In a somewhat unusual twist, latex bedding producers are setting up a manufacturing foundation in the U.S. rather than pulling up stakes and heading overseas.
The latest is Sealy Corp., which is building a latex foam plant in Mountaintop, Pa., to expand the firm's business base and support its growing high-end bedding segment. Belgium's Latexco N.V. has just completed a latex factory in Lavonia, Ga., that ended Latex International L.L.C.'s long reign as the only manufacturer of rubber latex and polyurethane bedding in the U.S.
Sealy's new 210,000-sq.-ft. factory also will produce the company's foam-encased innersprings for its Stearns & Foster luxury brand, an official said at the International Latex Conference.
Archdale, N.C.-based Sealy broke ground on the Mountaintop property in April and expects the facility to be up and running in the first quarter of 2007. Cost of the project was not disclosed.
It likely will build a work force of about 100 over the next three years and employ lean manufacturing techniques in the design and operation of the plant, which is located about 30 miles from a Sealy components facility in Delano, Pa.
``From a logistics standpoint, it provides a great opportunity to increase efficiency at both locations, as well as increase capacity to meet growing demand for Sealy's products,'' according to Mike Hofmann, senior vice president of operations.
The specialty bedding sector is a key part of the company's growth plan, Chairman and CEO David McIlquham said, and it represents an enormous expansion opportunity.
Sealy operates 31 plants, 20 of which are in the U.S. The new site is its first natural rubber and synthetic latex facility in the country. Its other factories are in Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Argentina, France and Italy.
The firm, which is 125 years old, has a research and development center in High Point, N.C., with a staff that tests new materials and machinery, trains personnel, compares the quality of Sealy's products with those of its competitors, and develops new products and processes.
Sealy also recently launched two 100-percent latex products-the Posturepedic SpringFree II range and a more up-market Stearns & Foster Tropical Oasis range.