With a new plant running close to capacity, Latex Foam International L.L.C. plans to add two conversion/fabrication facilities to its network in 2003 and possibly open another manufacturing site by 2004.
The company said the action will improve its supply base, free needed manufacturing space and alleviate the load on its Shelton, Conn., factory.
The latex mattress, pillow, sponge and cosmetic applicators maker will open a conversion/fabrication facility in the Southeast-probably somewhere in the Charlotte, N.C.; Atlanta; and Chattanooga, Tenn., triangle-in early 2003, President and CEO Stephen S. Russo said. The operation will have 50 to 80 employees.
Latex Foam needs a new factory in that area primarily to provide better service to companies in the Southeast, Technical Director Anthony Mancini said at the fifth annual International Latex Conference, held July 30-31 in the Akron suburb of Fairlawn. That, in turn, will free up space at the company's Shelton manufacturing site.
Another fabrication factory probably will open in the third quarter, Mancini said, located most likely in the central or southern part of the U.S. ``It will depend on where our needs are at the time,'' he said.
Latex Foam currently has a fabrication plant in California and part of the Shelton site is used for that purpose. However, the company would prefer to use the Shelton facility strictly to make latex pillows, mattress cores and other products. The firm also buys latex foam from Europe and converts it, which could be handled by the fabrication factories, the executives indicated.
Latex Foam has been interested in creating a presence in the Southeast for some time, company officials said not long after the 26-year-old manufacturer's 284,000-sq.-ft. Ansonia, Conn., production facility was destroyed by two fires in May 2001.
Rather than rebuild or relocate to another state, the firm decided to occupy a modern, 208,000-sq.-ft. plant in Shelton, but continued to consider creating a production operation in the Southeast.
A fabrication/conversion plant in that area of the country makes sense, Mancini said, because ``when you have a national program, you need to cover all areas. We have both ends of the country covered and we need something in the middle.''
The company also wants to open a manufacturing site, probably in the Southeast, by 2004, he said, to produce latex foam and foam products.
Latex Foam was near 75-percent capacity utilization at the end of July at its new Shelton plant and hopes to be at 100-percent capacity by mid-September, Russo said. The two new fabrication sites-along with another manufacturing facility-will alleviate any production strain the next few years, Mancini said.
The company had about 100 employees-most of whom had worked at the Ansonia site-on board in June, but that figure grows steadily as capacity increases. Ultimately, the company should have a work force similar to the 240 that staffed the Ansonia complex before the fires.