Then and now: From bed tester to Burns Harbor

Then and now: From bed tester to Burns Harbor

Before becoming a materials manager in steel producing at ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor, Mike Steinhubel worked in the R&D field. Not R&D in the steelmaking industry, but for Serta, the mattress company.

Mike didn’t grow up dreaming of assuming the title of professional bed tester, but always had his eyes on the steel industry. 

“I was born and raised in Gary, Indiana, where you were taught to graduate from high school and go straight to the steel mills until you retire,” noted Mike.  

But the steel mills were struggling when he graduated from high school. Instead, Mike worked a bunch of odd jobs in construction and completed a computer course. After a rejection from an IT position at Serta, he received a call for an entirely different opportunity: to start their R&D center completely from scratch. 

“Getting this job was clearly a total fluke,” added Mike. “My first day on the job I was tasked with building my own office in the giant warehouse to see if I was serious about this new role.”  

After his first assignment, the real fun began, destroying mattresses to figure out how and why they break. One of the machines, nicknamed “Buns of Steel” consisted of two bowling balls cut in half, pieced together, to replicate a rear end. It was then lifted repeatedly on the edge of a mattress for 2-3 days with the pressure of a 210-pound person. Another machine, “The Rollator” was a 210-pound barrel that rolled back and forth across the mattress for 2-3 days simulating people rolling around in their sleep. He would then take the bed a part and assess its condition and make any necessary changes to the infrastructure of the mattress.  

“I was part manager, part engineer and part MacGyver. It was really fun,” added Mike. “In addition to taking big heavy things and dropping them on the mattress, I’d also light cigarettes and see how long it would take them to burn. To do all of this, I had to build each test bed which led me to build a mini-mattress factory in the warehouse and a testing center. All of this was just me.” 

With his long commute from Northwest Indiana to Chicagoland came unique benefits. 

“Sometimes when there was harsh winter weather, I’d just build myself a brand-new mattress and sleep there. I’d get a new bed every 3 months or so.” 

In addition to this role, Mike suited up in his white lab coat, labeled “Dr. Feelgood,” and traveled to various trade shows to demonstrate the science behind finding the correct mattress relating to pressure points and more.  

At the age of 26 when Mike accepted this role he had no idea what was in store, but he is extremely appreciative of everything he learned and the independence he was given, “I really valued the freedom,” said Mike, “I got to do whatever I wanted to do. It didn’t matter if it took me two days or two months, I just did what it took to make it work.”  

After starting the R&D center from the ground up, Mike spent a total of 14 years at Serta, culminating in the role of internal auditor, traveling all over North America.  

In his current position at ArcelorMittal, Mike relies heavily on his autonomous nature to be successful. Keeping track of inventories, placing orders, scheduling deliveries and other tasks require the same self-starter, go-getter, independent mindset.  

“Although I loved being a professional bed tester, working at ArcelorMittal has been something I yearned for my entire life. My dad worked at Burns Harbor back when it was Bethlehem as an electrician and a lot of my relatives did as well,” added Mike. “On my first day three years ago, I put on my greens and thought ‘man I am home.’”