We often say Leggett & Platt products are everywhere – at home, in your office, in your car – now we can add “in the sky” to the list. We went airborne in early 2012 with the acquisition of Western Pneumatic Tube – the leading supplier of titanium, nickel, and stainless steel tubing for the aerospace industry.
Western is a perfect example of the type of growth opportunity we identified when we changed strategy a few years ago – it’s a strong business with sustainable competitive advantage in a very attractive market (e.g., higher growth, higher margin).
Aerospace demand is up, and we expect it to continue to rise. Western’s market advantage is strong – not just anyone can make Western’s types of products. It takes technical expertise, ultra-high quality, and rigorous certifications. Western fits well with our existing skill sets and culture. This combination of a robust competitive position, strong “fit”, and an attractive and growing market made Western an ideal acquisition.
Leggett & Platt has more than 100 years of experience in manufacturing, but as we look for ways to expand our reach, we consider the entire value chain – including raw materials, assembly, distribution, and retail. In some cases, we find a very attractive position in a non-manufacturing capacity.
In our Hanes Geo business, we manufacture only a few of the products we sell. Instead, we use purchasing leverage and scale (both of which are growing) to source for distribution a wide range of products – e.g., for ground stabilization, drainage protection, and erosion control – for the construction and landscaping industries.
Product development has long been a meaningful part of Leggett & Platt’s success. By engaging with our customers at the early stages of product design, we are finding ways to improve that innovation success rate.
Building on the rich product development history of our Office Components business, we expanded our design and development efforts with a multi-disciplined team approach. Combining technical expertise, market insight, and project management, our design and development group collaborates with top industrial designers and office furniture manufacturers to generate innovative ideas and product concepts.
An understanding of the customer’s needs and objectives on the front end of development enables us to design components integral to the end-product’s performance, improving our “win” rate on the overall business. Through these efforts, we’ve broadened our role from solely a source of catalog components to a provider of integrated design solutions.
Serving our markets better means understanding consumer preferences and needs. We traditionally relied solely on our customers (other manufacturers or retailers) to help us understand what consumers want. In recent years, we have also used our own market research to gain this insight.
Our Adjustable Bed Group has experienced unprecedented growth over the last few years.
To continue advancing this business, we conducted a year of in-depth consumer research to learn which factors matter most to target consumers when they shop for a bed. We found that consumers view adjustable beds which incorporate enhanced functionality and modern aesthetics as lifestyle-enhancing products. The insights we gather from these studies inspire new product features, style, and branding activity, all of which we employ to attract our target consumers.
In some of our basic product groups, we are finding new ways to add value through more technical manufacturing processes.
Our North American automotive operations have invested in “overmolding” capabilities that enable us to take a wire form used for seat suspension and integrate additional features through an injection molding process.
These features streamline the attachment of electronic control modules, motors, and circulation fans used in the finished vehicle seat. The enhanced seat suspension systems resulting from this process provide labor-saving benefits for our customers, and attractive margins for us.
Supporting innovation in the bedding industry through product design is nothing new to Leggett & Platt, but we are also finding other ways to facilitate the industry’s success.
Leggett & Platt led the industry once again in 2012 by introducing the term “hybrid” into the mattress category. Mattresses that combine layers of specialty foam on top of innerspring cores have existed for years. But it was Leggett & Platt that helped the industry understand a simple way to talk about this construction using a common consumer products term: hybrid.
By using the term with consumers, mattress retailers are able to shorten the selling process and increase the amount of the average sales ticket. To help the bedding industry get the word out about hybrid mattresses, we created an on-line community and training center (sleep-geek.com) built for retail sales associates.
With strong consumer demand for hybrids, we have had great success with our Comfort Core® fabric-encased innersprings that are used in many of these mattresses.