Herman Miller, Inc.
Traditional Case Study
June 18th 2012
Herman Miller began in Zeeland Michigan as a manufacturer of high quality furniture and bedroom suites entitled the Star Furniture Co. In 1909 the company’s name was switched to the Michigan Star Furniture Company. At the same time, Dirk Jan De Pree was hired as a clerk. Just 10 years later, Mr. De Pree became president of the company. Mr. De Pree saw great potential with the company and soon after talked his father-in-law, Herman Miller, to purchase the company by buying up the majority (51%) of the company ...view middle of the document...
These new designs were less ornate and very minimalistic. The focus was on usefulness and purpose. At first, De Pree was not agreeable with many of Rhode’s designs, but eventually he saw their usefulness and that there would be a market for these new, modern furniture designs. From that point onward, Herman Miller was forever changed as it no longer offered traditional design furniture. Instead it changed its offerings completely to the new modern furniture designs from Mr. Rhode.
In 1942 Herman Miller embarked on a new mission of building office furniture with designs from Mr. Rhode. Unfortunately, in 1944 Gilbert Rhode died. It took a while for Mr. De Pree to find a worthy replacement for Mr. Rhode. In 1945 he hired architect George Nelson as director of design and in 1946 he hired the husband and wife team of Charles and Ray Eames as designers. This team with George Nelson and Mr. and Mrs. Eames was world class and their modern furniture designs have been featured as exhibits in museums around the world and some of their designs have even become part of the New York Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection.
In the 1950s, the company introduced fiberglass molded chairs which had never been seen in the industry before. This was followed by the wildly popular (and still a hot selling item today) Eames lounge chair. The design of the Eames chair became synonymous with the Herman Miller name. When one saw the finally crafted, curved wood legs and seat rest you knew you were looking at a Herman Miller design. The Eames lounge chair was a best seller right from the beginning. It is still a wonderful design that you will see in executive offices and fine homes today.
In the 1960s, Mr. De Pree was replaced as president and chief executive officer by his son, Hugh De Pree whom was no less interested in carrying on the same beliefs and ideas as his father. In 1962, the Herman Miller Research Division was created in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Soon after, the Action Office Line emerged and the first office modular design or cubicle was created. This was followed by the famous Ergon (ergonomically designed chair) from the 1970’s and the Aeron chair which was also added to the New York Museum of modern Art’s permanent design collection.
In 1994 Herman Miller ventured back into the consumer or residential market with a product line called Herman Miller for the Home. This product line reintroduced many of their earlier modern designs from Rhode, Nelson and Charles and Ray Eames. These products were sold solely through the website hmhome.com.
Today, Herman Miller is traded on the NASDAQ Exchange under the symbol MLHR. They had over 1.75 billion in sales in the past 12 months and have seen their sales and income grown over 25% and 150% respectively over the same time period and is still recovering from the 2008 global recession (Herman Miller 10-K report, 2012). The company’s dedication to integrity in product quality and...