PORSCHE BRIDGES BEDDING, AUTO INDUSTRIES

ORLANDO, Fla. — The sales tickets for their products may be thousands – or hundreds of thousands of dollars – apart, but the bedding and automotive industries share several similarities, a leading business consultant said here.

Dr. Norman Firchau, CEO of Porsche Consulting, identified more than a dozen similarities in an address at Furniture/Today’s Bedding Conference.

Among them: They are both competing for a share of the consumer’s disposable dollars, the experience customers have with their products is critical, peer group recommendations are important, consumers prepare themselves online, consumers have many options and alternatives to consider, most sales occur on weekends, and retailers in both industries must close sales quickly or the customer will buy somewhere else.

And Operational Excellence, the discipline that built Porsche into a worldwide leader in the automotive industry, can also help the bedding industry improve its performance, he said.

Firchau presented an overview of the steps that Porsche took to transform its business, and then conference attendees met in a series of breakout sessions to apply the Porsche lessons to the mattress industry.

Keith Lamar, left, and Kevin Schwutke, right, both of Porsche Consulting, meet with Alfredo Lopez of El Dorado Furniture, Miami Gardens, Fla., at a breakout session at the Bedding Conference.

The Porsche Consulting leaders who facilitated the sessions reported that many companies in the bedding industry share similar challenges to those faced by Porsche. They compiled a list of high-performance approaches used by Porsche that could help the bedding industry address several of its issues. (See accompanying story.)

Firchau, who admitted that his own mattress shopping experience was a difficult and frustrating one, began his career as an assistant professor in engineering design in 1998 and joined Porsche Consulting in 2003, where he worked mostly in automotive research and development and supplier integration.

Porsche Consulting brings blue-chip credentials to its consulting work. The company is one of Germany’s leading management consulting companies, with six offices around the world. Its leaders focus on Operational Excellence strategies, and work with companies around the world in the automotive and aerospace industries, among others.

Firchau is based at the company’s Atlanta offices, on One Porsche Drive at the company’s Experience Center, where customers can put Porsches to the test on a specially designed road course.

He is enjoying his work in the mattress industry. “I look forward to Porsche Consulting partnering with the bedding industry on its journey to supply chain and sales funnel excellence,” he said.

The Porsche sessions were sponsored by Serta Simmons Bedding, a major sponsor of the Bedding Conference.