Made in Eastern Iowa: Midwest Sleep and the art of mattress manufacturing
Ken Akers acknowledges, at the start of a tour of Midwest Sleep, the work isn't easy.
"We’re blessed with 55 great employees and it’s tough work," Akers, the owner of the facility in Toledo said.
A large factory sits between the new U.S. 30 and the old one, on the western edge of this Tama County town. Midwest Sleep handles a handful of brands but also has products that end up all over.
"We manufacture Restonic mattresses, Spring Air mattresses, we have several private label programs that we put together for some retailers," Akers said. "We also do business with several universities, including the University of Iowa, Iowa State, UNI and several dormitories at the smaller, Division III-type schools and several hotel and motels. Anything you can sleep on, we can create."
A concerto of stitching, turning, wheeling and lifting makes up the process of taking a product from the raw materials of wood, steel and foam into what people count on for years of restful sleep.
"We’ll give a retailer a selection of beds and they’ll have price points or firmness levels they want to hit and that will vary by how the bed is constructed," Akers said as he walked the floor. "The materials on the inside that will make you feel good in the morning or on the top that will make you feel good at night. The key is to get good quality foams at the price point. I don’t care if you have $200 or $3,000, we want to make sure you can get the best bed for the money. We put the best steel into it, the best foam into it, the best fabric into it. Those don’t change."
Akers notes that the turnaround can be quick. Our visit was on a Thursday in April. Akers said that, a mattress can turn in that day and be available for a person's home by Monday. It's that swift.
"Part of the unforeseen costs is stocking raw materials," Akers said. "Our good retail partners don’t want a bunch of inventory in their warehouse. Call on Wednesday, shipped on Monday."
As for the life of a quality bed, the first years should not matter. If any concerns come up after five years, look at the top.
"What matters to us is that 0-5 years down the road, you’re going to get a good comfort life," Akers said. "But five to ten years or 15 years worth of use, the things that we do, like glue our wood together, laminate the processes on top, beds don’t break down because of steel or the support system. They break down because of the padding on the top."