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How Cross-Functional Cotton Education Improved One Spinning Mill’s Operations

Raw material choices and utilization have a significant impact on how profitable a mill is, since experts estimate fiber alone represents between 50 to 70 percent of final yarn costs.

To help mills maximize profitability, Cotton Council International launched its consultancy Cotton USA Solutions about three years ago. The experts guide manufacturers in making improvements that will increase yield or enhance production efficiencies. “We have a saying at CCI: It is not about making yarn, it’s about making money,” said Bruce Atherley, executive director of Cotton Council International.

A recent Sourcing Journal webinar covered how Cotton USA Solutions is assisting mills in optimizing their businesses through education. The five offerings within Cotton USA Solutions include one-on-one consultations, site visits to Cotton USA-licensed mills, research studies, technical seminars, and the most recent service, the Mill Mastery course. These in-depth continuing professional development modules are designed to boost mills’ expertise in using U.S. cotton, with sessions available on everything from technical production to sustainability.

“During the pandemic, when all our consultants were grounded, we really couldn’t go anywhere,” said Joerg Bauersachs, head of technical services at Cotton Council International. “We were not sitting idle at home at our desks; we were noting and writing down all the experiences that we had.” The result was a best-practice guide that weighs in at more than 2,000 slides.

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Dr. Muhammad Tausif, technical team consultant at Cotton Council International, said the modules are split into three main topics. The first covers cotton as a raw material, including the steps to turn the plant into a bale, such as harvesting and ginning, as well as fiber quality and choosing which cotton to buy. Moving further down the supply chain, another unit of the course focuses on the processing of cotton and explains best practices for turning fiber into yarn. Finally, Mill Mastery has modules on subjects like sustainability in cotton, profitability and industrial engineering.

The Cotton USA Solutions team is able to integrate real-world data from its field work into the courses. These courses typically take place on-site at the mill, allowing for interactive discussions and almost immediate implementation of the learnings. “Our aim in these courses is to reinforce the skills of our learners and support them to acquire knowledge to financially optimize the purchase, selection and processing of U.S. cotton into yarn,” said Tausif.

Still from Mill Mastery webinar

To-date, the consultancy has conducted at least 36 Mill Mastery courses. One of the manufacturers that has engaged with this offering is Malek Spinning Mills, a Bangladesh manufacturer that is part of New Asia Group. Malek chose to have cross-functional teams learn about spinning, including staff that do not physically work in production, such as those who maintain the machines or sweep and sort cotton for reuse. “When they also participated in this program, it sort of opened up a whole different section of their brain, where they had much more insight into why they were doing what they were doing,” said Azizur Chowdhury, director of Malek Spinning Mills Ltd.

Following its work with Cotton USA, Malek has made a number of changes in machine settings and fiber usage that Azizur says have together added value, saved costs, improved quality and reduced waste.

Malek Spinning Mills has been loyal to U.S. cotton for about two decades. Before that, the mill was procuring cotton from a variety of places, but this resulted in inconsistencies. By solely using U.S. cotton, the mill was able to not only standardize the finished product—including achieving exact color matches between seasons—but also improve efficiencies since the machines did not have to be recalibrated for different fiber properties.

According to Atherley, one misconception about U.S. cotton is that it is more expensive than cotton from other geographic sources. But qualities such as lower moisture and lower trash—or materials that are not fiber lint—mean that a bale of U.S. cotton has more usable fiber. “While raw material cost is obviously the biggest part of the yarn cost, we find that when you take the raw cotton, and then you run it through a spinning mill, or even go further into fabric, dye, finish, garment, what you find is U.S. cotton results in not just a higher quality product at the end of the day, but it actually results in a lower total overall cost,” Atherley said.

Watch the webinar, sponsored by Cotton USA Solutions, to learn more about:

  • Which Mill Mastery courses are the most popular
  • The professional development benefits of Mill Mastery for staff
  • What Malek changed as a result of its work with Cotton USA Solutions
  • Which step of cotton processing presents the greatest cost challenge
  • How mills can take advantage of Mill Mastery and other Cotton USA Solutions offerings

Watch the webinar here.