New year, new opportunities
The year 2020 was a non-stop ride for Purple, yet thanks to its industry leading supply chain infrastructure and company-wide performance it enters 2021 firing on all cylinders
As Vice President of Supply Chain for one of the leading disruptive direct-to-consumer multi-channel brands in the mattress industry, Purple Innovation, Mike Schultz’s responsibilities within this rapidly growing and evolving business are understandably numerous. Having joined Purple at the beginning of 2018, Mike today oversees a number of functional areas throughout the organization, which are broken up into departments. Said areas include purchasing and production planning, sales and operations planning, quality control, logistics, transportation and global trade compliance, sourcing – both domestic and international – warehousing (which encompasses inventory control) and fulfilment (which includes home delivery).
When Mike came into the business, Purple was already turning over approximately $200 million in annual revenue, yet he freely admits that, at the time, it lacked the necessary infrastructure to support the high rates of growth that it was experiencing. Fast forward to January 2021, however, and the efforts of Mike and the rest of the Purple team have put the company in a much stronger position than arguably ever before.
“I strongly feel that with the team and infrastructure we have in place today, Purple is in the best possible position to maintain its strong rate of growth, while continuing to fine tune itself in order to become increasingly profitable,” Mike states. “We remain incredibly focused on our customer centric activities, and therefore our fulfilment and delivery operations continue to get a lot of attention. We also work continuously on operation discipline in order to minimize mistakes and channel our efforts into managing our growth, as opposed to spending time fighting fires.
“Meanwhile, moving forward more of our efforts will be channelled towards achieving greater efficiencies. When a business is in a high growth mode, it can be easy to experience death by 1000 cuts when it comes to waste, shrinkage and so forth. Therefore, it falls upon us in the supply chain – and indeed throughout Purple – to minimize such things wherever possible. I believe that we have done an excellent job in doing so to date, and we will continue to work to get the best out of Purple, whilst maintaining a culture that is based around high performance.”
At the heart of Purple’s achievements to date has been its people. “It takes a certain type of personality and mentality to handle a high growth, high pressure type of environment like the one we have here at Purple,” Mike explains. “What it often comes down to is temperament and work ethic, and we look for those qualities
in everyone who comes into the business, from the top down. We have people within the business who come from a variety of backgrounds, from veterans to extreme sports enthusiasts (in a previous life Mike himself was a keen ice climber), and they share a desire to perform and to win, even if that means having to suffer for it at times!”
Possessing the right temperament and personality also comes into play when selecting which suppliers and vendors Purple forges relationships with. “Due to our brand profile and the fact that we excel in what is a premium space within our industry, a lot is expected of Purple as a brand, and we expect a lot in return from the suppliers and vendors we work with,” Mike adds. “From the outset, we are wholly realistic with said businesses about what our own expectations are, as well as what our limitations may be. We also do not shy away from the fact that we do push our vendors at times to get as much out of them as possible, so their ability to handle this and be flexible to our requirements is also a matter of high consideration. If they are seen to be able to meet such demands, and have a personality that matches our own, then we are confident that both parties will be a great fit for one another.”
Reflecting on the year just gone (2020), much of the company’s efforts were understandably dictated by the effects of Covid-19 and how Purple could continue to operate in a manner that – first and foremost – protected its people, yet also meet the growing demand for its products. “Employee safety was clearly paramount for us throughout 2020, and this required us to pivot the way our manufacturing operations work in order to keep everyone looked after,” Mike confirms. “In addition to implementing various CDC recommendations, such as sanitization protocols, face masks, temperature checks, social distancing and contact tracing, we also ensured that our professional staff had all the tools needed to effectively work from home.”
By enabling the business to function efficiently during the pandemic, Purple has also been able to continue to grow. In fact, from January through September last year, Purple hired an additional 900 employees, and saw its direct-to-customer business increase by an incredible 97.5 per cent. In that time, it has also opened up a number of new showrooms in locations throughout Texas, Virginia, Ohio and California, and has witnessed expansion within its distribution model.
Purple has also continued to push forward with various long-term investments that will support its future prosperity. “In October 2020, we rolled out what I would describe as a semi-automated fulfilment solution within our Utah facility. This non-conveyable, pick-to-cart system was installed with barely any disruption, and it has already helped to expand our capabilities considerably,” Mike continues. “Furthermore, we are excited to be on the cusp of opening up a brand new, 500,000-square foot facility in Atlanta, Georgia, during the first quarter of 2021, and among the different systems that will exist within this location, will be a new pick-and-pass mezzanine solution.”
Indeed, when Mike describes the last 12 months as a “non-stop ride”, one can certainly see what he means. What the company’s experiences have done, however, is help ready itself for 2021 and beyond. “Personally, I am really optimistic about the future,” he declares. “Everyone at Purple has worked tremendously hard to get to where we are now, and we are truly firing on all cylinders. We have fantastic infrastructure surrounding us, and with the opening of our Atlanta facility this will help us to begin playing at a whole new level. We recognize, however, that this will require us to continue to up our game, and this will call for further focus on things like the development of technical skills, achieving ever-greater efficiencies, minimizing waste, and managing our relations with vendors and suppliers through higher levels of communication and understanding. I am excited to see what new opportunities our efforts will bring, and I am confident that what we will see is yet more growth, which we will certainly have a lot of fun with!”
Products: Mattresses, pillows, bedding and bases