A February storm that pummeled Texas and Louisiana led to a shortage of foam used to pad the arms and backs of furniture. That shortage is being felt in manufacturing plants in North Carolina.
Roy Calcagne, the CEO for Craftmaster in Hickory offered a succinct assessment of the situation: “It’s terrible.”
The severe winter storm knocked out foam manufacturing plants for days. Among those plants were producers of the two chemicals required to make flexible foam used in upholstered furniture, Calcagne said.
The chemical polyol is made in several manufacturing facilities across the U.S., but the majority are located around the Gulf of Mexico, according to EverChem Specialty Chemicals, a chemical marketing and sales company and one of Calcagne’s sources of information on the situation.
The second chemical, toluene diisocyanate (TDI), is made in the U.S. at only two plants — one in Texas and one in Louisiana — according to EverChem. Both were hit by the storm.
“Because of the ice storms and power outages, these companies were slow to come back online,” Calcagne said.
Foam manufacturers, which use the chemicals to create foam for furniture manufacturers, don’t keep a large supply of the chemicals on hand, according to EverChem. With the chemicals rolling out slowly from the source, foam manufacturers are limited in their production. That means furniture companies are receiving about half of what they normally get, Calcagne said.
The shortage affects foam and furniture makers across the United States, Calcagne said.
“It’s pretty much decimated our industry,” he said.
With no foam to fill furniture, Craftmaster was forced to cut production to three days a week, Calcagne said. The company chose to pay workers for an extra day to help them get by.
Century Furniture in Hickory is also feeling the effects. Since early March, production hours in some departments have been cut by a half day or a full day each week. CEO Alex Shuford said he expects more cuts in late March and April.
“It’s a pretty bad situation,” Shuford said. “It looks like shortages are going to last for a while, and it's definitely going to impact almost all the factories in the upholstery industry around here in their ability to operate.”
Shuford expects Century’s production to be down 30 to 40% in March and for that slowdown to last into April. The foam allocations Century is getting have slowly gotten smaller since foam was first limited in early March, Shuford said.
Shuford said he expects the shortage to add two weeks to Century’s production time. “The situation is far from stable and so our predictions are changing weekly,” Shuford said.
Calcagne said the foam shortage comes on top of growing orders. Business has boomed since late 2020 after a dip during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Craftmaster saw 70% growth in its business from June to March, Calcagne said. Even before the decrease in foam supply, they couldn’t keep up with the orders.