Editor’s Note: For the August machinery feature titled, “Strong Stitches, Powerful Bonds,” we asked industry leaders to fill out a questionnaire about their business. To our delight, some of them gave us so much information, we couldn’t use it all in the print feature. So, we decided to post the entirety of their Q&A’s online, allowing you, our valued audience, to read all their good answers. This interview with Paul Block is the second of a four-part, online-only series that we will post weekly throughout the month of August. Most of all, our sincerest thanks to the executives.
BedTimes: What new sewing machines have you introduced that you would like to showcase?
- The TK-810 Automatic FR “Sock” Covering Machine automatically inserts a mattress core into FR tube covering material and closes each end of the covering with a secure four-needle stitching process. One pair closes the finished unit while the other set of needles closes the covering material trailing behind the cutline to prepare a sock for the next incoming core. This reduces the waste of excess material that would otherwise be scrap behind the trimmed material. Best of all, this fully automatic machine can be integrated into our automatic production line using no labor during normal operation.
- The Ultra HCB ERGO binding machine is designed to join heavy border sections to quilt tops or flat goods decking. It has an integrated air table and electronically controlled adjustable leg heights to position the work for the most comfortable position for any employee. A strong Pfaff sewing head makes sewing easier for a wide range of materials.
BT: What are your customers asking for now? What are the key trends driving your business?
- Labor-reducing solutions: The skilled labor shortage is a persistent problem for the mattress industry. Mattress producers struggle to find and retain enough people to staff their needs, and labor costs continue to rise regardless of the quality of available talent. They need equipment that can make their overall workforce more productive and add more value to the work they do.
- Sustainability: Some regions of the worldwide market are gaining interest in sustainable manufacturing practices. Some are being mandated by government or industry groups while some manufacturers are proactively self-regulating their operations because they appreciate long-term benefits using more eco-friendly practices.
- Customers are short on technically skilled staff: So they are looking for easy-to-operate quality equipment that holds up over long periods of time and vendors with an experienced service staff that can quickly respond to maintenance issues. Customers are leaning on our extensive experience for unique solutions.
- Old methods may not be competitive for long: Many of our customers see current market changes and more new technologies ahead and realize their old methods may not be competitive for long. There are many new leaders entering the mattress industry from other industries and they are seeking help developing their ideas for improving plant operations. Old and new customers with a long-term vision for their company are turning to us because we have a long, proven record of innovative success in the industry. As a result, we are developing many new customized systems to improve total workflow and productivity with new systems to optimize waste reduction.
BT: What are some of the current challenges you are facing? And/or, are your customers facing?
- Labor shortage is a problem for our customers: The current economic downturn is causing some customers to avoid capital expenditures by trying to extend the life of their older equipment. Fortunately, we have a well-developed service program staffed with very experienced technicians. The responsive GSG service department successfully maintains machines around the world to minimize manufacturers’ downtime.
- Customers are feeling adverse impacts of inflation: This applies to both cost control and the resulting strain on retail sales. Mattress producers need cost-saving equipment to combat the rising expenses occurring in every area of their operations while at the same time retail customers are slowing their buying habits.
BT: How do your machines solve these issues?
GSG concentrates on three ways to reduce labor issues:
- Automate the process: Whenever feasible, manufacturers should employ automation equipment. Many manual tasks are redundant and add little value to the final production. Automation eliminates the labor for that process, making overall labor productivity more valuable and it frees up your limited staff to perform other work.
- De-skill the process: Many non-automated sewing processes require a higher level of skill to perform the task. Obviously, skilled labor is in short supply, so GSG designs equipment that simplifies the process so low-skilled employees can be just as effective as more expensive high-skilled employees. A de-skilled operation also shortens the learning curve so new hires can master the process quicker. This is an important detail in a high turnover labor market.
- Ergonomics: The final piece to the puzzle is ergonomics. Ergonomic systems make employees more productive, simplify the work for better employee retention, and reduces the risk of employee injuries. A comfortable worker is a more productive worker and improves job satisfaction.
Proven, long-lasting durability and effective service support.
- Extending machine life: GSG has been producing durable equipment for decades. It is not uncommon for a 25-year-old GSG machine to still be working on a daily basis in factories around the world. We have thousands of machines found on every continent and you can’t support that kind of reach without a robust service program. Our Fasttrack Service system supports our customers with 24/7 parts ordering capabilities, self-serve job ticket creation capabilities and, of course, a fast-response team of experienced technicians.
Reduce waste and improve productivity for greater cost savings:
- Reduce waste and improve efficiencies: Obviously, the manufacturer has limited control over vendor pricing on one end of the spectrum and retail customer purchasing decisions on the other. The greatest impact the manufacturer can have on profit margins is reducing waste and improving productivity to get the greatest value out of each piece the company produces. GSG equipment is designed to reduce waste — whether that is excess material trimmings, scrap rejects, or non-value-add activities. Some customers are cutting back work hours to minimize costs while capacity is low. GSG’s high-production-rate equipment helps them create higher volumes in shorter hours so they can still meet production demands with shorter work weeks.
- Improve productivity: GSG equipment is designed to produce a higher volume of quality goods per hour, so manufacturers can get more value per employee each day. The greater the value per person, the more profitable the operation will be.
BedTimes: What question are we not asking that you would like to answer?
Paul Block: How do sewing systems fit into the overall balance of processes through the entire production process? They are not isolated systems — they work within a complete workflow. GSG is focused on more than the sewing task at hand, but also how that process feeds into downstream operations forming the entire product. The efficiency of each workstation impacts the next, so it is important to evaluate the whole production process to determine the best solution.