By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
BALDWYN – Advanced Innovations East really does make money while you sleep.
The company, which got its start 10 years ago in Verona, is one of the nation’s leading providers of memory foam mattresses, mattress protectors, toppers and pillows.
The mattress and bedding industry is a multi-billion market, with the mattress segment alone pulling in more than $6.8 billion in sales last year.
Advanced Innovations is a subsidiary of Sleep Innovations, headquartered in West Long Branch, N.J.
But before the company started manufacturing the memory foam sleep products, it was in the sales and marketing end of the business.
Steve Setzer, the company’s executive vice president, said in the late 1990s, officials decided to get into manufacturing.
“In December 1998, we sold 30,000 pillows to Costco,” he said. “They sold them out in three days.”
The company knew it had a hit product on its hands. For years, the memory foam business had long been dominated by the likes of Tempur-Pedic, which got its start in the 1970s.
But upstarts like Sleep Innovations looked to get a slice of the lucrative mattress and bedding industry.
Sleep Innovations opened its first manufacturing plant in 2002 in Southern California. A year later, it opened its first Mississippi operation in Verona. In 2005, it moved from Verona to its current 300,000-square-foot plant in Baldwyn.
On Thursday, its Advanced Innovations East division broke ground on what will be a 108,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution center adjacent to its facility in the Harry A. Martin North Lee Industrial Complex.
It’s expected to open in October or November, not nearly soon enough for Setzer, who said the business continues to grow quickly.
“We’re going to add 50 jobs in the next two years, hopefully more,” he said. “And we have more room to grow here. We have an unfinished area where we can add another 100,000 square feet, and then room for another 100,000 square feet if needed.”
Setzer hopes to do just that, but first things first – opening the newest addition as soon as possible.
The current facility is home to several operations, including foam fabrication, manufacturing and warehousing and distribution. Quite simply, Advanced Innovations has run out of room.
“We really need that additional space,” Setzer said.
The Baldwyn facility already is among the largest of Sleep Innovations’ nine plants across the U.S.
With 500 employees, it also comprises more than 40 percent of the company’s total workforce of 1,200 workers.
Sleep Innovations’ three major manufacturing plants in Redlands, Calif.; West Chicago, Ill., and Baldwyn serve different geographic markets in the U.S.
And while Baldwyn distributes across the Southeast, it also supplies the California plant, which means its reach also stretches to the West Coast.
Sleep Innovations sells products under its own name, but it also sells other branded and private-label products to the likes of Kohl’s, Sears, Sam’s Cub, Walmart, CVS and JCPenney.
And Serta, one of the biggest names in the bedding industry, partnered with Sleep Innovations to develop its iComfort line of gel foam products.
It’s not a coincidence how Advanced Innovations got its name.
Inside the Baldwyn plant is some of the most advanced technology in the business.
For example, the foam used in the company’s line of products is made on site, and automated machinery is sprinkled throughout the facility to get materials where they need to go.
A robot pours foam into pillow molds, and within 10 minutes, a careful mix of chemicals has become a gel foam pillow that will eventually find its way to someone’s home.
Mattresses of the same material are cut, shaped, compressed, folded – yes, folded – and packaged to fit inside 24-inch by 24-inch boxes.
“When we asked Costco if they’d be interested in selling our mattresses, they said they would – if we could put them on pallets,” Setzer said. “Pallets are 48 inches by 48. … we designed the equipment ourselves and we can fold the mattresses and load them in boxes, four at a time, on pallets.”
Advanced Innovations can roll out about 600 mattresses a day and about 20,000 pillows.
Once made, they’re packaged and sent to retailers and customers.
“We’re vertically integrated here,” Setzer said. “We have everything basically under one roof.”
And thanks to strong demand, the company now is working 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Setzer admits the company’s success had exceeded his expectations. And landing in Northeast Mississippi was no accident, either.
“When we opened in sSouthern California, we went where a lot of the manufacturers were,” he said. “In west Chicago, we went where the manufacturers, the foam makers were. In Northeast Mississippi, the upholstered furniture capital, the foam companies were here. It made sense to be here.”