Equipment producers are making it easier, more efficient and more cost-effective to compress, fold, roll and ship the boxed bedding products consumers want
Sales of both traditional and boxed mattresses received a turbocharged boost during the Covid-19 pandemic as consumers increasingly placed their orders online for new beds.
One of the biggest selling points with consumers in 2020 was convenient, no-contact delivery. The swift and responsive actions of mattress brands that made their products more readily available online contributed to a 7.5% jump in U.S.-produced mattress unit shipments for the year, according to figures from the International Sleep Products Association.
Already a major segment of the market, there is a reported increase in demand for compression and roll-packing solutions. All consumer segments are shopping and buying mattresses online and more and more are being delivered in a box.
“At the end of 2019, we estimated that one U.S. mattress in a box market share was at 15% and steadily climbing,” says Mark DesJardin, a business development executive with C3 Corp., a maker of packaging, laminating and material handling machinery in Appleton, Wisconsin. “By the end of 2020, just 12 months later, we estimated that (the boxed bed) market share had eclipsed 35%.”
Going forward, C3 projects that boxed mattresses will exceed 50% of the market, perhaps reaching 60%, within the next two to three years. “The conditions of 2020, while very challenging in a lot of ways, pushed the compressed mattress market over a tipping point,” DesJardin says. “But the momentum was clearly building in the years prior. It’s not as though the world discovered boxed beds last year.”
Still, the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic kicked off a huge shift in behavior toward nesting, as people increasingly worked from home, prepared more meals in their own kitchens and postponed vacations. As spending on clothing, entertainment, travel and transportation dropped, consumers found they had more money available to improve their homes, including the quality of their beds and bedrooms.
“Consumers seemed to avoid trips to specialty shops and traditional delivery methods,” DesJardin says. “They’re looking to make their purchases online or in a retail location where they are shopping for other things.”
A new normal
Now, as the pandemic’s threat seems to be receding, a new normal is emerging for the bedding industry. And while some of the contours of the terrain remain fuzzy, “we should expect to see three things in the foreseeable future” that bode well for boxed beds and boxed bed machinery, DesJardin says. “First, we’ll see a continuation of the nesting trend. Second, environmentally friendly packaging will become more important as the emerging consumer base pays more attention to a brand’s carbon footprint,” he says. “And third, the need to optimize logistics and distribution (will intensify) as consumers seek out simplified, more convenient purchasing and procurement options.”
To help producers keep up with changes in the marketplace, machinery makers are looking for new ways to make their equipment more productive, cost-efficient and environmentally friendly.
On the environmental front, they are introducing new types of plastic film and other wrappings, such as paper, that will reduce waste while still protecting beds during shipping and delivery.
To aid manufacturers in improving efficiencies, equipment suppliers are offering new machines that increase the number of times a mattress can be folded or rolled before being put in a box. More folds mean mattresses fit in smaller boxes, and smaller boxes mean more efficient logistics, including reduced shipping and storage costs.
“The trend toward reduction in production dimensions, production costs and waste has been playing a pivotal role in the evolution of mattress packaging,” says Eric Zaninelli, a technical sales executive at Dolphin Pack, a producer of mattress compression and packaging machines based in Affi, Italy. “The main goal has always been to find advantageous solutions for companies, consumers and the environment.”
The Etesian Double Roll, the latest packaging solution from Dolphin Pack, achieves this goal, Zaninelli adds. By enabling more boxes to fit in a truck or container, the system helps improve transportation efficiencies and reduce costs for manufacturers and retailers. At the same time, because an efficiently packed bed requires less fuel to ship, double rolling before packing helps reduce carbon dioxide emissions. “Therefore, companies, final consumers and the environment benefit from the Double Roll (approach),” Zaninelli says.
In recent years, the industry also has made great strides in the types of beds that are suitable for boxing. A wide range of constructions now can be compressed, rolled and packed in a box, including most hybrid mattresses and even many conventional innerspring models.
Equipment sales on the rise
With e-commerce mattress sales running at a record pace in the United States and elsewhere, demand for roll-packing machines also has been growing, says Serkan Güler, chief executive officer of Elektroteks. The company, based in Bursa, Turkey, has been selling eight to 10 roll-packing machines per month to its global customers in 2021 — and that demand shows no signs of slowing.
“This category of machine has been a strong seller for the past several years,” Güler says.
Other companies report similarly strong performances in the roll-packing machine category.
Once a niche market for a small group of producers specializing in sleep products sold online, boxed beds and the machines that put them in the boxes have become more mainstream.
“Roll-pack machines have become a must for most of today’s bed producers,” Güler says. “Producers now need the capability to compress, fold and roll their mattresses if they’re going to stay competitive and satisfy their customers’ desire for convenient, direct-to-the-door delivery.”
Carthage, Missouri-based Global Systems Group, which makes a wide variety of mattress machines, has been a pioneer in the roll-pack process since debuting the popular TK-306 with its partner Teknomac srl, based in Barbara, Italy, at the ISPA EXPO in 2008. Innovations and new developments have continued to provide more options for enhancing productivity and reducing costs.
“The most recent GSG machine developments are focused on greater efficiency, material waste reduction for a more sustainable manufacturing, and cost savings for the mattress producer,” says Randy Metcalf, GSG marketing manager. “There are many unique facets within the broad category of roll-pack packaging, and GSG has been working to provide as many options as possible so mattress producers can adapt their packaging process to fit the various needs of their customers.”
At Atlanta Attachment Co., the recent adoption of new patented Windows-based technology enables the company to diagnose software and other equipment operations remotely. In addition, the company has developed new equipment with a uniform, plug-and-play application that allows for easier integration of multiple machines and more flexibility in the layout of production facilities, says Doug Guffey, vice president of sales for the company, which is based in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
“We will be working in the future toward a completely automated system of equipment working and communicating as one,” Guffey says. “AAC continues to develop material handling equipment to automate the entire production process, including automatic bagging, rolling, boxing, taping, labeling, sorting, loading and tracking of product.”
Guffey says that, in addition to core factors such as reliability, output and workflow, Atlanta Attachment’s product development efforts in the roll-packing category also focus on improving production flexibility for mattress manufacturers. That includes equipment that “can handle many types of products with a single functioning line,” he says, as well as equipment to handle “thicker products and movement to more hybrid-type mattresses.”
For Brighi Tecnologie Italia snc what’s driving growth in the United States right now is increasing demand for pillow production equipment that can automate “each and every step of the manufacturing process,” says Matteo Tagliaferri, export sales manager for Brighi, a maker of machinery for bedding and home textiles based in Forli, Italy.
“Manufacturers can’t find workers and, if they find them, it’s hard to retain them. Therefore, they are looking at machines to do their jobs,” he says.
Tagliaferri adds that Brighi always has focused its attention on automating the entire pillow manufacturing process, “so we are in a strong position right now as we can offer integrated solutions from point A to Z and everything in between.”
Read on for the latest introductions and innovations in packaging machinery for bedding products.
Rock ’Em Box ’Em Robot
Robotics are playing an expanded role on bedding factory floors, automating a host of tasks that previously had to be handled by humans. Elektroteks’ new RoBOX robot (in blue in this illustration) brings a new level of automation to the packing stage of production. The RoBOX system automatically makes a box from a sheet of cardboard, then inserts a rolled and wrapped mattress into the box. After that, the robot moves the box directly to a pallet for transport.
Packing Taller, Thicker Springs
Recently updated to handle higher pocket spring counts, Amelco Industries’ RL2000PRE roll-packing machine with a pre-compression feeding table can pack bulky innerspring units that are up to 8 1/2 inches high and 79 inches wide in easy-to-ship and easy-to-open compressed rolls. The RL2100PRE version of the machine can handle units up to 83 inches wide. Amelco also increased the machine’s paper tension accuracy to balance the paper strength-to-spring resistance, enabling more spring units to be packed in a roll. In addition, the machine frame has been modified to accommodate paper rolls with larger diameters (48 inches).
Automatic paper feeding at the beginning of the packing cycle and a new inching button ensure the correct paper bar position and assist the operator to speed up the cycle. A spring unit counter, automated paper cutter and large adhesive tape rolls increase productivity, according to the company.
“After reaching a specified number of units, the machine automatically takes over by cutting the paper, strapping the bale with adhesive tape ready for ejection and resetting (itself) for the next cycle,” says Andreas Georgallis, director of the Nicosia, Cyprus-based company.
Built with operator safety in mind, the RL2000PRE’s enhancements include a head-level collision emergency stop, knee-level safety photocell stop and guard bars on the feeding table. The RL2000PRE, the company says, is suitable for all types of spring units, including Bonnell and pocketed, and works with special kraft paper, as well as plastic film, cloth or nonwoven materials.
Rolling Pillows With Ease
Seeking to make the pillow roll-packing process even easier for manufacturers, Forli, Italy-based Brighi Tecnologie Italia snc has enhanced its Easy Roll system with new features that add flexibility and increase efficiency. They include a new silicon spray in the machine’s rolling joints for customers using “naked” foam cores, which eases rolling and ejection; deionizing bars in the bag-making module that kill the static charge of plastic tubular film, allowing the bag-positioning robot to open bags more easily; and a bag-punching device that creates a microperforation in bags for customers that want partial pillow recovery after bagging, according to the company.
The Easy Roll system comes in two configurations, fully automatic and semiautomatic. Both models feature the company’s unique “revolver-style” double rolling, which speeds production by enabling a pillow to be rolled in one unit while another pillow is bagged, compressed and sealed in a second unit.
New from Atlanta Attachment Co., the Automatic Secondary Compact Roll Pack machine (model 1307SA, pictured directly above) can be integrated into the company’s current mattress roll-pack equipment or used as a stand-alone unit. According to the Lawrenceville, Georgia-based company, the machine’s compact design minimizes the floor space required at the mattress factory, while also packaging mattresses in boxes as small as 18 inches by 18 inches by 24 inches at a production rate of one unit every 35 seconds. A patented Windows-based control system and Atlanta Attachment’s high-quality design result in an easy-to-maintain machine with low service costs, the company says. It comes with optional attachments for loading boxes.
Atlanta Attachment also has enhanced its Automatic Mattress Packaging with Hydraulic Compression and Roll-Pac Workstations system (pictured above), which combines the 1390HCE Auto-Pac unit with a 1306FF workstation and the new model 1307SA workstation. Designed for omnichannel mattress production, the company says, this highly integrated system meets a wide range of bagging needs, including standard mattress bagging, standard roll pack, fold-in-half roll pack and double roll packing. The combination of the 1390HCE plus 1306FF and 1307SA machines allows the packaging of a completed queen-size mattress in boxes as small as 18 inches by 18 inches by 24 inches. By combining a rotation feature under the compression platen, the footprint of the 1390HCE’s operation is shortened while still allowing multiple height configurations to meet production needs, the company says. The new 1360FF machine features a programmable diameter from 10 inches to 23 inches on rolled mattresses, producing rolled queen units in less than 35 seconds.
Another addition to the Atlanta Attachment line is the H290 2V Automatic Mattress Stacker. This machine stacks mattresses automatically on top of each other on pallets or inside bins. The unit can stack mattresses on the right or left and it can be installed with a center pass-through discharge. The stacker allows palletizing without the intervention of the operator, speeding up production and minimizing the risk of worker injuries from handling heavy loads, according to the company.
Battling Germs and Bacteria
United Mattress Machinery has partnered with a German company that makes food and beverage sterilization machinery to produce a new type of machine that it says eliminates bacteria and germs on a mattress surface prior to bagging and packaging.
Nicknamed the Kleen Machine, United’s new UM-UV-KLEEN “fits like a puzzle piece” into existing roll-pack setups, says Michael Porter Jr., co-owner and vice president of United Mattress Machinery, which has headquarters in Delray Beach, Florida.
The machine features an ultraviolet light sterilization tunnel, which mattresses pass through before being bagged and packaged. United Mattress Machinery’s research shows that a typical mattress gets touched by as many as 10 to 15 different workers, and a total of more than 100 times, while being manufactured.
“That’s gross!” Porter says. “Everyone in the world is thinking more than they did pre-Covid 19 pandemic about the fact that germs, bacteria and viruses are easily transmitted, much easier than we thought.”
United Mattress Machinery has obtained patent protection for this new concept, and the Kleen Machine’s inventor, United team member Leo Echeverria, says the company plans to begin shipping the Kleen Machine to customers this fall directly from Germany. The Kleen Machine integrates with the company’s UM-RP2-TURN Mattress Wrap/Compress/Roll Pack System and also with other companies’ machinery.
Improving Shipping Density
Building on the success of its Half Fold & Roll roll-packing system, C3 Corp. introduced the Tri-Fold & Roll system during this year’s Interzum Cologne trade show in May. C3’s Half Fold & Roll system has proven itself to be great for e-commerce, says Mark DesJardin, business development executive for the company, which is based in Appleton, Wisconsin. And the company’s new ultra-compressed or “roll-on-roll” Tri-Fold solution “ramps up the density equation even further,” providing a higher pallet density for more efficient shipping and logistics, DesJardin says. “We have now made it possible to fit up to 600 beds on a truck, depending, of course, on the product configuration,” he says. When compared with previous rolling methods, this increased density adds up to big cost savings for retailers, he adds.
Also new from C3: the option of replacing the stretch wrap currently used in its packaging machines with paper. Using paper instead of wrap reduces the amount of plastic used in packaging mattresses by one-third, according to the company. Mattress manufacturers still have the flexibility to use stretch wrap when the product or situation demands it, DesJardin says. “We’re not taking anything away here. We’re simply helping manufacturers meet emerging market demands,” he explains. As consumers’ interest in using recyclable materials continues to grow, “this eco-friendly packaging option has the potential to enhance the brand perception during what is among the most critical moments of consumer interface — unboxing,” DesJardin says.
Both the Tri-Fold & Roll system and the new paper-wrapping feature are available as options on new machines or upgrades to existing C3 machines currently in the field. As upgrades, they are modular retrofits that can be installed readily, DesJardin says.
Double Rolling for Smaller Boxes
Responding to customers’ requests for more compact packaging, Dolphin Pack introduced a new version of its popular Etesian compression and roll-packing machine during Interzum Cologne in May that increases the number of mattresses that can be shipped in one truck. Called the Etesian Double Roll, the new system is equipped with two roll-pack machines so that mattresses can be rolled twice and inserted into much smaller boxes, according to the company, which is based in Affi, Italy.
With this approach, a typical mattress can be double rolled to fit into a box measuring 0.12 cubic meters, compared with 0.16 cubic meters for a standard, single-rolled mattress or 1.20 cubic meters for a mattress that isn’t compressed and rolled. With the introduction of the Etesian Double Roll, Dolphin Pack has made other improvements, as well. The machines now feature a double carriage system that enables operators to change film without stopping production.
In addition, a new cardboard box system helps operators better manage box loading and unloading. The Etesian Double Roll is suitable for packing conventional mattresses made of foam and viscoelastic, with a production rate of two mattresses per minute for compressed, rolled and packed products, the company says. Like its namesake Etesian model shown here, the Double Roll can be customized to meet manufacturers’ specific needs.
Tighter Roll Diameters
In a further expansion of its multimodel ET-ROLL roll-pack line, Elektroteks is getting ready to introduce a new version this fall with even tighter mattress roll diameters and enhanced, multiple fold capabilities, according to the company, which is based in Bursa, Turkey.
Called the ET-ROLL-460, the new machine will be able to roll mattresses as tight as 10 inches in diameter, compared with the 12.9-inch diameters possible with its current ET-ROLL-440 model. The tighter diameter will enable most mattresses to fit into a more compact, cube-shaped box of 25 inches by 25 inches by 30 inches rather than the typical rectangular carton (20 inches by 20 inches by 45 inches) currently used, improving both shipping, storage and operational efficiencies. Like its namesakes, ET-ROLL-460 is a fully automatic machine that compresses, folds, rolls and wraps.
The unique design of the ROLL series enables the machines to work as wrap only, compress and wrap, compress-roll-wrap and compress-fold-roll-wrap, without adding any extra turning or 90-degree transfer conveyors. ET-ROLL-460 senses when and whether to fold a mattress depending on size and can make as many as four folds. Even with all these options, the ET-ROLL-460 has a smaller footprint than similar machines, according to the company. Pictured here is the ET-ROLL-400 Series, which has a similar design to the new 460 model.
Smaller Sizes, Enhanced Protection
The goal of any mattress compression and roll-packing process is to reduce the volume of storage, shipping and retail shelf space a mattress occupies. With this goal in mind, Carthage, Missouri-based Global Systems Group and partner Teknomac srl in Barbara, Italy, have developed a new folding device, which allows a mattress to be folded either in half or by thirds (pictured top left). This reduces the total length of the rolled unit, allowing it to fit into a smaller box that occupies less space — on shipping pallets and in retail stores.
Another key development in GSG’s roll-pack line is a new Auto Film-Change system (pictured bottom left) that automatically selects a packaging film size that best fits the incoming mattress as it enters the rolling mechanism. The system can use film widths ranging from 36 inches to 60 inches. As a result of this increased flexibility, less film is wasted on roll packing smaller units. That saves the manufacturer on film costs and benefits the planet by reducing unnecessary plastic waste, according to GSG.
To enhance the protection and appearance of flat-packed mattresses, GSG also is offering a new double-bag feature for its TK-381 roll-pack machine (pictured top right). This feature (pictured bottom right) forms an extra bag around the sealed unit, providing a second outer layer of protection. The outer layer, which may become dirty during shipping, can then be removed at the final destination for better product presentation to the customer or on the retail sales floor, the company says.
3D Full Pack — the latest addition to Mert Makina’s compression and roll-packing machinery line — combines three functions into one highly efficient system, according to the Kayseri, Turkey-based company. First, 3D Full Pack performs standard mattress packing. Second, the system can be used to compress and roll-pack mattresses. And third, the machine can flat press and pack mattresses.
The system enables mattress manufacturers “to produce the best mattresses with a minimum number of machines and operators,” says Ibrahim Ethem Yildirim, Mert Makina’s sales and marketing director.
The 3D Full Pack system can handle a wide range of mattress constructions, including polyurethane, Bonnell spring, pocket spring and latex models, with surface dimensions ranging from 27.5 inches to 74.8 inches and heights of 1.9 inches to 15.7 inches. The system processes two mattresses per minute and takes only two operators to run, the company says.
Other features include automatic side trim cutting, touch-screen controls, and an automatic conveyor line that can turn mattresses and send them to the rolling unit or an exit point. In addition, the use of a cold sealing system instead of heat reduces wiring failures and sealing problems, according to the company.