Professional Perch Master Marty Roberts talks to us about vacuforming, comfort and the appeal of the great outdoors. After 30 years in the seating business, if you sit on it, he’s worked on it.
At Morbern, you serve as Sales Manager for Vacuform and Transportation. I think we can agree that the term “vacuform” isn’t entirely self-explanatory. Can you help us understand it?
Vacuforming is a process where a material is formed into a shape using suction. For example, to make a seat cushion like a golf cart or a lawn mower seat, the vinyl is heated and placed over a mold and a vacuum pulls it into the mold and shapes it. Next, foam is poured into the mold on top of the vinyl. Or sometimes once the vinyl cools, it is removed and stretched over a foam cushion. Vacuum forming is used in manufacturing for many applications, like forming plastic for (food or medical) packaging trays.
We know you have vast manufacturing and engineering experience. What were you doing before you joined Morbern?
I started my career working for Woodbridge Corporation, an automotive seat foam manufacturer. During college, I interned with the Woodbridge plant engineer and upon graduation, I was hired as a full-time employee.
I stayed with Woodbridge for more than thirteen years in various roles, starting as a process engineer formulating parts on the line, monitoring foam line equipment and eventually launching new programs. In 2007, I moved to Minnesota to work for Select Comfort, makers of the Sleep Number Bed. I began as a foam project engineer and moved into textiles and overall bed construction. After seven years with Select Comfort, I returned to Woodbridge to work with their non-automotive customers’ off-road vehicles and golf carts as a product manager, and then as the business development manager for their diversified group.
Four years ago, I relocated back to Wisconsin to work for Milsco Manufacturing as a project and sales manager in the heavy industry seat market.
Overall, my experience has taken me from pouring foam, to designing tools, to testing seats for performance and comfort. When it comes to seats–whether in cars, trucks, tractors, snowmobiles, motorcycles, golf carts, or even beds–I have 30 years of experience in all aspects of manufacturing and sales.
You’ve worked on many products over the years, from mattresses to sheet metal. Which has been the most interesting and why?
The most interesting product I have worked on so far in my career was mattresses. Working for an innovative company and being responsible for designing and developing new materials and products was a rewarding challenge. I truly enjoyed the complexity of figuring out the right combinations of materials and constructions to balance the aesthetic side of mattresses with durability and function. Comfort is so subjective. People spend one-third of their lives on mattresses, but usually spend only an hour or two selecting one that they will have for 7 to 10 years. My job was to ensure customers had the best choices available and were happy when they laid their heads down to sleep every night.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I had an uncle who mentored me as a kid, and I grew up working most summers on his farm. He encouraged me to work hard, play hard and enjoy what I do!
What can we find you doing when you’re not at work?
I love the outdoors. My first love is downhill skiing, but I also enjoy hiking, biking, running, snowshoeing, bird hunting…and the list goes on. I also love working with my hands, so woodworking, metal fabrication and working on cars and engines also keep me busy.