Intern activities are now in full swing!

On Thursday, June 21st a group of interns and I were able to visit one of our manufacturing plants. I have never been inside an operations plant before so it was quite an experience to go beyond the office setting and see the manufacturing side of HNI. It’s easy to forget the perfectly constructed workstation I sit at for work every day started out as pieces of raw material. Before the tour began, we all had to don protective wear for our eyes and connect to a recorder so that we could hear our guide through his microphone. Of course I had to snap a picture of myself and some fellow interns in our gear.

The message our guide reiterated throughout the tour was HNI’s concept of RCI: Rapid Continuous Improvement. We stopped at six different production areas within the plant that had been altered with either efficiency or waste-reduction in mind; sometimes both! For example, rather than using lasers to cut fabric, we implement a fast alternative that utilizes sound-wave technology to separate fabric molecules. Cutting material with sound? Seems straight out of a sci-fi movie!

As the tour progressed, our guide explained how a constant delivery system had been developed within the plant that distributes multiple daily deliveries to individual workstations. This delivery system transports bite-sized, sequential materials which reduces inventory space and eliminates the wasted time workers spend walking back and forth across the plant to the materials racks. I also learned that our plants developed a way to reuse old paint which avoids sending much of the wasted paint into a landfill and paying a garbage fee. We are able to combine a portion of the excess paint and reformulate it to create the color gray which is now incorporated into the production of our storage cabinet drawers.

My experience at the plant was eye-opening for me because I witnessed how innovative and efficient ideas have been translated into feasible actions that produce cost-saving results for the company and its customers.