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IFAI Expo Participants Optimistic

Industrial fabrics show posts near-record attendance.

Las Vegas proved to be a good venue for IFAI Expo 2003, held recently at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The annual industrial fabrics trade show, sponsored by the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI), Roseville, Minn., attracted 7,425 attendees and exhibitors, the second-largest number of participants in the shows history. The IFAI Expo 1999, held in San Diego, holds the record with 7,542 participants. Last years show in Charlotte attracted 7,356.Participants traveled to Las Vegas from a record 55 countries. The show had 480 exhibitors including more than 90 companies that exhibited for the first time.We are getting more international exhibitors, said IFAI President Steve Warner. They are showing more specialized-type products. A lot of companies will walk the show one year and then decide to exhibit the next.As a whole, exhibitors were pleased with both the quantity and the quality of visitors. They also were optimistic about business conditions.Kevin Crean, vice president, Avondale Mills Inc., Specialty Fabrics Division, Graniteville, S.C., reported good traffic at the expo. We have a lot of customers here, and we had some good meetings with them including some new customers on the job-finishing side, he said.We are committed to this show, said Marty Colwell, sales manager, American Dornier, Charlotte. Its a good show for us because we have so many customers present.Glen Raven Moves IndoorsAt last years show in Charlotte, Glen Raven drew big crowds with its Sunbrella® Graphics System. The system is used to apply graphics to Sunbrella awning fabrics using 3M Scotchcal ElectroCut Graphic films.Weve had good acceptance, and people are doing some fantastic work with it, said Harry Goble, marketing director for Glen Raven Custom Fabrics LLC, Glen Raven, N.C. Its still growing. We are trying to get the word out to the commercial sector. We will be doing a bit more advertising and promotion there, now that we have a manufacturing base established. It has been very well received.This time around, Glen Raven showed more of the jacquard and decorative fabric side of its business. The company is taking its well-known Sunbrella brand inside for performance interior fabrics.Whether its [for the] sunroom or any room of the house, [Sunbrella] has the soft hand, cleanability and fade resistance that is pretty much unmatched in residential fabrics, Goble said. Our biggest challenge right now is to get it to furniture manufacturers and to the public in general.When asked about business conditions and industry trends, Goble pointed to strong sales in the western United States, a strong recreational vehicle industry and a recovery in boat sales as positive indicators. Tight inventories and shorter lead times have made it tougher to gauge this market.People are holding much tighter inventories, he said. Everyone is playing things very close to the vest. Between the economy, the war and the weather in the Eastern half of the country, 2003 has been a little less than stellar. But we have seen gradual improvement late-season, which is a little odd in the awning and marine business. I think people had to deal with a backlog.
IFAI Expo 2003 featured 480 exhibitors, more than 90 of which were first-time participants.Avondale Mills Sees GrowthThe subject of inventories came up again and again at the show. Clearly, good inventory management is becoming a critical skill in the industrial fabrics business.Our business is very strong, Crean said. There doesnt seem to be any planning ahead on purchasing. Everybody today wants it immediately. Customers dont seem to know when their customers are going to order. So you have to be prepared and watch your inventories. Its all about inventory keeping it as low as possible, yet running the business.Avondales solvent-coating capability has been a major contributor to the Specialty Fabrics Divisions success.Our largest area of growth in our fiscal year ended August 29 was with our job-finishing business, and we expect to see that growth continuing as we move forward, Crean said. The growth is driven by our ability to do solvent coating with such chemistries as urethane and vinyl.SI Expects Carpet ComebackWe are continuing to see softness in sales, said Kemp Harr, vice president of marketing for Furnishings and Flooring, SI Corp., Chattanooga, Tenn. We are optimistic, however, that business in 2004 could come back to the level we saw in 2000.SI Corp. is involved in four core businesses carpet backing, fiber-reinforced concrete, geotextiles and high-performance materials. Half of the companys business is manufacturing carpet foundations including primary and secondary backings.The residential side has been fairly robust because of the builder segment, Harr said. But almost 75 percent of residential carpet purchases are replacement. People can voluntarily extend the time that they live on that old carpet waiting for better economic times. Its a deferrable purchase. Next year, we hope to see more in that segment. The life of residential carpet is averaging 10 to 12 years, so we feel like there is some pent-up demand. We are looking forward to a turnaround in that area.The company has gone to cellular manufacturing in its plants. For example, its 2.5-million-square-foot plant in Chickamauga, Ga., used to operate as one plant. Now it is considered to be seven different plants under one roof.SI Corp. also is working aggressively to reduce costs and improve quality through programs such as Six Sigma. At the same time, the company still is making significant investments in research and development of innovative products that will provide future growth, according to Harr.Gore Introduces GORE TENARA® Architectural FabricW.L. GoreandAssociates Inc., Elkton, Md., showed its GORE TENARA® Architectural Fabrics for the first time in the United States. Introduced at Techtextil in Germany earlier this year, the fabric was specially developed for textile architectural structures and features a unique blend of aesthetics, flexibility and durability. The chemically inert fabric not only is insensitive to ultraviolet light, flex-resistant and waterproof; but also has a light transmission ratio of up to 40 percent, adding an extra dimension to textile architectural structures (See Quality Fabric Of The Month, TW, November 2003).brM Offers Creative SolutionsBally Ribbon Mills (brM), Bally, Pa., showed its extensive product line of engineered, woven, narrow fabrics; specialty broadcloth; and woven structures for medical, industrial, aerospace and commercial applications.The company had on display samples of woven tubular vascular stents, bifurcates, tapered weaves and arteries that are used to replace damaged blood vessels. brM also exhibited blood filtration membrane and carbon fiber structures for orthopedic and prosthetic applications. In addition, brM showed circular (polar) weaves, woven 2-D and 3-D shapes, and fabrics used for parachutes and airframe components.Having a wide variety of sample products on hand at the companys booth stimulates discussion with potential new customers, according to Louis Franconi, new business development manager, brM.The only way to drive people to get more creative is to give them an example, a hint about whats going on, and then let them use their internal creativity to present you with the application, said Franconi. And then you work together with them to create a solution.Atlas Acquires SDLThe big story at the Atlas booth was the companys acquisition of SDL International Ltd. an England-based testing instrument supplier earlier this year.The merger provides textile manufacturers with a single source for many kinds of instrumentation. The newly created SDL Atlas LLC headed by Charles S. Lane includes SDL, Atlas Textile Test Products, Raitech and Textile Innovators. The restructuring strengthens Atlas focus on textile testing instruments, and its core weathering test instruments and services.Atlas also recently entered into an exclusive partnership with Weiss Umwelttechnik GmbH, Germany. Under this agreement, Atlas is Weiss Techniks exclusive partner for the marketing and production of standard climatic test chambers in the United States and Canada.American DornierSeveral industrial fabric markets are strong right now, including filtration, airbag and outdoor furniture, according to American Dorniers Colwell. Furniture is up and down, with an upward trend seen at the upholstery mills.We are getting a lot more requests for quotations, so thats a positive sign, Colwell said.American Dornier continues to add personnel at its Charlotte office, and also has begun servicing Mexico and Central America from there.Picanol Focuses On Technical FabricsWe are pushing hard in [the technical fabric] direction, said Cyril Guerin, sales manager, Picanol. This is where the textile industry in North America is going to survive.One example of Picanols increased emphasis in this area is the GamMax rapier weaving machine, based on the earlier Gamma model. According to the company, it can weave a wider range of yarns at higher speeds using less energy. The machine also has a wider reed, which allows it to participate in specialty markets such as upholstery. A version to weave fiberglass has been developed. The company also has been successful with a tire cord loom based on its OMNIplus air-jet machine.
IFAI Expo 2003 keynote speaker US Navy Captain D. Michael AbrashoffEducational Opportunities
Fabric Structures 2003, which took place just prior to IFAI Expo 2003, presented nearly two dozen case studies on using fabric elements, and provided a forum for discussion of the unique aspects of fabric structures. The nearly 200 participants earned American Institute of Architecture Continuing Education System Learning Units.US Navy Captain D. Michael Abrashoff delivered a leader-focused keynote presentation and explanation of how grassroots leadership is a principle that empowers every individual to share the responsibility of achieving excellence. Abrashoff is the author of Its Your Ship, a book detailing how he overcame low morale and high crew turnover as commander of the USS Benfold. Glen Raven sponsored the keynote address.This year, IFAI Expo had more than 70 educational programs covering medical textiles, signs and graphics, safety and protective, textile construction, awning and canopy, sports and recreation, filtration textiles, upholstery, marine fabrication, transportation textiles, equipment and technologies, and business and leadership.These programs were packed with participants crowds ranged from 40 to well over 100 for each niche-market session.IFAI 2003 International Achievement AwardsDuring the Chairmans Annual Breakfast at IFAI Expo 2003, winners of the 2003 International Achievement Awards were announced. Presented annually for the past 56 years, the awards recognize product complexity, design, workmanship, uniqueness and function in 26 different industrial fabrics-related end-use categories. Faith Fredericks, Banner Canvas, Ham Lake, Minn.; and Cindy Lubin, W.L. GoreandAssociates Inc., Elkton, Md., presented the awards.Following are the Award of Excellence and Outstanding Achievement Award winners.Air and Tension Structures Under 10,000 Square FeetAward of Excellence:Linstrand Balloons Ltd., England, for Welsh Development Agency Thought BubblesOutstanding Achievement Award:Downer International Ltd., Dublin, Ireland, for Galway/Mayo Institute of TechnologyYasuo Kume, TSP Taiyo Inc., Tokyo, Japa, for the Kirara Expo main gate "Japan Expo Yamaguchi 2001"Air and Tension Structures 10,000 to 30,000 Square FeetAward of Excellence:Taiyo Kogyo Corp., Japan, for Flex House of Asahi Glass Co. Ltd.Outstanding Achievement Award:Skyspan (Europe) GmbH, Germany for Madrid Xanadu entrance canopiesTSP Taiyo Inc., Tokyo, for the Kirara Hall "Japan Expo Yamaguchi 2001"Air and Tension Structures More Than 30,000 Square FeetAward of ExcellenceB&O Hightex GmbH, Germany, for Pusan Stadium membrane roofShade Structures Birdair, Australia, for Longitude 131 degrees Ayres Rock projectOustanding Achievement AwardCovetex GmbH, Germany, for Masoala Rain ForestGeiger Engineers, Suffern, N.Y., for 2002 World Cup main stadiumSkyspan (Europe) GmbH for Madrid Xanadu main roofAwnings, Commercial, Interior and Multi-ResidentialAward of ExcellenceRainier Industries Ltd., Seattle, for Santana Row awnings, San Jose, Calif.Outstanding Achievement AwardRainier Industries Ltd., Seattle, for Santana row awnings, San Jose, Calif.Valley CanvasandAwning Ltd., Canada, for the Film BoxAwnings, Single-Family ResidentialAward of ExcellenceSunmaster of Naples Inc., Naples, Fla., for beachfront guest cottageOustanding Achievement AwardTotal Identity Group, Rochester, N.Y., for Polka Dot residential awningValley CanvasandAwning Ltd. for Summach residenceAwnings and Canopies, IlluminatedAward of ExcellenceAdvanced Awning Design, Cloquet, Minn., for Railway PizzaOutstanding Achievement AwardAdvanced Awning Design, Cloquet, Minn., for ErbertandGerbert'sGandJ AwningandCanvas, Sauk Rapids, Minn., for Bingo emporiumMuskegon AwningandManufacturing Inc., Musekgon, Mich., for Crosstown Center renovationAwnings, RetractableAward of ExcellenceSunmaster of Naples Inc. for Privacy Lanai Lateral PlusOustanding Achievement AwardCalypso Marine Canvas Ltd., Chaguanas, TrinidadandTobago for Hillside AvenueCanvas Experts Inc., Berlin, Md., for 26 foot by 12 foot retractable awningCanopies, Commercial and Multi-Family ResidentialAward of ExcellenceCanfab Products Ltd., Canada, for EpcorOutstanding Achievement AwardCanfab Products Ltd., Canada, for Fairmont Hotel McDonaldMuskegon AwningandManufacturing Inc. for Panopoulus Hair SalonCanopies, Single-Family ResidentialAward of ExcellenceDillon Co., St. Joseph, Mo., for GuptaOustanding Achievement AwardArchitectural Fabric Structures, Sausalito, Calif., for Napa residenceSun State Awnings Inc., Englewood, Fla., for residential canopy C-4576Architectural Structures OtherAward of ExcellenceTaiyo Kogyo Corp. for Shinagawa Sea Side Forest Oval GardenOutstanding Achievement AwardMiami Awning Co. Inc., Miami, for village of Merrick Park single and double escalator canopiesTaiyo Kogyo Corp. for city of Kadoma recycling centerBanners and Flags, Special or Large-Scale EventsAward of ExcellenceSugar House AwningandCanvas Products, Midvale, Utah, for Salt Lake 2002 building wrapsOutstanding Achievement AwardFlying Colors Inc., Berkeley, Calif., for Super Bowl XXXVII
Banners and Flags, Exhibitions and Arts and CraftsAward of ExcellenceShade Structures Birdair for Sidney Myer Music Bowl celebration sculptureOutstanding Achievement AwardRainier Industries Ltd. for port of Seattle Cruise Lines terminal bannersRainier Industries Ltd. for Wolf Creek Education Center banners Redwood National and State ParksSignage and GraphicsAward of ExcellenceTakara Co. Ltd., Japan, for Diamond City Itami external wall graphic signageOutstanding Achievement AwardFabric Images Inc. for exhibitor 2003 20 by 20 tradeshow environmentRainier Industries Ltd. for Seattle Seahawks stadium bannersTSP Taiyo Inc. for the FUJIFILM Billboard (2002 World Cup Korea/Japan)Interior ProjectsAward of ExcellenceB&O Hightex GmbH for Marsyas at the Tate Modern fabric sculptureOustanding Achievement AwardCovertex GmbH, Germany, for bionicsTransformit, Gorham, Maine, for Harmon exhibitMarine Exterior Fabric Products PowerboatsAward of ExcellenceCanvas Experts Inc., Berlin, Md., for 39-foot closed canopy cigaretteOustanding Achievement AwardMike's Marine Custom Canvas, Virginia Beach, Va., for 34-foot Searay SundancerMike's Marine Custom Canvas for 42-foot Hatteras Cabin CruiserMarine Upholstery and Interior Fabric Products PowerboatsAward of ExcellenceCanvas Designers Inc., Riviera Beach, Fla., for 50-foot azimuthOustanding Achievement AwardCalypso Marine Canvas Ltd. for CelerityCustom Marine Canvas, Noank, Conn., for Wolf InteriorMarine Exterior Fabric Products SailboatsAward of ExcellenceMikes Marine Custom Canvas for 30-foot gemini catamaranOutstanding Achievement AwardCramer's Custom Canvas, Pawcatuck, Conn., for 45-foot HunterNautical Intex Inc., San Pedro, Calif., for sailboat exteriorMarine Upholstery and Interior Fabric Products SailboatsAward of ExcellenceCustom Marine Canvas, Noank, Conn., for Hammell interior Party Tent RentalAdvanced Tent Rental Ltd., Canada, for Graydon Hall Manor clear top custom clearspanOutstanding Achievement AwardNeedle Loft Inc., Kemah, Texas, for MorganNeedle Loft Inc. for Hunter/EllisParty Tent RentalAward of ExcellenceAdvanced Tent Rental Ltd., Ontario, for Graydon Hall Manor clear top custom clearspanOutstanding Achievement AwardCelebration Rentals, Pipersville, Pa., for construction site weddingRegal Tent Productions, Ontario, for Fashion Week - Ralph LaurenCommercial Tent RentalAward of ExcellenceRoder Zelt-und Veranstalungsservice GmbH, Germany, for Spengler CupOutstanding Achievement AwardFiesta Tents, Canada, for Formula One Grand Prix of Canada corporate suitesMain Attractions, Edison, N.J., for car tourRoder Zelt-und Veranstalungsservice GmbH for Bertelsmann anniversaryTent ManufacturingAward of ExcellenceFTL Design Engineering Studio, New York City, for Voltige Circus tensile structureOustanding Achievement AwardCanvas Specialty, Los Angeles, for HidalgoCanvas Specialty for Westin BonaventureRoder Zelt-und Veranstalungsservice GmbH for Audi DTMInteractive and Cold-Air InflatablesAward of ExcellenceBrainchild Design Lab LLC, Greeley, Colo., for The BeastGeosynthetic ProjectsDarling Downs Tarpaulins, Australia, for E-Vapcap floating evaporation control coverOutstanding Achievement AwardGeotechnicalandGeoenvironmental Engineering Consultant, Madison, Wis., for Madison metropolitan sewerage district contaminated sludge lagoonTerafix Geosynthetics Inc., Toronto, for Rennie St LandfillIndustrial ApplicationsAward of ExcellenceLinstrand Balloons Ltd. for Alcan loading bay inflatable systemOutstanding Achievement AwardCamel Manufacturing Co., Pioneer, Tenn., for extreme weather insulated linerNorth Texas TarpandAwning, Wichita Falls, Texas, for bra for CadillacSafety and Protective ProductsAward of ExcellenceFoster-Miller Inc., Waltham, Mass., for Objective Force WarriorOutstanding Achievement AwardAR Tech, Fontana, Calif., for Lockheed Martin Atlas IIAR PLF blanketsAR Tech for vertigo chemical biological shelter: STAT, Small Tactical Airbeam TentMiscellaneousAward of ExcellenceMoss Inc., Belfast, Maine, for American Express Rewarding Lives ExhibitionTransformit, Gorham, Maine, for Shinkaiku in the OKI tradeshow exhibitOutstanding Achievement AwardAlpha TentandAwning Ltd., Canada, for movie "Sleeping Tent"Canvasland Holdings Ltd., New Zealand, for softedge trampoline  Editors Note: Alfred Dockery is editor of The HunTex Report, a newsletter for industrial textiles. A graduate of North Carolina State Universitys College of Textiles, he has been writing about the textile industry for 15 years. Dockery is based in Clemmons, N.C

December 2003