Over the last couple years we’ve told you several stories of furniture companies that believe they can’t be competitive from U.S.-based factories, and decide to follow the outsourcing and offshoring lemmings overseas. Companies that have no concept of value from the perspective of the customer and total supply chain costs. Today I’m thrilled to tell you about a furniture company that gets it.
Affordable Interior Systems in Hudson, MA, was founded in 1989.
AIS is a systems furniture manufacturer that sells its office furniture and modules in the U.S., Canada, Europe and the Middle East, shipping them to clients such as retail supplier W.B. Mason and Staples Inc., which sells the products through contracts to companies. The company has built workstations for NASA, Boeing, T-Mobile and Time Warner Cable.
How are they surviving, especially as a smaller manufacturer?
What has made the company successful is its adoption of so-called lean manufacturing, said Mr. DuGally. Lean manufacturing simplifies the manufacturing process and encourages employees to eliminate waste, extra steps, overproduction and unneeded processing. That lowers costs and allows the company to deliver its products quickly.
“After the dotcom bust, the demand nationwide went way down, but we stayed about the same and then grew,” he said. “The market isn’t growing; We’re just taking market share. Our competitive edge is our lead time. We can do 300 workstations in 10 days. Every order is custom. We don’t warehouse products here. They go out the door.” He said that gives them a cost and speed advantage over the largest office furniture manufacturers such as Steelcase Inc. and Herman Miller Inc., both of Michigan.
And from some of those statements you can tell they really get it. No warehousing, focused on time, and growing in a down market. And a recent request required them to truly execute what they have learned.
A request from ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” to design, manufacture, ship and install more than 20 office cubicles for a learning center in Hawaii — in 10 days — put his employees to the test.
Mr. DuGally, president, said he was both thrilled and terrified about committing to the show when the producer called, but his team was able to get the job done, even while workers in Honolulu were painting and finishing renovations to the building around them.
A 26-hour push got the 16 workstations, four private office suites, two conference room tables, 15 training room tables, 45 filing cabinets and 46 office chairs installed minutes before the show’s signature command to “move those buses,” allowing the owner to see for the first time, the renovations done to the property.
I doubt that could have been done from China. Hats off to Michael DuGally and his team for realizing that customer value is more than just price. If anyone needs office furniture and recognizes that value, check out the AIS website.