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BUILDING FOR SUCCESS.

Construction operations have been running hot and heavy at Kingsdown. The company, which has long occupied an almost undisputed niche for big-ticket mattresses, has begun to feel the hot breath of competitors who are now moving into upper price points. By upgrading and expanding its facilities, Kingsdown is taking steps to distance itself from the pack.

The company is well along on a new plant it is building next to its existing one in Winchester, Va. The plant will be devoted primarily to the Passion line, Kingsdown's handcrafted, top-of-the-line product, which is also produced at the company's original turn-of-the-century plant in Mebane, N.C. The Mebane site, where the company is headquartered, is also undergoing a facelift.

On a recent visit to Mebane, I had an informative tour with Pat Flippin, Kingsdown's chief operating officer, and got a glimpse of things to come for the company. His goal is to increase production, get the orders filled for retailers faster, and maintain a tighter control of inventory and materials. He is trying to add more high technology without sacrificing the personalized, hand-intensive steps that have distinguished Kingsdown products.

As we spoke, a computerized sewn-labeling machine was ready to be uncrated, and two more machines for the handtufting operation were on order.

As the company has grown over the years, the original plant has taken on the sprawling, meandering footprint of a domino game. Much of the flooring is old wood, not intended for the heavy-duty traffic of modern manufacturing. Thus, new flooring will be installed on the ground floor to better handle the weight of equipment, materials and forklifts.

The paint of the new research-and-development center, next door to the plant, is finally dry, and the testing machines are up and running, with more sophisticated measuring equipment on order. On the day of my visit, company engineers were dissecting a competitor's imported product. (If that particular mattress set is representative of the importer's total line, domestic manufacturers will not have much to worry about. I don't think a robin would bother to build a nest with the materials.)

Kingsdown's Mebane plant is a striking departure from the stereotypical factory dominating a small town. When I first drove by the plant -- disoriented, as usual -- I figured I was looking only at the administrative offices and that the actual production was done on the outskirts of town. But it was all there, neatly manicured and shaded by trees. I didn't see a speck of the litter or trash one normally associates with this type of working factory.

Moving northward, I'd like to thank the bedding people I visited during a trip to Chicago -- a thriving center for bedding -- in May. I enjoyed the hospitality and the forthright comments from Serta, Spring Air and Restonic execs on bedding industry issues that need to be aired. I also checked out a franchised Verlo Mattress showroom and mini-factory in the Chicago suburb of Wheeling that custom-builds mattresses. The owner had 35 mattresses he had built that day, lined up at the door ready to be delivered. Fashion Bed Group, a producer of bed frames and headboards that I dropped in on, will no doubt come up with some striking styles at the October High Point market, as designer Korie Trevino rolls up her sleeves to work with the new president, Ron Ainsworth. Ainsworth had just received the baton from Joe Geiger, who was on his way to Mattress Giant, but it was clear the wheels were already spinning. Stay tuned.
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Author:Kunkel, Karl
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 28, 1999
Words:584
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