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Morbern Blog Articles

Morbern’s Bantam Receives Oeko-Tex Certification

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Bantam, Morbern’s lightweight, environmentally friendly healthcare market vinyl, has just received approval from Oeko-Tex, the international organization that sets standards for safe, consumer friendly textiles.

Specifically, Bantam received the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 label, one of the world’s best-known labels for textiles tested for harmful substances. The Standard 100 label ensures that every component of the product has been examined and is harmless to human health. The tests look at regulated and non-regulated substances and in many cases the requirements for the Standard 100 label go beyond national and international requirements.

Morbern joins a list of international brands that carry the Standard 100 label including Glen Raven and Unifi.

Bantam, introduced in 2020, was designed for healthcare interiors, which require high performance products that are also healthy and sustainable. Free of anti-microbial additives, phthalates and flame retardants yet CAL TB-117 compliant, Bantam shows no wear after 100,000 double rubs and is cold crack resistant to -25 F. It can handle stains like cola, coffee and ketchup, and easily cleans with soap and water.

Bantam’s environmentally friendly attributes means it falls under the MorGreen label, Morbern’s initiative to create products that are sustainable, responsible and leave as little environmental impact as possible.

Delve Magazine: On Cleanliness and Function: Solid Surface Fabrics at the Forefront

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Thinking back to January 2020, who could have predicted that hand sanitizer would be one of the hottest selling products of the year, or that extreme cleanliness would become a critical determinant in the operability of restaurants, hotels, schools and offices? The impact of COVID-19 on these businesses is certainly painful to measure. But what did it teach us about our work going forward? Is there a new preference for design and materials?  At least two elements stand out: the need for spacing and the importance of cleanable materials. Let’s take a look at cleanable materials.

One year ago, the COVID-ravaged world needed something that could ensure a clean and safe environment. Not just standard cleanliness, but clinical cleanliness. The best surfaces, both soft (think upholstery) and hard (think countertops), for impeccable hygiene are solid, unbroken, and impermeable. They serve as both a barrier between the product and user, and a flat surface that can’t hide dirt and germs.

Coated fabrics like PVC (vinyl) and PU meet those needs. They serve as an excellent barrier that’s cost effective, safe, cleanable and impermeable. Although the ability to withstand cleaners depends on the fabric’s coating, many vinyls and some PUs are bleach-cleanable.

This used to be an asset only desired by the healthcare market, but with the onset of COVID-19, many commercial interiors markets found themselves in need of highly cleanable surfaces that would withstand daily disinfection routines.

With solid surfaces like vinyl, the buck stops here. Or at least the germs do. A solid surface will always outperform a woven textile when it comes to cleanliness and durability. And there is no better upholstery choice when it comes to cleanliness. Fabrics succumb to harsh cleaners and harbor bacteria and viruses within its woven surfaces. Leathers are mostly impermeable but can’t handle cleaners that eliminate bacteria and viruses. PUs and PVCs are also safe, stable and PVC is inherently flame retardant and resistant. What’s more topcoats for PVC impart critical performance properties. Depending on the type of coating, they can enhance abrasion and stain resistance, surface cleanability and provide UV resistance. They can also improve mold and mildew resistance.

So why do solid surfaces like PVC and PU get a bad rap? The main challenge is user education. Lots of times we champion a seemingly superior product that’s only good until we find out the rest of the story. Often times it is the product whose story we hear the most – something that’s determined by the size of a corporation’s marketing budget, not the quality of the product. The story we hear becomes the story we tell.

In the case of PVC and PU, fabric companies have done an excellent job telling their story, and touting the importance of using a natural material that can be recycled. But what’s missing is in their story are the cleanability, durability and lifespan chapters.

Let’s look at a case study in the mass transit market. In July of 2018, The Los Angeles Times reported that the Los Angeles County Metro system switched their seating from fabric to vinyl. Citing years of consumer complaints, exorbitant dry-cleaning bills and millions of dollars spent on fabric replacement, the L.A. Metro decided to change its subway seating from fabric to vinyl because vinyl is non-absorbent, cheaper to install and easier to keep clean.

So, what were passengers and staff complaining about? Everything from blood and human waste to bed bugs and lice –not to mention spilled food and beverages— was found in the fabric seats. One of the executives even called fabric a “housing development for germs.”

Wasn’t the fabric seating cleanable?  Yes, but it often required specialty cleaning, not just a normal wipe down by Metro staff. And some of the fabric seating was damaged beyond repair, meaning the Metro system spent lots of money replacing fabric seats. If a product is replaced often, it’s not durable. And it’s not durable it’s not sustainable. Period.

It’s not that vinyl is good and fabric is bad, or vice versa. There’s a time and a use best fitted to each material. What’s more, you can’t judge the pros and cons of a product simply based on its ingredients. You must go beyond the product to evaluate the manufacturer and process. What do they do to lessen environmental impact? Do they champion waste reduction in the manufacturing process? Have they reduced emissions? Are they held to certain standards and yearly testing by an environmentally conscious organization?

Vinyl companies like Morbern have long looked for ways to reduce environmental impact. It was among the first manufacturers of coated fabrics to completely eliminate heavy metals such as lead and cadmium. It ensures that the water flowing out at the end of the manufacturing process is clean enough to drink. And it installed a new coater to better control emissions and improve the air quality of its surrounding community.

When it comes down to it, nothing does the job like vinyl. Vinyl lasts twice as long as fabric does, which often ends up in landfills because of the need to replace fabric often. And it is the cleanest upholstery option available in today’s market. Vinyl’s durability, impermeability and affordability make it the best choice for commercial interior upholstery.

Coming Clean About Vinyl

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In a post-COVID world, being clean is one of the most critical components of upholstery, particularly in commercial settings. Whether in a hotel, on a plane or in a healthcare facility, being able to properly clean and disinfect furnishings is more important than ever.

In most upholstery, fabric applications will not stand up to the rigors of cleaning required to remove viruses and bacteria. Enter vinyl.

The best surfaces for proper hygiene are solid, unbroken and impermeable, like vinyl. They serve as both a barrier between the product and user, as well as a flat surface that cant hide dirt and germs or let liquids permeate. A solid surface will always outperform a woven textile when it comes to cleanliness and durability.

And while leathers are mostly impermeable, they can’t handle the rigors of cleaners that eliminate bacteria and viruses. But vinyl can offer the style of leather, along with its impermeable qualities, with an added dose of durability that allows it to remain undisturbed by harsh cleaning products.

Topcoats are important, too. Vinyl topcoats for PVC impart critical performance properties. A coating can enhance abrasion and stain resistance, surface cleanability and provide UV resistance. They can also improve mold and mildew resistance.

But being “clean” isn’t just about maintenance techniques. That word also refers to a product’s sustainability and environmental impact, a factor that also has increased in importance since the pandemic.

Inherently, vinyl is a more sustainable product than most fabrics, because vinyl lasts twice as long as fabric does in the field. Meaning those fabrics often end up in landfills because of the need to replace them more often. And Morberns dedicated second-quality team redirects material to other markets and applications so that it is kept out of landfill sites.

Beyond that, Morbern has taken additional steps to reduce its carbon footprint and environmental impact.

Unlike other polymers such as PU, 50% of PVC (vinyl) is made up of common salt – this makes it less reliant on fossil fuel and easily recyclable. Large quantities of vinyl are re-melted into many useful products and, in contrast to silicone, numerous vinyl-recycling facilities can be found all over the world.

At the plant, Morbern uses 99% renewable hydroelectric power, and its closed-loop cooling circuits installed in 2016 reduced the company’s water consumption by more than 75%. And the water that flows out of the plant at the end of the manufacturing process is clean enough to drink.

To improve air quality, Morbern uses low-VOC (volatile organic compounds), water-based top coat finishes rather than solvent formulations. And the company installed a new coater to better control emissions and improve the air quality of its surrounding community.

Being clean—both physically and environmentally—means more than ever. And Morbern continues to innovate and improve both the cleanability of their products and the clean processes to make them.

Get to know Morbern CEO Mark Bloomfield

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For Morbern CEO Mark Bloomfield, the family business has been an integral part of his life, even prior to his 30 years of working for the company. And while many know him for his leadership of the business, there’s much more to Bloomfield outside the office.

We recently chatted with him about his personal philosophies on business and life, as well as what drives him outside the work arena.

What is your leadership philosophy, and what are the most important attributes of leaders today?

I believe that a strong leaders main role is to help his/her staff be successful. This is done by allowing an appropriate autonomy for their departments. I also strive to address issues without assigning blame, and just attack the problem itself. By the nature of my role, I usually only see the serious problems, and I am there to help address these most difficult problems in the most effective manner.

Who has been the greatest mentor in your life?

My father has taught me most of what I know about business. I am one of the luckiest executives, as I was on an executive training path starting when I was 16 years old (even though I didn’t realize it at the time).

Do you have any favorite quotes?

Two of my favorite business quotes are:

Put the right person in the right job and watch them go.”   —Unknown

In god we trust. All others bring data”  —W. Edwards Demming

What would you put on a billboard?

“Show me the data.”

What do you like to do in your free time?

I bike, downhill ski and enjoy reading. I am a bit of a tech geek, and I listen to podcasts. Pre-COVID, I enjoyed traveling, but now staycations are the name of the game.

You have several dogs—what it is about canines that you connect with?

I had three, but one just passed away. Dogs are the best. Every time your dog sees you, they react like they havent seen you in years, even if you just ran to the corner store. That kind of unconditional love – who couldn’t love that?

If you weren’t with Morbern, where would we find you?

If I had the talent? Starting left defense for the Montreal Canadiens. I love hockey. Most of the people I interact with already know I am a diehard Canadiens fan.

With the talent I do have, I would find a similar job. I truly enjoy manufacturing—working with smart people, creating physical products from ideas. In almost any commercial site, I am always looking at the seating or upholstery to see if it was made by Morbern. Once I saw a Super Bowl commercial on TV with Jerry Seinfeld and Jason Alexander, sitting on a seat made from material I was personally involved in developing. That was cool.

Morbern CEO reflects on 30 years with the business, Part Two

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We recently sat down with Morbern CEO Mark Bloomfield to talk about how he got into the business. Today we talk with Mark about leadership, Morbern’s incredible workforce and the future of vinyl.

Read part one of our interview.

What do you feel is the biggest strength of Morbern right now?

We have an internal DNA throughout the company of always striving to do better. While we are very proud of winning Canadas Best Managed, we know we can do so much more. I maintain lists of all the projects we have to improve our business year over year, and we do this for all areas of our business—raw materials, efficiencies, yields, IT, accounting, training, environmental, HR, etc.

How would you describe the Morbern workforce? 
I have enjoyed working with all the employees I interact with. Respect is important at Morbern, and I find that helps make the workplace more enjoyable. Our employees are a diligent, hard-working bunch, and a big component of our success.

What does employee leadership look like?

It is honestly seeking input from all employees, no matter how junior. Its also being willing to admit to not knowing everything, to admit when you are wrong, to show up with a good attitude and a positive work ethic, and to be respectful.

How do you keep your team motivated despite conflicts and obstacles?

With a positive work attitude. We do not attack people, we attack problems. When there’s a crisis, we work together to fix it. We then have a debrief, and discuss how to prevent this problem from occurring again.

How did Morbern navigate the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic?

When COVID hit North America, we used the time for R&D.  We didn’t layoff any employees, even though our sales fell by more than 50%. This R&D philosophy has driven our sales greatly, well before COVID hit.

What is your vision for Morbern and its employees over the next 10 years?

Our vision statement is To bring innovative upholstery fabrics to every corner of the world.” We feel we can export our Canadian-designed products to anywhere in the world. We expect to continue our growth strategy and to continue to search out new markets for our technology.

Morbern CEO reflects on 30 years with the business, Part One

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Growing up, Mark Bloomfield wasn’t always sure he would follow in his father’s footsteps and work in the family business at Morbern. But as he got older and discovered his passion for business, he realized the family company was the perfect place to apply and cultivate his natural business acumen. Thirty years after taking on his first full-time role with the company, Bloomfield now serves as Morbern’s CEO.

We recently caught up with Bloomfield to learn more about his history with Morbern and what he thinks makes this company so special.

How long have you been with Morbern, and what were some of your roles throughout the years?
I started in 1984 as a summer student. My first job was cutting samples for testing. For the next seven summers, I worked all sorts of entry-level jobs, including painting walls one summer. After my manager questioned my painting skills, I realized I had better get an education.

I graduated McGill University in winter 1990, and started full-time at Morbern on February 3, 1991. In my first 15 years, I worked throughout the organization—production planning, R&D coordinator, sales and marketing, and information technology. In 2004 I became vice president sales and marketing. I was promoted to president in 2008, and became the chief executive officer in 2012.

Did you aspire to become part of the business? Was it challenging joining the company as a family member?
Honestly, I didn’t know what I wanted to do until I had finished CEGEP (a post-high school program in Quebec that all students are required for university). I was graduating with a degree in pure and applied sciences, but I was looking for variety in my career. Business seemed to offer more choice than a science-based career. There had never been any pressure to become involved in the family business, but I thought that I would enjoy the challenges of a business career. Joining the team was easy. Everyone was so nice. I never felt any dislike or conflict from the existing employees at the time because of who I was.

Do you have any memories of visiting the company as a young child?
Absolutely. Every year, we had company Christmas parties and summer barbecues. I went to these every year from the ages of 5 to 12. My children also got to continue this tradition. One summer, as a young child, my family even lived in a trailer at a local campground, so my father could spend more time at the facility.

Are there any favorite stories you like to tell about the company?
There are so many, but some are personal. The company is called Morbern because MORris Bloomfield and BERNie Stein started the company in 1965. When they needed the name, Morris won first billing in the company name because a company called Bern-more wouldn’t be a good look for a textile company.

Morbern has prepared Christmas meals for families facing economic challenges for 26 straight years, only discontinuing in 2020 due to COVID restrictions. In those years, more than 1,200 families had their Christmas holiday needs and wishes provided for—full Christmas dinner, presents for the kids and holiday staples. The workforce in Cornwall has been 100% responsible for this endeavor.

Vinyl vs. Polyurethane: Which is Better? Part 2

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How do polyurethane coated fabrics and vinyl coated farbics differ? In our previous post, we examined several elements as it relates to vinyl and polyurethane, namely durability and cleanability. This week we tackle flame resistance and environmental impact.

Flame Resistance Particularly in upholstery applications, flame resistance is an important property. Vinyl is inherently flame retardant, while polyurethane offers some flame resistance and needs added flame retardants to meet the same flame retardancy as vinyl.

Environmental Impact Sustainability has become an important consideration for many when choosing materials. And vinyl is a good choice for those looking to reduce their environmental impact. Not only does it last longer—meaning it’s less likely to be discarded—it’s also recyclable, routinely processed into roofing materials and other applications.

Polyurethane upholstery is made from cross linked plastics which means it cannot be remelted and reused. Some can theoretically be recycled after consumer use, but not as feasibly as vinyl, which can be remelted and reused.

Polyurethane is made from 100% crude oil. Vinyl is made from 50% table salt, so it uses less oil to make the same weight of material as polyurethanes. Plus Polyurethane uses isocyanates in their production, a material that is known to cause lung sensitivity and asthma.

When it comes to manufacturing the majority of Morbern’s vinyls are produced domestically so they save not only time, but also money in freight fees. Most polyurethanes are made overseas resulting in more green house gases being produced by the ocean vessels which are big contributors to CO2 emissions.

Vinyl is an attractive choice for a number of applications, from medical to marine, hospitality to home office, automotive and recreational vehicles. Next time you’re looking for an affordable, durable and cleanable upholstery covering, choose vinyl and experience how this long-lasting coated fabric performs over time.

Vinyl vs. Polyurethane: Which is Better? Part 1

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There is a lot of information out there about polyurethane as an upholstery cover, but not so much about vinyl. Both are effective, man-made coated fabrics used in a wide variety of settings, and both form an impenetrable barrier between user and product.

So where do they differ? Here’s a look at how the two materials stack up:

Durability Vinyl has been proven to last years longer in the field than polyurethane, which succumbs to moisture loses elasticity over time.

Vinyl is not susceptible to water or moisture from occupants. That is why vinyl is used in swimming pool liners and for window frames and vinyl siding. With the correct topfinish, many vinyl fabrics feel like natural leather. Interestingly, all major automotive companies have replaced all polyurethane and most leather upholstery with vinyl fabrics.

Cleanability With the COVID-19 pandemic making it critical to properly disinfect surfaces, cleanability has become one of the most important characteristics of upholstered surfaces. Vinyl is highly cleanable, standing up to the rigors of bleach and quaternary ammonia. In contrast, polyurethane is vulnerable to many cleaning agents and disinfectants, making it more difficult to clean without damaging the material, resulting is fading, flaking and brittleness.

That cleanability, along with vinyl’s ability to serve as an effective barrier against germs, has made it invaluable for use in personal protection equipment, protecting medical professionals from some of the most virulent diseases in the world.

Adapting to Change: How Morbern Has Responded to an Evolving Market

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The upholstery marketplace is ever-changing, and that has never been more true than in the year since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. John Weaver, executive vice president, sales and marketing at Morbern shares the changes he’s seen and how Morbern is evolving to meet those needs.

For those who may not be familiar, can you tell me a bit about Morbern? 

Morbern is a geographically diverse organization with sales and operations throughout the world. We have a presence in Canada, the United States, Mexico, South America, multiple countries in Europe, Africa, India and throughout the Asian Pacific.

We are primarily focused on upholstery applications—our products are PVC-coated fabrics, PU-coated fabrics and body cloth fabrics.

Morbern serves multiple markets, including transportation, marine, recreational products, commercial interiors and entertainment venues, focusing on transportation and public seating areas. You’ll find our products in automobiles, heavy trucks, tow motor vehicles (like those found in manufacturing warehouse facilities), recreational vehicles, mass transit vehicles, marine craft, cruise liners, hospitals and medical facilities, hotels, casinos, airports and personal vehicles like jet skis and golf carts. If you can sit on it, it’s a market we serve.

Of the markets you’re in, which are growing/changing the most?

All our markets are growing and changing. Customer demand and expectations for performance improvement are unrelenting, and the challenge to meet changes in expectations is continuous.

What performance attributes are key in your fabrics?

Tailor-ability is key in all our markets. Our products are primarily used in upholstery applications, so the ease of cutting, sewing and tailoring is paramount. To meet the customer’s tailor-ability requirements, our products have to meet guidelines for strength, stretch, consistency and weight.

How have these attributes changed? 

The customers’ expectations continue to increase, so our performance coated fabrics need to improve continuously. For example, in regard to clean-ability, cleaning with soap and water was enough in the past. Now, the fabric has to withstand the harsh cleaners and disinfectants (while still being soap- and water-cleanable). And with tailor-ability, previously, our product was used in low-stretch applications. Now, all parts of an application, such as a fully upholstered seat, are covered with our product. Being able to tailor around tight radii is an essential characteristic of our products.

Do you use special coatings on finishes on the fabrics to enhance performance?

Every yard manufactured is coated for the performance requirements of our customers. When a product leaves our facility, it is maintenance-free from a coating perspective, as our customers need not apply or reapply any finishes. The only maintenance required is the cleaning of the product, and that is at the customers’ discretion. And again, cleaning with soap and water is the most effective.

How have the requirements from the health care industry changed over the past couple of years?

The healthcare industry is evolving rapidly, and it has driven several new requirements. The industry called for phthalate- and flame retardant-free fabrics, so we created a full line of phthalate-free and flame retardant-free materials. The health care industry also called for upholstery that’s able to be cleaned with quat disinfectants and bleach, so we developed fabrics to respond to that demand. Finally, the desire for mildew retardant-free materials spurred us to develop a full line for use in health care.

Aside from obvious differences, like water-repellency, UV-resistance, etc., how do the performance and style needs for outdoor fabrics differ from those of indoor fabrics?

Customers expect the same quality, performance and cleanability standards, no matter where they use their materials. Our outdoor material must meet the indoor requirements –such as cleanability, longevity, durability, tailorability—and the additional requirements of UV performance (resistance to fading) and mildew resistance.

An Interview with Jean Claude Chabot

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Since 1996, Jean Claude Chabot has been an integral part of the Morbern team. Currently vice president of process improvement at Morbern, and formerly vice president of manufacturing operations, Chabot is a trained chemist with a long history of shaping Morbern’s products and processes.

We recently caught up with Chabot to learn more about his experience and the role of chemistry in Morbern’s products.

You speak French and English—how did you become bilingual? 

I was born and raised in French Québec in a multiethnic neighborhood. I learned the basics of English in high school, but when I joined the Canadian Armed Forces Naval Reserve, I was immersed in an English environment. Because lives are at stakes in a military environment, there cannot be any miscommunication, so English was the only language spoken. The learning curve in that environment is at warp speed.

Speaking the language of another group allows one to be exposed to their history, their art and their culture, and provides a vehicle to connect personally to people who otherwise would stay foreign to you.

What other lessons did you learn in the Navy? 

The Armed Forces is a mini-society were everyone has to count on each other for a common goal—the goals are often impossible to achieve by one person alone and require a group effort. No jobs are futile, and every job is equally important.  But the most important thing I learned is that you can vigorously debate your ideas with your leader during the preparation phase, however, when a decision is made, the job has to be carried out, and it’s not the time to argue.

What sparked your interest in chemistry? 

Science and understanding how things work have always been passions of mine, even from a young age. Two chemistry professors in college opened my eyes on the impact of chemistry in today’s world.

What role does chemistry play in the development of vinyl?

Chemistry defines the performance attributes of an article and the process parameters that must be observed for a product to process efficiently. However, mechanical engineering, industrial engineering, statistics, finance, sales and regulatory roles are just as important.

Do you have a favorite product youve developed? 

The bulk of my career with Morbern was in production management and process improvement, and during that time my group developed the original automotive product lines for Ford and General Motors. My favorite endeavors are ones our customers are not necessarily aware of—I get the greatest pleasure in streamlining production operations, correcting problems, maximizing utilization of raw materials and reducing waste.

What drove you to spend most of your career at Morbern?

I am a faithful person, and I feel a sense of responsibility for Morbern’s success as a business and as a corporate citizen. Morbern provides an intellectually stimulating environment—members of my group have been selected for their creativity and excellence, and it’s very stimulating and challenging to be around them. What keeps me going is the satisfaction of the small successes realized every day.

What are the biggest changes youve seen since joining Morbern?

The biggest change is the reduction of cost for acquiring and manipulating data. Sensors and software to manage large databases are more accessible today. It’s not unusual for a factory of our size to capture and control 1,000+ variables spread over several processes.

How do you translate high-level scientific concepts when talking to non-science-based teams?

As a young chemist, I remember giving a technical presentation to an audience composed of technical and lay people. I could clearly feel the interest of the technical members and the complete boredom of the others. I quickly learned that technical people will mentally fill in the gaps in a conversation where the level of language is more suited to the lay person, but the opposite is not true. You have to ensure the concepts are clearly explained with words that are meaningful to your audience.

If money was no object, what would we find you doing?

I’d hire help for housework, yard work—I wouldn’t even change a light bulb. I’d be more available for my family and spend more time with my grandchildren.