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  • Cindy W. Hodnett

Bassett upholstery plant runs at full steam

NEWTON, N.C. - It's Friday afternoon at the sprawling Bassett Furniture upholstery plant here, but there is no before- the-weekend lull evident on the floor. Assembly lines are running, forklifts are moving massive rolls of fabric and employees are building furniture with a Monday morning vigor.
     "From the time an order is placed, we're in production within seven days and delivering in 30," said Mike Kreidler, director of manufacturing in the upholstery division. "We're running on Friday afternoons and even Saturdays."
     Bassett produces 850 pieces of furniture each day in Newton. The two factories on the site, one of 175,000 square feet and a second with 370,000 square feet, employ about 450 people producing chairs, sofas, upholstered beds and pillows in a combination of more than 1,000 fabrics.

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     The numbers underscore the company's impact on the economic health of Newton and environs, population nearly 13,000. Members of the Bassett management team consider the company's responsibility for the financial health of its employees a priority, which creates a ripple effect throughout the community.
     "Bassett Upholstery is proud to have called the Catawba Valley home for 50 years," said company President Rob Spilman. "The successful reinvention of our upholstery business will allow us to maintain our commitment to the region's economic well-being for many years to come."
     The reinvention of Bassett's upholstery division included a transition to cellular manufacturing and to environmentally conscious strategies. Bassett is EFEC (Enhancing Furniture's Environmental Culture) certified by the American Home Furnishings Alliance and continues to adhere to EFEC's voluntary environmental management system, recycling more than 1.2 million pounds of paper, cardboard, plastic, aluminum and fabric scraps since 2010.
     "In addition to our EFEC certification, we are also a Catawba County recycling partner and received the Orion Environmental Stewardship award," said Kathy Jo Eads, human resources manager. "We organize a community project each year, and we participate in Arbor Day, giving out seedlings and totes that show the benefits of recycling."
     The cellular manufacturing model was something that the Bassett management team put into place to increase efficiency, quality control and delivery times. Kreidler says the model allows production on a piece of furniture to begin almost immediately after receiving an order.
     "Cellular manufacturing is like having several self-contained factories within the building," Kreidler said. "Each work cell has cutters, sewers, frame builders and upholsterers that work together to produce custom ordered furniture. It has allowed us to improve quality, increase productivity and ship to the customers' home in 30 days.
     "From the time an order is placed, we're in production in seven days or less," he said. "The changes we've made have allowed us to stay competitive."

Bassett’s Nora Chair
Bassett’s Nora Chair will be introduced at the April High Point Market and will be available in more than 1,000 fabrics. It will retail starting at $699.
The Jessie accent chair in Bassett’s HGTV Home collection is available in 125 fabrics and retails from $699.
The Jessie accent
Bassett offers custom
Bassett offers custom upholstery, as seen in this sectional/ottoman group, with delivery in 30 days or less.

     "Bassett's commitment to cellular manufacturing has enabled us to provide our customers with custom order products supported with industry- leading service, with most orders shipping in five to seven days," said Mark Jordan, senior vice president of upholstery operations. "The principles of cellular manufacturing have improved the quality of our products, the efficiency of our manufacturing operations and communication throughout the process."
     The company's partnership with HGTV has been another boon for Bassett's custom upholstery division. A film crew from the cable channel recently visited the Bassett plant for a televised special promoting the collaboration. Bassett produces the HGTV Home line of home furnishings.
     "The partnership between Bassett and HGTV has been exciting and also rewarding from an increased order volume rate," Jordan said. "Since Labor Day, the HGTV impact in our retail stores had significantly increased our custom upholstery orders. Couple that with HGTV coming to the factory and filming the ‘HGTV Home Makeover' and interviewing our employees - morale is sky high and the future is exciting."
     Producing 85 upholstered beds in one day or 700 accent pillows in one week, the employees in Bassett's factory work cells are cranking out products at lightning speed. And the enhanced capability makes all of the difference at the retail level.
     "A store's biggest asset is the ability to say ‘yes,'" said Ed Avery, vice president of upholstery product development. "The consumer doesn't want to wait, and 16 weeks in the furniture world is a lifetime.
"Everything we do, we look at from a value perspective," Avery said. "We offer great style, designer looks, fast delivery, affordable prices and quality without compromise. That has allowed us to grow in a difficult economy."

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