Mattress Discounters opens doors to international colleagues

Comfort_source_logo About 150 mattress manufacturers from some 30 countries got a good look Tuesday at how factory-direct Mattress Discounters runs its plant and produces its Comfort Source beds in Upper Marlboro, Md.

It was all part of the ISPA EXPO 2008 factory tour, which has become a tradition for international mattress makers attending the show.

The retailing side of Mattress Discounters—currently 143 company-owned stores concentrated in New England and the Washington, D.C., area—started 30 years ago. The retailer opened the 105,000-square-foot Upper Marlboro factory 17 years ago. 

The plant’s approximately 35 workers—the number adjusts up and down seasonally—turn out about 500 mattresses and box springs a day.

Mattress Discounters keeps it simple, explained Mike Eppinger, senior vice president. The factory produces just seven mattress models, all with Bonnell innersprings, though the company is testing a visco-elastic bed.

“That narrow range helps us to be very efficient and productive,” Eppinger told the visiting manufacturers.

The Comfort Source innerspring models have retail price points from $269 to $899. The retailer also carries beds from other manufacturers, including Sealy, Simmons and Tempur-Pedic.

The plant is especially proud of its workers. It hasn’t experienced a lost-time injury in nearly two years and 90% of its employees have been with the company for 10 years or more, Eppinger told the group.

Mattress Discounters strives to keep its workers happy. A recognition program encourages employees to nominate co-workers who exemplify core principles such as teamwork, commitment, integrity and professionalism. Winners receive a trophy, a cash award and a day off with pay.

The company also provides on-site English as a Second Language classes for workers, most of whom are from El Salvador. When they complete the program, the employees “graduate” and are awarded certificates.

After Eppinger hit the highlights of the company’s structure and operating philosophy, the tour began.

The international visitors were particularly interested in Mattress Discounters’ methods of recycling waste, its just-in-time manufacturing process, its decision last year to switch to single-sided mattresses and its experiences producing mattresses complaint with federal open-flame standards.

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