The office furniture industry has traditionally struggled with long lead times and unreliable delivery commitments, largely because the majority of industry products are built to each customer's unique order, and with so many products, each with their own potential feature and finish options, the number of product permutations runs in to the many, many millions. This, coupled with the complexity and inefficiencies of the industry's legacy manufacturing practices, has proven a barrier to improved reliability, customer service and profitability.
As part of our corporate strategy, several years ago Herman Miller began an aggressive drive to reinvent its operations. One important step was the establishment of a fruitful relationship with the Toyota Supplier Support Center, unique to our industry, that has enabled us to adopt and implement world-class, lean manufacturing processes. Since that time we have reduced manufacturing square footage and inventories while dramatically growing sales and profitability. Average, standard product lead times have been cut from eight weeks to four, and many products are regularly available in ten business days.
In related but separate initiatives, we now have digital, real-time transactions between Herman Miller and its suppliers, and all plants are geared to produce orders for individual customers. Our ERP system coordinates sites, parts, people, and equipment across all facilities. The results of our operational reinvention have been extraordinary, and the journey has only begun.