoming parts from local suppliers at Herman Miller. The packaging can be as simple as a tote full of parts to packaging that is sent directly to our production lines to present parts to our operators.
RPA Editor: Does the company have a concerted effort to use reusables in other areas of the supply chain, e.g. manufacturing and shipping?
Doman: We will use small amounts of returnables to shuffle parts between plants or intra-company. We even use reusable packaging internally for employee moves from one office to another. It eliminated a lot of banker boxes. We haven’t used reusables to our end users…..yet.
RPA Editor: In what areas of the supply chain are you using the most reusable packaging?
Doman: We use reusable packaging with local suppliers with parts that are high volume. This includes die cast parts, injection molded parts, steel parts, and subassemblies. The Greenhouse (seating facility) by far uses the most reusable packaging.
RPA Editor: What are the obstacles to using reusable packaging? Are there more obstacles in some areas of the supply chain than others?
Doman: Probably the biggest obstacle is trying to have the right amount of packaging in the system. If you have too much, you have to store it. If you don’t have enough, you end up getting parts packed in “expendable” boxes. We don’t like expendable packaging when we are used to reusable as it causes our material handlers and operators a lot of time to un-box parts.
RPA Editor: What steps could suppliers of reusable packaging/services take to help you address the challenges you face and/or provide you with more benefits from reusable packaging?
Doman: HMI has a good group of reusable packaging suppliers to choose from. Since joining the RPA and being recognized as the first recipient of the RPA’s Excellence in Reusable Packaging Award, some new suppliers have been interested in our business. I am always intrigued with what other industries use with regards to reusable packaging and how they integrate the packaging into their processes. We are always open to new ideas – especially if they are proven in other industries!!
RPA Editor: Herman Miller recently joined the RPA. What benefits are you hoping to get out of your membership?
Doman: I hope to gain insight into other industries use of reusables and to understand how they manage and maintain their packaging. This always seems to be the most difficult aspect of reusables. A lot of work goes into design and implementation of a pack; it takes a lot more work and time to keep everything running smoothly. I keep thinking that there has got to be a better way!!