Thursday, November 10, 2011

...And now the exciting conclusion

I know we were supposed to post something about the readings this week, but I just couldn't stop thinking about something. We were left with a cliffhanger and I had to know how the ending.

...Did Herman Miller decide to use PVC for the arm pad liners on the Mirra Chair?

Now I know it's not exactly the plot for the next great American novel, but I started thinking about the case over the weekend and the fact that we never found out what Herman Miller decided. The case study authors purposefully left it open-ended and then we weren't able to really finish the discussion in class. I thought there might be a "Part B" to the case, but it never came. So I decided to devote my post this week to finding the answer.

To cut to the chase, the Mirra Chair contains no PVC. Herman Miller instead opted to use thermoplastic elastimer for the arm pads. From what I could find with a quick Google search (since I am not a chemist), thermoplastic elastimers seem to be closely related to, if not the same things as, the thermoplastic urethane that Herman Miller was considering for the arm pads in our case study reading. It would seem that the environmental concerns and the Cradle to Cradle model won out.

Regarding Cradle to Cradle (C2C), I found it interesting that McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) developed a C2C certification program for products. From Herman Miller's product page for the Mirra chair, you can see that certain models of the chair earned Silver Certification and others won Gold Certification.

While I wasn't able to find anything on the Herman Miller website about a reverse supply chain to accommodate recycling the chairs for C2C, the product page proudly displays that the Mirra Chair is 96% recyclable. It seems instead that the design team focused on making the chair easy to disassemble and for the users to then recycle the parts (these instructions make it appear the chair comes apart in 10 steps and the parts are marked so the user knows how to properly recycle them). The company also has an initiative called the rePurpose Program, where they offer to take customers used office furnishings and donate them to non-profits organizations. The program then helps to reduce waste by reusing the otherwise discarded furnishing, while allowing companies to use the donations as charitable contributions for tax purposes.

...As a quick aside that's more relevant to the readings this week and production processes, this site has an image of a disassembled Mirra Chair. From my unofficial count, it appears the chair is made of just over 100 parts. To me, that seems like it would take more than 10 steps to disassemble...

It also seems that Herman Miller did indeed start to redesign some of its older products to adopt more C2C-friendly material and processes. For example, the Aeron Chair (originally designed in 1994) now contains no PVC and received C2C Silver Certification in 2009.

So do you think that Herman Miller made the right choice for the Mirra Chair's arm pads? And are you satisfied with how they resolved the issue of the chair being recyclable for C2C requirements?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.