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International Report

By John T. Millington, International News Editor Italy Steps Up HosieryandKnitting Machinery Programs Italian hosiery companies are proving their mettle through acquisitions and improving technology. The continuing growth and heavy investment of the Lonati Group, Italy, has raised it to one of the highest levels on the playing field. The group recently confirmed that its annual turnover now exceeds $1 billion and that 40 percent of this is textile related. Bustling BresciaWhile Florence is Italys second major machine manufacturing base, many firms are located in Brescia, including smaller family companies that provide specialized knitting machine services. Lonati sees the importance of Brescia as a focal point for the knitting and textile industries.Within the last two years, the company has expanded its textile interests by acquiring circular fabric machine makers Marchisio and Vignoni, together with the Italian firm, Mec-Mor.Lonati also has a textile/garment success on its hands with Santoni. A large-scale surge of interest in seamless, comfort underwear and bodywear has seen significant investment by Western companies, both as a diversification for pantyhose manufacturers and as a new opportunity for entrepreneurial garment makers.A major incentive is the dramatic reduction in skilled labor since most or almost all of the manufacturing is carried out on the knitting machine. There is virtually no restriction on patterning, and a large variety of styles is possible. Huge potential also exists in using Santoni machines for swimwear, boxer shorts and cycling shorts. Hosiery CompetitonLonati companies tend to dominate the technologically creative hosiery machine industry in Florence. Although a wholly owned Lonati company, Matec, along with Matec/Conti at Scondicci, competes actively in world markets for pantyhose and sock machines with the counterpart company in Brescia.At hosiery boarding and packaging specialist SRA a greatly extended modern factory has emerged on the site which previously saw a somewhat ramshackle collection of administrative and factory buildings. The company is looking to enter into the finishing of underwear/bodywear items.Matec/Solis has benefited from considerable RandD investment to become a major world contender in automated pantyhose assembly. The individual toe-closing, U-seaming, U-seaming/gussetting modules can now be combined in around 7 seconds.Matec, along with Nagata in Japan, is busy finalizing the pre-production prototypes of the one-piece pantyhose GL machine which knits complete, seamless pantyhose in 4 to 5 minutes. The prototype machines and first production models will be installed in Golden Lady factories in Italy. Sangiacomo Success StoryThe Italian firm Sangiacomo continues to go from success to success. The building block for this drive to capture a greater share of the world market in sock machines is the Lin-Toe automatic linked toe-closing device which has already attracted over 1,000 orders and now represents more than 50 percent of Sangiacomos monthly output.After a hesitant start, automatic, hands-free toe closing, either on or off knitting machine is now seen as the future of single-cylinder sock production. At present Lin-Toe is well out in front, but challenge in mounting. Matec is entering the coarse-gauge sports sock market with its Conti Air-Toe. Both Matec and Lonati are developing folding dial solutions for finer dress-gauge socks. Busi has committed to a Frulini license for Lin-Toe and is launching its first model in the range. Colosio claims to be near a solution which gives a Lin-Toe linked-type result but on the knitting machine itself. Rumi is working with random linking machine specialists Conti Complete to provide a solution to Lin-Toe involving transfer from the knitting machine to a straight bar sewing head that gives a conventional mock-linked seam. There is little doubt that Lonati intends to undertake an intensive program of investment with its latest circular fabric, knitwear garment and flat machine acquisitions.Germany and Japan will no double dispute this burgeoning world leadership in many aspects of knitting, but there can be no doubt that Italy, backed by substantial internally generated financial resources is coming along fast in these textile machinery areas.

May 1999