The company said the 116,000-square-foot facility is the first yarn and fiber dyeing operation to be built in the U.S. in more than two decades, and offers the only tow-dyeing capacity in the country. Previously, producer-dyed acrylic tow was being imported.
“Our new technology gives us the capability to process every dyeable fiber in various forms, including yarn, tow and top,” Tim Manson, president of Meridian Specialty Yarn, said. “This is very unusual in the dyed yarn world.”
The company now has the ability to chemically treat or dye all fiber substrates, ranging from cellulosic and animal fibers, to polyester, nylon and dyeable aramids.
“Most dye houses specialize in certain products, but we are now in a position to source from all over the world, from every type of textile fiber, supporting a wide array of end uses,” Manson said.
The plant uses next-generation technology, machines, controls and robotics for package, top and tow dyeing, which the company feels positions it as North America’s most modern manufacturing operation for dyeing technology and robotic support equipment.
Renovations are now taking place in the plant’s original manufacturing facility that, when completed, will expand Meridian’s yarn dye operations—which also include several types of space-dyed yarns and twisting capabilities—into 284,600 square feet of office, warehouse and manufacturing space.
“Nothing like this has been built before in North America,” Manson said. “This is one of the only ‘green field’ yarn and fiber wet-processing plants to be built in the United States in a generation. It’s also a showcase for next-generation yarn dye technology.”
The facility includes dye equipment by Galvanin, SpA of Vicenza, Italy; a patented automatic dosing system for dispensing chemicals and auxiliaries from Color Service Dosing Technologies of Dueville, Italy; new monitoring and control systems for all of the new dyeing equipment from Adaptive Controls of Huntersville, N.C., and a new Galvanin skein printing machine and support equipment.
The package dye technology includes vertical, air pad, low liquor ratio machines that replace all of Meridian’s package dye equipment. The new acrylic tow dying capabilities will support the raw material needs at Meridian’s plant in Ranlo, N.C., and are also available to outside customers. The skein-printed yarns will go into apparel, craft yarns and some home furnishings. The top-dyed wool capability will support worsted spinners supplying high-end apparel, hosiery and home furnishings.
The new plant also reflects a large investment in sustainable technologies and processes. The end result, Meridian noted, is a facility that operates with considerably less environmental impact than traditional yarn dyeing operations.
Meanwhile, despite installing a new generation of robotics, the company has added positions and is in the process of retraining employees to work with the new technologies.
“We’ve met the initial employment targets of adding 25 jobs and are hiring and retraining,” Manson said. “We did not lose any positions due to new technology.”
The company’s human resources manager, Debbie Sigmon, has begun working extensively in the community and with local community colleges to develop programs to train a new generation of textile workers, attract new talent to the region and develop concepts for a workplace that appeals to a younger generation.
“It was important to us to keep manufacturing jobs in the United States while supporting the U.S. textile supply chain, as well as the community where we’ve been located for so many decades,” Manson said.
While the U.S. textile and apparel industry is in many ways a shadow of what it was a generation ago when the import era began to boom in the 1990s, it has undergone a slow resurgence. According to the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), investment in fiber, yarn, fabric and other non-apparel textile product manufacturing, increased 79 percent to $1.7 billion in 2018 from $960 million in 2009, when industry production began a slow turnaround.
The value of U.S. textile and apparel manufacturing increased 12 percent in 2018 to an estimated $76.8 billion. U.S. exports of fiber, textiles and apparel were $30.1 billion in 2018, a 5.4 percent gain from 2017.
Manson said the technologies in Meridian’s new manufacturing plant will also bring faster delivery to the North American supply chain for all the industries the company serves, including apparel, hosiery, home furnishings and upholstery, narrow fabrics, carpets and rugs, sewing thread, craft and industrial textiles.