Latex Foam Products Inc. is donning a new corporate identity, along with an extensive assortment of new machinery and a recently opened production center, to launch its recovery from the blaze that felled it a year ago.
In addition, the company is implementing lean manufacturing technologies. That approach should elevate its processes, increase capacity, reduce product lead time, allow greater speed and accuracy, and improve product consistency, according to Kevin Stein, recently named director of marketing.
``In effect, we're reinventing ourselves and converting a crisis into an opportunity,'' President and CEO Stephen S. Russo said.
Latex Foam International L.L.C. is the new name for Latex Foam Products and two other operations, Latex International and Delviel Cosmetics, which are now divisions of Latex Foam International, Stein said.
The new name reflects the firm's principal product components-mattresses, pillows and cosmetic sponge applicators-and its global presence, said William D. Coffey, chairman of the board and co-founder of the firm.
Pillow goods will fall under the corporate name, the mattress components group will operate as Latex International and cosmetic applicators will remain under the Delviel name, Coffey said.
The manufacturer officially opened the doors to its new state-of-the-art 208,000-sq.-ft. Shelton headquarters and production plant in mid-May. The company is in production for the first time since May 14, 2001, when the majority of its 284,000-sq.-ft. Ansonia, Conn., factory was destroyed by a fire.
``We're at about 25-percent capacity now,'' Russo said. ``We expect to be at full capacity in September.''
The new plant has about 100 workers, but that number probably will grow to the 240 or so employed at the Ansonia site before the blaze, Stein said.
The firm is replacing equipment damaged in the fire, including two large foam rubber machines, three laboratory units, mattress dryers and several presses. It also added new molds that will expand product size, adding up to six inches on mattress cores and increasing the loft of pillows. It did not divulge the cost of the new production facility and machinery.
The company is testing new computer-controlled robotics and precision material handling technologies in its press room, where latex foam is molded. Latex Foam International already has determined the new processes not only increase capacity but also improve waste cycle time, a spokesman said.
Latex Foam International, which was founded in 1975 by Coffey and Steve Kordiak, elected to move to Shelton-located a few miles from Ansonia on the other side of the Naugatuck River-primarily because of the availability of the new plant and its proximity to the work force employed at the firm before the blaze.
The company also had incentives offered to relocate to other states, Russo revealed at the time, but opted to remain in Connecticut because it received an economic development assistance package from the state.
That decision enabled the latex products firm to resume production far faster than if it rebuilt the plant it occupied for 17 years, Russo said. Rebuilding on the 10.5-acre site would have taken more than a year and possibly risked the business, he said. Latex Foam International will sell the downtown Ansonia property.
Russo said the company was determined to open the new plant within a year after the blaze. ``In designing the new facility, our team of engineers and designers have gone above and beyond expectations and, with our partners, have developed top-of-the-line manufacturing methods and procedures that will result in the industry's highest quality Talalay latex foam mattress cores, pillows and cosmetic applicators,'' he said.
The Talalay manufacturing process-which includes compounding, molding, vacuuming, freezing, curing, washing, drying and testing-creates latex foam with a consistent cell structure and exact density that results in better firmness and feel, the company spokesman said.