During a Texworld USA seminar last week, experts in the sector discussed how technology and new machinery are creating a new dynamic in the process for making yarns and knit apparel. Those factors could also lower costs at the production level to encourage investment in manufacturing in places that have often been seen as too expensive, like the U.S.
“We all want to achieve certain goals,” said David Sasso, vice president of marketing and sales at Buhler Quality Yarns/Samil Spinning Co. “Consumers want better quality, they want to be in trend and they want value. The retailers want to make better margins, sometimes just by lowering the cost of making goods, which can have the opposite effect than what consumers want.”
Then there’s speed to market that most companies in the supply chain want, which comes only through understanding the supply chain, how to source and the challenges presented in different countries and regions.
“It’s about speed,” Sasso said. His comment was a double entendre, of sorts, as Sasso was both referencing the key ingredient in reducing costs through faster spinning machines and an explanation by Akitsugu Mori, Vortex product manager at Japanese firm Murata, about the benefits of using a Vortex spinning machine. Vortex spinning is a technology that uses an air vortex to spin out the yarn. Fibers formed by these air flows provide the yarn with a wide range of functionalities.
“The Vortex air jet can be the answer to many needs for speed and cost savings,” Mori said.
What’s more, as new machinery technology and machines from companies like Murata and Rieter get faster, Sasso said, “the fiber requirements become even more stringent–how do we process fiber for this high speed equipment?”
Thomas Kuettel, president and CEO at Rieter, noted than among the four types of spinning technologies–ring, compact, rotor and air jet–the newest development, air jet, is 20 times faster than the slowest, which is ring-spun yarn.
“In the U.S. we have a very favorable situation because energy costs are relatively low,” Kuettel said. This means that if companies convert to air-jet machines, they can more quickly achieve return on investment, he said.
The main point of product development and new machinery, according to Chuck Butts, sales and technical adviser for Murata, is to “help manufacturers reduce costs on the back end.”
For Sasso, though, it’s also about how quickly things can get to market.
“Speed is what we are striving for,” Sasso said. “Being in the Western Hemisphere [Buhler is based in Jefferson, Ga.], the more automated I get, the more productive I get, my costs become more equal to global costs. The energy factor is huge, the supply of raw material nearby is huge, and the ability for shirt runs and quick response is huge. As these machines are becoming more available, it changes the dynamic of sourcing.”