You may have heard us talk about our human-centered design at Herman Miller. That’s the approach many of the designers use behind the products they develop with us.
You might have also heard about our continuous improvement system called the Herman Miller Performance System (HMPS), which we implement in our operations, distribution, and installation processes to accommodate the needs of our customers.
But it’s likely you haven’t heard of Agustin Coronado, who works in our seating operations, unless you work at Herman Miller or live in West Michigan. While Agustin’s job title labels him a facilitator for one of our chair assembly lines, he’s really a designer at the core. A designer who thinks of people first.
“Everyone has something that moves them,” says Agustin. “For me, it’s people. I want to build and create something to make their work easier. And I have the capability to build. That’s what I like to do.”
How did an operations employee since 1994 become an inventor? HMPS set the stage, and some background in electronics and woodworking helped.
Because HMPS creates the opportunity for our employees to influence their workspace, they can suggest ways to solve problems. Agustin worked on our Aeron chair line, where chair bases arriving on carts for assembly resulted in operators walking 12-14 feet and double-handling parts. The challenge? How to save their time and effort. The result? Agustin’s innovative gravity-fed conveyor, which allowed operators to reach for the base in the same place every time.
But the design process didn’t happen overnight. Agustin says he began with an idea in his head, made a simple drawing, and created prototypes. Like many designers, Agustin observed, “You don’t succeed every time. You just build it and you improve. And you can’t be afraid to fail. You get tired today, but tomorrow is a fresh start.”
Essential to the development of new ideas are the materials Herman Miller provides in our operations facilities—such as recyclable items—to experiment with. Overall, the base rack conveyor project took about three months and just over $1000 to make. And walk time for operators dropped from about eight seconds to one second.
Agustin is naturally innovative. “I try to make things easier no matter what I’m doing,” he claims. “It’s like a habit. What I envision, I’m able to put together.” He helps implement other people’s ideas, too. Workers on the line tell him their idea and he draws a picture of it, then goes back to confirm with them, and reworks if necessary. Then he creates mock-ups in house and finds suppliers who have the resources to build prototypes or products.
Since the Aeron project that got him started, he has come up with 50-60 “presentations” (the way parts are presented/accessed in the assembly process) and has collaborated with others on many more.
Agustin is creative at home, too—from electrical work to remodeling to plumbing, even building a greenhouse. “I do things a lot better at home because of what I learned at Herman Miller. I think about things before I make them.”
Because people are a major component of HMPS, it opens the door for creativity where you might not look for it. It has opened the door for Agustin to use his talents at work. “Sometimes we just need opportunity,” he says.
By Marcia Davis