Ten years ago we had at least 8 growing competitors in the United States with sales over a Billion dollars, but today we have none. How has Milliken survived and thrived? We have focused on positioning in the right markets, becoming a team of innovators, and achieving operational excellence.

In fact, Milliken’s operational excellence has led to multiple awards, including being named among the nation’s top 17 safest companies by Operational Hazards magazine, and among America’s Safest Companies by EHS Today. Safety isn’t the only accomplishment Milliken has seen, receiving many quality awards as well. How has Milliken reached this success? By operating with the realization that winning through operational excellence is about making critical strategic choices. 

In the past, Milliken had a traditional American viewpoint of operations: management from the top down, and a “firefighting” manner of solving problems as they arose. However, in 1979, we realized that the Japanese had successful manufacturing methods that were out-performing Milliken, even with older equipment. How could this be?

We set out to achieve better success as a company. We started with initiatives to become people of excellence; we followed with goals for a more excellent process, and then we spent time working on becoming a business of excellence. But each time we launched another “era” of excellence, we would have developed and improved, but we would plateau and forget where we’d been. We had earned awards and grown, but we needed a way to achieve sustaining gains. It was time for drastic change. What we finally had to alter to hit our mark: our entire approach.

We sent study missions to Japan, examining a number of companies’ achievements and processes, management and organization. We learned that we needed to start with a new foundation and focused goals.

Safety became the foundation and “trust component” of our manufacturing operating system. Built on safety, we established further goals and methods to achieving true, long-lasting success.

You could say that Milliken has achieved operational excellence, but we are continually striving to become safer, better, more efficient, and more innovative. We strive to continue to make critical strategic choices. And now, we’re sharing how we got here and how other companies can join us in the pursuit of operational excellence. If you would like more information on the custom training and consulting our experts provide for game-changing results, read more about our consulting services or join us for one of our operational excellence conferences.


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