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60% of US Manufacturers Feeling Outbreak’s Effects, NCTO Says Textile Sector ‘Ready’ to Help

The U.S. textile industry has been aiding efforts to provide supplies and equipment to China and other areas affected by the coronavirus, and it’s also poised to step up and provide production to companies that might find their supply chains disrupted by the deadly epidemic.

“The coronavirus has impacted Asian textile and apparel manufacturing productivity and output, and our concerns lie with the affected companies and workers during this terrible crisis,” Kim Glas, president and CEO of the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), said Tuesday. “The U.S. textile industry continues to be ready, able and willing to help in any way possible.”

Glas said the industry has been in touch with U.S. government officials to help identify key textile suppliers to provide surgical masks and other items to help contain the spread of the coronavirus, which has sparked more than 80,000 confirmed cases globally and killed more than 2,700. In addition, several companies have donated much-needed medical textile supplies and other sanitary items to help mitigate the outbreak.

“Given the uncertainty in the market as a result of the coronavirus, many textile and apparel sourcing executives are seeking alternatives outside of Asia,” Glas said. “We stand ready to assist brands and retailers looking to shift sourcing during this uncertain time.

“The Western Hemisphere production platform established under our free trade agreements and trade preference programs provides a sound alternative as companies look to diversify their sourcing,” she added. “The region has immediate capacity to meet worldwide demands with duty-free access through well-established supply chains.”

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Quantum Materials, a manufacturer of custom, advanced textiles based in Greensboro, N.C., said it is accelerating investments in new manufacturing equipment to meet increased demand for domestic production capabilities. The company will spend $3.5 million to further diversify its business with customized state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment to support research, development and manufacturing for non-traditional and high-performance woven textile solutions.

While the company had budgeted for capital investments in the second half of 2020, global supply chain disruptions and market voids have generated a surge of interest in specialized domestic production capabilities. Many companies diversified their sourcing to avoid a reliance on China during the U.S.-China trade war, and with factories now forced to close beyond the normal period of Lunar New Year, those decisions might be paying dividends.

Quantum noted it has a vertically integrated structure to manufacture a wide range of high-performance yarns and fabrics.

“Over the last 18 months, our R&D team has been working on proprietary, custom equipment designed to give us the flexibility to work in any textile-related industry needing specialized yarns and/or fabrics,” Jeff Bruner, Quantum founder and vice chairman, said. “We made the decision to fast track this project so that we can be a domestic resource due to many of the current global dynamics affecting our industry.”

NCTO didn’t have information on whether the COVID-19 outbreak has impacted any imports of inputs needed for U.S. apparel and textile manufacturing. But a new survey from Thomas, a specialist in product sourcing, supplier selection and marketing solutions, said 60 percent of North American manufacturing companies are already feeling the disruptions caused by the coronavirus crisis.

“Ultimately, the coronavirus outbreak will cause a slowdown, especially for the automotive and tech sectors,” Tony Uphoff, president and CEO at Thomas, said. “As the challenges in China continue, businesses may need to diversify their supply chains to be able to meet surging demands. It is clear from many of our survey respondents that the longer this drags on, the more the North American manufacturing sector and economy will feel its effects.”

According to the survey, 45 percent of suppliers report disruption to their shipping and logistics, 35 percent report incidents of offshore factory suspension and/or production restrictions and 8 percent report that the coronavirus outbreak has sparked a surge in cost of goods.