Sitting On Sustainable Luxury, A Process Not Many People Appreciate!

Have you ever thought about how much time and effort it takes to produce the chair and sofa you sit on, or the bed you sleep on?

I can certainly relate to the chapters we studied relating to product design, and quality management and international standards. Working for a furniture company, I get to watch training videos of how our products are produced. I must admit furniture design is very intense. Every chair, bed, and table has to be designed according to the ergonomics of the human body, as well as international standards; since our furniture is sold worldwide. Every piece is designed to assure comfort, convenience and style. Along with product design, the main focus has now become on “ecodesign”, the following is the statement our company shares regarding sustainability:  “Like any industrial product, furniture is a source of environmental impact. Thereby participating in its degradation to the extent that it requires materials and energy, it must be transported and packaged, it can be maintained and repaired, and it will one day become a waste… This policy is now inseparable to our commitments of quality and creativity.” This statement clearly shows our company’s use of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).

Our furniture pieces are designed by top European designers, creators and architects. Every piece of furniture produced goes through a very long production cycle. Furniture design begins with creativity, followed by design with the use of software such as Computer-aided design (CAD), and Design for manufacture and assembly (DFMA). Once the design is completed digitally, a prototype is then produced with the use of human labor as well as Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM). The prototype is then tested by the designer and management.

Quality management is of crucial importance when it comes to the furniture we sell. To assure quality our furniture is only made with solid wood from environmentally sustainable forests, and the fabrics and leathers used in our furniture go through a series of detailed tests. Our fabrics go through a rub test, known as Martindale Test, which tests a fabric’s durability by counting the number of rubs it takes for a fabric to wear out. If a fabric wears out before 30,000 rubs then it is not durable, the most durable are fabrics from 30,000 to 100,000 rubs. Our leathers also go through a series of different testing methods such as absorbency, burning and stretching. A thorough inspection of the materials used is done by experts who “have the eye” to spot mistakes or natural defects. Some natural defects are usually found in leather. Since it comes from cows, some cows might get scars which are then found in the leather. A piece of furniture will only go into production, once it meets the European Furniture Standards and passes quality control.

Now that you have a better understanding about the creation of sustainable furniture, can you relate the importance of product design and quality management to other daily life objects?

Furniture Too Needs Operations Management

Based on the first four chapters which we have covered in class, I can relate and I have a better understanding of the way operations management is done at my job.  I work as an interior designer for a global furniture company who produces their furniture in Europe and sells them worldwide. The showroom I work for is located in Bahrain. Our company differentiates itself from our competitors by giving our customers the choice of customization. Our furniture pieces can be customized based on fabric, wood or leather finishes, size adjustments, and color selections. Every piece of furniture can be altered to be unique for the individual customer. Customization comes at the price of waiting three to four months for the delivery of the furniture.

Operations management is the task of our showroom manager. After learning about the Ten Major Operations Management Decisions which are required of operations managers, I have noticed how my manager makes his decisions based on those aspects on a daily basis.

Our company achieves its competitive advantage through operations with the use of differentiation. Our customers highly appreciate our customizing feature that we provide over our competitors, and thus are willing to wait for their unique furniture. In terms of Issues in Operations Strategy, I have noticed how my manager makes use of Porter’s five-forces model.   The potential competing forces being: 1) immediate rivals, 2) potential entrants, 3) customers, 4) suppliers, and 5) substitute products, are covered on a regular basis at our employee meetings. My manager does not physically write out or draw the model, but goes through it verbally to see where we stand in relation to our competitors, customers, and our suppliers.

Project Controlling is a very important task in the interior design and furniture industry. Our process begins by meeting with our customers and brainstorming ideas for their spaces based on their preferences and tastes. The next step is planning and drawing with furniture proposals that we would recommend to the customer. Once the customer chooses the final selections, we proceed with ordering the furniture from our different suppliers. Once the furniture arrives we can then deliver it to the customer. Each project has a different completion time depending on the capacity of the project. Clearly the projects of one or two bedrooms finish quicker than a project of furnishing an entire house. Currently we are facing an issue with tracking our orders; therefore, my manager has asked our IT department to provide us with software that will allow for tracking of orders, which I believe will strongly benefit our control over our projects.

Since I deal with interior design and furniture, do you think operations management differs greatly between different industries or is there a basic standard for all industries?