Precision Textiles Meets The Demand For Safer, More Sustainable Flame Retardant Components
August 18, 2021
So, what is the FR layer made out of? If you don’t know the answer to that question, you probably should. Today’s consumers are more interested than ever before in seeing and understanding what goes into the products they buy. Is it safe? Is it sustainable? Can we trust it to work as it says it will? There are many different components that make up the construction of a mattress—and Precision Textiles wants to make sure you are prepared to answer questions about the flame retardant layer when honing your sales pitch. Experts in the category, the company diligently ensures that all of its customers’ beds are meeting the highest possible safety standards—no matter the mattress type.
Rather than simply meeting bare minimum requirements, Precision Textiles takes a proactive approach. The company stays one step ahead of the latest industry trends and demands, developing new products and designs that will help both manufacturers and retailers connect with today’s increasingly discerning shoppers. As the consumer interest in health and safety continues to grow, Precision Textiles is an asset for any company looking to meet the ever-changing expectations. Now, with an array of glass-free and eco-friendly FR options—alongside a wider portfolio of non-woven and sleep accessory products— Precision Textiles is making sure that retailers are prepared to address any concern, question or demand when it comes to the mattresses on their showroom floor.
For nearly 35 years, Precision Textiles has been one of the leading suppliers of coated fabrics, nonwovens and laminates for a variety of industries—including automotive and health care, in addition to home furnishings and mattresses—but its roots were initially established in the apparel category. Founded in 1987, the company quickly grew to become the largest domestic manufacturer of apparel interlinings. When apparel manufacturing moved predominantly to Asia, Precision Textiles followed its customer base, eventually opening more than 20 offices and several manufacturing locations in the area. Working in the fast-paced world of fashion helped establish a company culture that still prevails today—one that prioritizes creative design and ongoing innovation. It is with that same strategic approach that Precision Textiles has been able to continually push the boundaries in the sleep products categories.
Today, Precision Textiles owns and operates a 250,000-square-foot headquarters in Totowa, New Jersey, where it manufactures all of its products. With five warehouses strategically located throughout the US and in Asia, the company is able to source, develop and deliver its wide range of products from anywhere in the world. Positioning itself as a one-stop-shop for its customers, it also produces a range of bedding accessories under its SlumberShield division—such as mattress protectors, sheets, blankets and pillows—in addition to its component business.
But Precision Textiles’ true expertise is in the FR category, where it has made itself an asset to its customers’ quality programs by consistently pushing the boundaries of design and performance. While the FR layer may not be the first thing you think of when evaluating a mattress, it plays a key role in the form and function of the bed. Every mattress is required by law to meet a set of regulatory standards when it comes to FR, both on a federal and state level—but Precision Textiles goes above and beyond to make sure that the bedding brands are truly delivering the safest product possible.
“Our customers today depend on us to make sure they’re building their mattress correctly from an FR perspective to address flammability requirements,” says Scott Tesser, chief executive officer of Precision Textiles. “Because of our innovation and broad range of products, we’ve become the go-to supplier making sure that our customers meet the federal regulations.”
A valuable partner for both mattress makers and sellers, Precision Textiles ensures that all of the essential standards are met, no matter what kind of mattress it is, where it is being made and to whom it is being marketed. In order to do that, the company is constantly working to develop new products and materials. Innovation is at the center of Precision Textiles’ ethos. And by keeping a close eye on both bedding industry trends and state regulatory activity, the company is able to steer its research and development into the areas that will be most relevant and beneficial—even before they become required by law.
“Our mission is to bring that diverse portfolio of product to our customers with innovation, not just product that’s been around forever. We’re conscious of what their customers need, what the end consumer needs, and we drive our product and our research in that direction.”
—Scott Tesser, chief executive officer of Precision Textiles
Because as the industry evolves, so too must the FR solutions. Case in point: when the market began moving away from traditional quilted innerspring mattresses and more towards all-foam and roll-packed beds, Precision Textiles was already leading the charge on delivering FR barriers that would better fit those needs—including both mattress sock and laminate options. Made from a stretch textile, a sock fits snugly around the core of the mattress, while the laminate option is applied directly to the cover fabric or ticking. Both products give mattress makers more flexibility in their design, as the FR layer blends seamlessly into the construction of the bed.
“Most of what you’ve seen for years was a quilted product and then when things moved into all-foam mattresses, there was a different FR solution that was needed and that’s where we’ve been able to adapt to offer an FR sock,” says Gerry Welkley, national sales manager. “Now, the FR market has grown a lot in terms of differentiation of style and how it needs a different FR product to meet the federal regulations. As a product changes in terms of its design, then we’re there to support that with our R&D group.”
Precision Textiles isn’t just staying ahead of official regulations; it’s also evolving to address consumer concerns and interests. “It’s not just a distribution facility here,” Keith Martin, vice president, explains. “We are really developing from the ground up unique, consumer-friendly FR solutions that mattress manufacturers are going to be happy with in terms of performance and consumers are going to be happy with when they ask retailers what the components are in the mattress.”
The Shift Towards Glass-Free FR Solutions
There are a number of different materials and finishes that can be used to achieve the necessary FR standard, but fiberglass yarn has historically been the most common option. When used correctly, the glass material is a safe and effective way to block a flame from reaching the inner layers of the mattress. In recent years, though, there have been growing concerns about using fiberglass for this purpose. While its ability to protect against fire has never been questioned, other safety issues have arisen when the material breaks down over time. In such cases, consumers who inadvertently come into direct contact with the fiberglass can experience both skin and respiratory irritation.
While rare, concerns about fiberglass FR did come to a head this past year due to a class-action lawsuit against a popular online-only mattress brand—which saw more than 200 plaintiffs from across all 50 states report being exposed to the fiberglass-based FR layer by unzipping and removing the cover of the mattress. (The company claims that the cover is not supposed to be removed, despite the inclusion of the zipper in the design.) While the lawsuit was not necessarily headline news, it did make the possible issues surrounding fiberglass FR tangible for numerous consumers.
Understanding the potential risks that fiberglass poses, Precision Textiles has been ahead of this issue for a while. The company first started working on developing a glass-free FR solution three years ago—long before the problem hit public consciousness.
“There’s been a lot of talk in the industry about eliminating glass in mattress FR socks because of the obvious issues,” Tesser explains. “We’ve been developing that product for quite some time now, because we feel a responsibility to our customers to be ahead of that curve. And our customers are now telling us that they’re aware of those concerns and we’re starting to get some inquiries about a sock that is glass-free.”
Today, Precision Textiles offers a variety of different glass-free FR solutions—including its IQFit and EcoFlex glass-free barriers. Available as both a mattress sock and a wide-width format that is laminated to the mattress ticking, the IQFit Glass-Free barriers are made with cellulosic fiber, which provides the maximum FR protection at a high char strength without the inclusion of fiberglass or chemical finishes. In addition to being glass-free, this product is also certified for low chemical emissions under UL’s GREENGUARD Gold standard and just recently received OEKO-Tex certification as well—adding yet another layer to its health and safety assurance. Additionally, Precision Textiles also offers its patented EcoFlex product: a non-woven, stretch-recovery, glass-free solution that is predominately laminated to fabrics.
Connecting With Today’s More Engaged Consumer
Not only do these glass-free products serve as a safer FR solution, they also meet a growing trend among consumers who are more interested in how their sleep products are made.
In fact, Precision Textiles encountered this burgeoning interest first-hand when—following an initial round of promotion for its glass-free FR solutions—it began receiving calls from consumers looking to buy those products directly. While that type of distribution is not something the component supplier is currently in the position to entertain, it did reinforce just how valuable this kind of solution is in today’s market.
“We’re actually starting to see the consumer question what is going into their mattress. For us, that’s a great sign. Awareness is the biggest issue for us and if the consumer is aware, then the retailer and the manufacturer certainly need to pay attention to that. So we think the glass-free trend is going to grow fairly quickly.”
—Scott Tesser, chief executive officer of Precision Textiles
In some ways, the added attention of what goes into the mattress is an extension of consumers’ ever-growing interest in sustainability. Across the board, shoppers are devoting more attention than ever before on researching products before they buy—and, increasingly, they are looking to invest in brands that commit to sustainability. According to Forrester, today’s consumers are actively scouting out information on everything from company values to manufacturing and supply chain practices when they shop. That research found that “68% of highly empowered consumers plan to step up their efforts to identify brands that reduce environmental impact,” and “61% seek out energy-efficient labels when making purchases.”
These shifting consumer sentiments are reflected across Precision Textiles’ entire product portfolio as well. The company’s IQFit Natural FR barrier is not only glass-free and certified low in VOC emissions—it is also made with renewable, hypoallergenic cotton that will eventually biodegrade when composted. Additionally, it is free of both para-aramid and antimony (two fire resistant chemicals that can also cause respiratory and skin irritation)—making it the ideal finishing touch to an all-natural sleep system.
Not limited to just all-foam and bed-in-a-box makers, Precision Textiles also makes these innovative FR solutions available in more traditional quilted forms as well. For those mattress models, the company offers its ECOLOFT and Vertically Lapped Densified Eco-Pad products, which are made from recycled and regenerated polyesters. Not only can these products seamlessly displace some of the foam allocations in the layers below the quilted panel—but, in doing so, they also make the bed more eco-friendly.
And as VP Keith Martin sees it, these products are opportunities for manufacturers to turn lemons into lemonade when it comes to supply chain disruptions. “The demand for our polyester-based products for quilting purposes has shot up because more and more of our customers just haven’t been able to get enough quilting foam—and also the prices have gone through the roof,” he explains. “If marketed correctly, they can promote a lot more in terms of sustainability. Some of the mattress manufacturers have really latched onto that and there are some great stories that are going to come out of this.”
A Consistent & Reliable Production Strategy
In many ways, Precision Textiles has set itself apart through this ability to provide its customers with a sense of both consistency and opportunity throughout the pandemic. At a time when many manufacturers were struggling with supply chain issues and fulfillment delays, the company was delivering its products on-time—thanks to strategic sourcing and five fully stocked warehouses throughout the US.
“The issues with freight from overseas and certain chemical [shortages] have really wreaked havoc on everybody, but our responsibility to our customers is to have the product that they need in stock. So each location is now stocked with more product than we’ve ever had,” Tesser explains. “It’s just a decision that we made here that we wanted to do our best to make sure that there was no disruption in supply. To date, it’s worked out—our customers haven’t had any disruption in supply from us.”
In order to keep up with its own innovation, Precision Textiles scours the globe for sourcing—bringing the best nonwoven, yarn, knitting and weaving technologies back to New Jersey to incorporate into its products and solutions. The company also has manufacturing locations across Asia, so that it can deliver its products for its customers that produce their mattresses abroad as well. This approach ensures a level of consistency that underpins the Precision Textiles brand. No matter where the mattress is being made, manufacturers and retailers can be confident that the Precision Textiles components will meet the same standards of quality and performance.
As Precision Textiles continues to grow, the need for more regional manufacturing has only become more apparent. But rather than adding capacity to its New Jersey headquarters, the company has plans to bring new production facilities to North Carolina and Arizona—which Tesser says will be “the best move to continually provide our customers with the best services.”
As today’s consumers actively seek out more information and transparency from the brands they buy, the right components suppliers can be the key to building a more successful sales strategy. Precision Textiles delivers more than just the necessary mattress safety standards—it goes above and beyond to provide retailers with meaningful selling points and shoppers with the added reassurance that the mattress they are buying is truly safe, secure and sustainable.