1966-1990: Mattress industry enters computer age

The International Sleep Products Association’s first 100 years—Part IV of the third installment

PCs, microprocessors improve efficiency, productivity, profitability of mattress industry


archival photo from mattress industry magazine of magnetic tape reels

In its April 1970 issue, Bedding magazine reported the mattress industry put computers ‘to work on supplier data for its special buyer’s guide.’

By the late 1960s, computers—though not quite what we think of today—were making their way into mattress manufacturing plants. In 1967, the National Association of Bedding Manufacturers brought in experts to talk to members about the concept of automatic data processing using computers to reduce errors and improve efficiencies. By the 1980s, personal computers were becoming commonplace in offices throughout the industry, and microprocessors were making their way into mattress machinery, starting with quilters that cost between $15,000 and $30,000, according to a July 1987 BedTimes magazine article. At the same time, programmable controls were improving wrapping machines and conveyors, as well as cutting and measuring equipment.

mattress industry enters computer age

The November 1973 issue cover headline reads,’Beds Rank No. 6 on (Consumer Products Safety Commission) Hazards List: Computer Counts Injuries.’

“Microprocessor technology, along with higher-level mechanics approaching robotics, are just beginning to have an impact on bedding assembly and materials handling,” BedTimes editors wrote. “Some speculate that this could be the start of a major trend as pressures mount to enhance profitability by increasing efficiencies. Others believe the road to automation in the bedding factory will not be an easy one.”

In 1989, the bedding association adopted the Furniture Industry Bar Code Standard, ushering in the widespread use of bar codes in mattress manufacturing plants. “The potential cost savings for a manufacturer are great,” Dave McGee, vice president of early-adopter Serta Salt Lake City, said in a July 1989 BedTimes article. “Using bar code technology to feed data into our computer gives us better control over raw materials allocation, shipping, inventory and better control over paperwork.” The article walked mattress makers through the process of choosing the appropriate printers and scanners they would need to begin using the codes. Experts estimated costs of installing the equipment, which BedTimes noted, could run “on a PC as easily as a mainframe,” would be recouped in about a year by making production and supply management more efficient and accurate.

Read all seven parts of this month’s special ISPA 1966-1990 centennial section:

Part I – Main feature: ‘The challenge of change’
Part II – New directions for mattress industry public relations
Part III – Uniform Monday Holiday Act brings sales, promotional opportunities
Part IV – The industry enters the computer age
Part V – The Sealy wars erupt: Sealy Inc., Ohio-Sealy duke it out
Part VI – Out with the old: Industry works to keep used mattresses out of circulation
Part VII – Product trends of the time: Waterbeds make waves

View this special section as it appears in the print magazine: BedTimes’ August digital edition.

Read previous chapters in the 100-year history of ISPA:
1915-1940: An industry comes together
1941-1965: A time of war, a time for peace

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