MILLIKEN

Twisthink worked with Milliken to create D2 Convertible Flooring – a new innovation within Milliken’s Convertible Flooringcategory. This radical new two-part system optimizes function and design.

Challenge

Milliken is an industry leader in the manufacture and sale of flooring materials. This includes rental mats – the dark-colored mats that meet your feet inside office buildings, hotel lobbies, and every kind of industrial and retail space. Milliken recognized that the rental mat market had been commoditizing, with products that were largely undifferentiated from one manufacturer  to another. In an effort to transform the category, Milliken reached out to Twisthink. They wanted to know: is it possible to innovate, in a meaningful and profitable way, a product as seemingly mundane as a conventional floor mat?

 Our challenge was to determine what, if any, breakthroughs are possible, and if customers are willing to invest in those innovations over current, conventional mat options.

“WE WERE SURPRISED BY TWISTHINK’S ABILITY TO VIRTUALLY PROTOTYPE AT SUCH A RAPID PACE, AND FASTER THAN WE COULD DO WITH ANY PHYSICAL PROTOTYPE.”

-Ty Dawson, Global VP of Protective Flooring, Milliken 

Solution

We approached this challenge using Twisthink’s human-centered design (HCD) process.  This led us to a strategic process that informed the design and technology advancements necessary to innovate Milliken floor mats.

Solution

We approached this challenge using Twisthink’s human-centered design (HCD) process.  This led us to a strategic process that informed the design and technology advancements necessary to innovate Milliken floor mats.

A Human-Centric Approach

Before diving into the design phase, we first needed a thorough understanding of who the stakeholders are and their experiences with floor mats.

To understand how different stakeholders interacted with the products, we met face to face with multiple stakeholders. We talked to the service company representatives who picked up and dropped off mats, we listened to industrial laundromat personnel who cleaned the mats, and we interacted with customers who rent mats for their businesses. We toured facilities, probed for deeper meaning and experienced first-hand the “day in the life” of a floor mat.

Through our conversations and interactions, we uncovered many advantages of the existing mats. But we also uncovered many challenges.   

Empathy for the User Experience

Twisthink ranked and categorized our findings and immediately faced a conundrum. The same experiences that were described as challenges by some stakeholders, were described as positive, desirable experiences by other stakeholders. For example, service technicians didn’t like how heavy the mats were – lifting and carrying the mats was cumbersome and took a physical toll on them. However, customers wanted a heavy mat because they believed the weight was necessary to keep the mat locked into position. The same experience contrasts emerged in effectiveness versus elegance, and safety versus style.

But this intersection of wants and needs, this impossible mix of user desires, is precisely where innovation emerged. The insights gained through an understanding of user experience served as a starting point for imagining the impossible.

Generating Ideas From Insights

Milliken expected that Twisthink would return with a few ideas to share. They didn’t expect the more than 200 new ideas that Twisthink developed.  After sharing the full scope of possibilities, we collaborated closely with Milliken’s leadership team to narrow the list down to 10 promising ideas. Those 10 ideas were advanced and shared with a select group of potential Milliken customers to gain further insight.

Testing Ideas with a “VRT”

Twisthink developed and deployed a Visual Research Tool (VRT) to again listen to the voice of the customer. Using a VRT, we hosted discovery sessions with stakeholders globally (New York, California, Australia, London, and other European cities). The VRT-assisted conversations yielded a stronger understanding of stakeholder’s values, why certain features were important, and anecdotally, which designs were most attractive and why.  Rather than supplying definitive answers, the VRT approach provided deeper insights on how to evolve the product design.

By combining VRT’s customer insights with Milliken’s own existing knowledge of both user experience and material science, Twisthink and Milliken were able to pioneer a new design in floor mats – one that converged end-users’ desires and eliminated many of the users’ challenges.

“THE VRT AND FIELD WORK FROM TWISTHINK WAS CRITICAL TO THIS INITIATIVE. IN THAT PROCESS WE DISCOVERED OUR CLIENTS’ TRUE PRIMARY CONSIDERATIONS AND MOTIVATIONS.”

-Ty Dawson, Global VP of Protective Flooring, Milliken 

Usability AND Desirability

Through Twisthink’s human-centered design process, Milliken created an entirely new category of flooring: D2™ Convertible Flooring. The design features a two-part system. The Base component anchors the D2 location on the floor, ensuring it stays in one place. The Top component “locks in” a lightweight floor covering using Adaptex™ patent-pending technology.  The lightweight D2 Top can be easily removed for cleaning. D2™ Convertible Flooring™ also offers more stylish designs, allowing for customized spaces.

This innovative, two-part design was able to solve multiple challenges – in both usability and desirability. Usability benefits include: an anchored installation for stability,  a 50% weight reduction compared to conventional mats, a thin profile, and do-it-yourself installation.  Desirability benefits are: aesthetic improvements, design pattern variety, modular design for space variety, and the potential to tap into new interior spaces and expand into new environments including residential. 

Features and Benefits:

Outcome

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Lighter than Mats

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Customizable Design

Milliken’s unique concept addressed multiple design problems with existing floor mats – and that uniqueness created renewed demand for floor mats in the marketplace. D2™ Convertible Flooring consistently outperforms the previous best-in-class option. And Milliken’s question about whether customers would be willing to invest in floor mat innovation was quickly answered: D2 Convertible Flooring now commands 50-75% price premiums over traditional floor mats.