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By any measure, Mity-Lite is a genuine entrepreneurial success. From its beginnings in 1987, when founder Greg Wilson had a vision of creating a lightweight, durable table product, to its current status as a global manufacturer of market-leading furniture systems, Mity-Lite has nurtured a culture of innovation. This culture is driven by a corporate commitment at all levels to customer service, continuous improvement, employee involvement, and "scrappy competitiveness."
According to Brian Bowers, COO of Mity-Lite, "The recession of 2008 unexpectedly challenged our commitment to market leadership. To thrive in those difficult times, we needed to capture market share, and in turn we needed to be more competitive." As a result of that insight, the first thing Mity-Lite did was to strengthen their innovation pipeline. From the CEO to the factory floor, processes are now in place to generate ideas for new, market-leading products, such as methods for incentivizing employees to look for ways to improve manufacturing and customer support systems. This is accomplished through structured and unstructured meetings where employees and managers openly discuss ideas to improve quality, reduce costs, improve the employee experience, and stay connected to customer needs.
The second focus area for Mity-Lite was to streamline manufacturing to improve the customer experience, both in service and price. Because of intense pricing pressures from Asian competitors, "Beat China" became their catchphrase. Through a series of employee-led innovations, they were able to "re-shore" several products and to produce their new FlexOne folding chair in Orem. Successive improvements made it possible to sell these chairs at an even more competitive price in Sam's Club.
Not only does this competitive spirit permeate Mity-Lite, but it extends to their relationship with their vendors, as well. A monthly newsletter rates suppliers along several criteria, so everyone can see how they're doing in their partnership with Mity-Lite. This motivates vendors to improve their performance, which ensures ongoing business with Mity-Lite and improves vendors' competitiveness in their industries.
Continuous improvement is a mantra at Mity-Lite. "Our incentive structure and method of employee involvement creates an open atmosphere where people want to continually improve by asking questions such as: 'How can we do this better?' and 'What problems need to be solved?' and 'What opportunities exist to make a better product at cheaper cost?'" said Brian. "What makes this work," he continued, "is that if an idea will improve our performance on key metrics such as on-time delivery, quality, and productivity, there is a company-wide expectation that changes will be made."
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