. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
By Joe Tatulli
The Institute of Futon
After a request for any questions things really get rolling. "Today," says Tedesco, "we are going to go through the entire futon manufacturing process from the beginning, including receiving the raw goods, going through the sewing department, the stuffing department, the tape edge machine, tufting and bagging, and we will even learn how to load and ship a futon mattress properly." Properly is the key word here. Tedesco and his entire crew are experts at what they do and also experts at explaining it to beginners. I soon found myself at the loading dock looking at rolls of muslin duck, bales of cotton batting, and mountains of foam.
"This is where we receive all our raw materials," relates Chuck Metz, Professor of Raw Materials and long time Devon Chase employee. Chuck came down from Connecticut when Tom and Sue moved the company to Orlando. This is the second time I've heard about Inspector 13. I look around the room and ask the question everyone has been hoping I would ask. "Who is Inspector 13?" Everyone answers in unison, "You are Inspector 13." In fact everyone at Devon Chase is Inspector 13. Tedesco explains that Inspector 13 is a way to make everyone aware that quality is their job and no one is exempt or excluded from the program.
"This is the first inspection," says Metz. Shipments are inspected for cleanliness and each batch of cotton is tested for smolder resistance and weight. "After the shipment passes the inspection it is entered into inventory," he said. There is a zero tolerance towards acceptance of off standard goods or service. I get some cotton and foam for my toolbox. Tedesco uses the word "ownership" in context with the Devon Chase process. "You get to see it and feel it yourself." he says.
From here we move directly to shipping. Pat Weaver, the Tedescos' son-in-law, is now in full gear. "Everything is loaded by hand from a pick ticket generated in the office," says Weaver. He shows me how to pick up a futon mattress so I won't hurt my back. The inside of the truck is spotless. Weaver keeps it that way. Hey, he's Inspector 13.
Next we move to the futon sewing room. Tom and Sue's daughter, Tammy, is my next advisor. "This is where we do all the cutting and sewing," she says. I get to cut through twenty layers of cloth, which will be sewn into casings, with a large electric knife. Another item for my toolbox. "Don't forget Inspector 13. We like to catch any mistakes before they get out of a department," she says. Devon Chase uses a five needle surge stitcher. I know because I used it, and I have proof in my toolbox.
Each step in the training is designed to give me a hands-on experience that draws me into a relationship with the people, the process and the product itself. As we moved through each remaining step of the operation, including laying out the cotton batts, manipulating the stuffing machine, guiding the tape-edge machine and executing the tufting machine I became acutely aware that I was learning not just how to make a futon mattress, but that I would be much better able to sell one to a customer in my store (if I had a futon store).
All Together Now
We soon end up back where we began, in the conference room. I was Inspector 13. I had made a futon mattress. When futon retailers come they actually make a futon and take it home. I had cut and sewn and inspected and laughed.
Tedesco pulled it all together in the end with a wrap-up on POP. "Each element you learn at the Institute is part of the POP. The cotton and foam, the fabric, the sewing, the stuffing, tape-edge and tufting. Each point we make in the classroom finds its way to the POP. There's nothing like being able to tell a customer you know something is true because you were there and did it yourself," Tedesco said.
Tom and Sue Tedesco have a unique way of doing business and it shows up in their products. By selling what they produce and shipping just-in-time they have all but eliminated receivables. "We don't owe anyone a dime either," said Tedesco. Peace of mind and a well thought out plan of educating and training retailers to sell more products should prove an excellent formula for long term success. I'll check back with Tom and Sue and let you you know how it all turns out. Hey, I'm Inspector 13 now.