TTNA Offers Positive Flow And An Industry’s Reemergence

By Jim Kaufmann, Contributing Editor; and Rachael S. Davis, Executive Editor

Aside from attendees trying to figure out whether they should shake hands, fist bump, elbow bump or “other” when greeting colleagues, and despite the mask mandate putting off a few attendees, the 2021 Techtextil North America show held recently in Raleigh, N.C., met or exceeded expectations for visitors and exhibitors alike. Many of the exhibitors Textile World spoke to had initial trepidations on how this year’s show would play out, however most offered very positive reviews.

“We really didn’t know what to expect, but the show has been good for us, busier than expected” offered Datatex’s Shannon McCarthy. “We’ve had good volume and a good quality of visitors to our booth.”

“We had 30 customers visit the booth on Monday, and I had said coming into this that if we had 30 customers over the course of the three-day show, it would be worth exhibiting,” said Brenda Stamboulian, Jason Mills LLC. “So, we are very happy.”

“There really weren’t any expectations for this show because of everything happening around us, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the turnout,” added Franz Geppert, Monosuisse North America. “Each day has provided a consistent flow of existing and potential customers, which gave us enough time to hold good conversations and make some good contacts.”

“It’s been a surprisingly good show and turnout,” said Lou Ott, Gentex. “It was good to be face-to-face with people for a change without having a Zoom screen between us. And also having the time to catch up with friends and acquaintances — where they are, how they’re doing and all those personal things that you don’t have the opportunity to do on a zoom call — was great.”

Many attendees noted this was their first entry into the real world again after being cooped up at home or travel restricted because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though some said they were a bit hesitant to attend, they enjoyed being in a show environment for the first time in 18-plus months. “It’s been great to be out and about again” stated Ernest Sumner of A.B. Carter. “We’ve been able to see and meet a lot of people that we hadn’t been able to catch up with or wouldn’t have known about had we not been here in Raleigh. We didn’t know who we needed to see until we saw them!”

“Shows are a pain in the neck, but so worth it,” said Steve Aranoff, Zund America Inc. “As someone who has participated on both sides as an exhibitor and an attendee, it’s hard to say which option is best. But we are such social characters. If I didn’t wander the show floor, I wouldn’t have met certain people to have conversations with and wouldn’t have learned what they know without engaging in that conversation.”

Educational Opportunities

As always, Techtextil North America offered educational sessions through its symposium series that was conducted over the three days. The symposiums centered on this year’s theme of “Accelerating Technology,” and topics focused on:

  • Sustainability, Traceability and Supply-Chain Disruptions;
  • Digital Transformation Strategy;
  • High Performance Fibers: From Concept to Market;
  • Sustainability in Laundering & Textile Care;
  • A Full Embrace of Circularity in Textiles;
  • Sustainability Strategies to Protect Your Brand and Your Bottom Line; and
  • Manufacturing, Managing, and Regulating PPE — Now and into the Future.

The content for this year’s sessions was expanded to include topics relevant to the apparel and textile laundering side of the industry to support the Texprocess Americas Pavilion and the new Textile Care Pavilion.

The symposiums were interesting and well attended, leading to some lively discussions on sustainability, supply chain issues and concerns, and in several cases, the art of surviving in a pandemic.

The Academy was new on the show floor in 2021. This free, show floor education opportunity combined the Tech Talks and The Lab premise from past shows. The presentations covered a wide variety of subjects within the technical textiles and nonwovens arena, with sessions on antiviral textiles and the “Testing Water Resistance of PPE Fabrics” the most well attended.

As always, student research was on view at the show through the Student Research Poster Program. Both graduate and undergraduate students from textile engineering programs in the Southeast region used the opportunity to share their findings with peers and potential employers. Some of the students also were given the opportunity to present their research at The Academy.

The Sewn Products Equipment and Suppliers of the Americas (SPESA) also collocated its 10th Advancements in Manufacturing Technologies conference with Techtextil North America. The single-day event focused on how the sewn products industry will operate in a post-COVID-19 world. A series of four panel discussions featured speakers from a variety of companies including Henderson Sewing Machine Co.; Shima Seiki; DAP America Inc.; Gerber Technology, a Lectra company; Morgan Tecnica America Inc.; Mitsubishi Electric Industrial Sewing Machines; Brother International Corp.; Shimmy Technologies; Motif; and the Zeis Textiles Extension at North Carolina State University.

“This year’s Advancements Conference was unique in many ways,” said SPESA President Michael McDonald. “It happened at a time when the industry has seen substantial change over the past two years. It brought together a lineup of new industry experts. And it served as a milestone moment for SPESA — it was the first in-person event we’ve hosted in more than eighteen months. This industry thrives on networking and engagement. It’s a true community!”

SPESA’s Michael McDonald (right) with Techtextil North America participants during the opening day reception.

Social Opportunities

The after-show meetings and gatherings — where many members of the industry say is where much of the business actually gets done — were numerous and varied.

SPESA and Techtexil North America sponsored the official opening day reception, while day two’s happy hour was hosted by the North Carolina Textile Foundation and NC State’s Wilson College of Textiles — Techtextil North America’s official Academic Partner.

On Tuesday evening after the Techtextil North America show floor closed for the day, Lawrenceville, N.J.-based Datacolor hosted a cocktail reception at NC State’s Wilson College of Textiles to celebrate a donation of state-of-the-art color management equipment and software valued at $270,000 to the school. According to Datacolor, the full suite of software licenses and instruments provides “immediate hand-on learning opportunities for the textile professionals of tomorrow.” The color lab houses all the equipment and tools needed to measure color and visually assess materials to ensure they conform to AATCC, ISO and ASTM International standards; including the latest Datacolor handheld ColorReaderPRO devices donated earlier this year.

“At Datacolor, we recognize the importance of color education, and we are proud to support the Wilson College of Textiles at NC State,” said Albert Busch, president and CEO, Datacolor. “By equipping the Datacolor Color Science Lab with our state-of-the-art software and instruments, we want to provide the next generation of color experts a chance to practice what they learn as they prepare for a career in color.”

“NC State has always been at the forefront of innovation,” said Dr. Renzo Shamey, director of Color Science and Imaging Laboratories, NC State. “Through our partnership with Datacolor, NC State students now have a unique opportunity to work with innovative industry-grade color management equipment, providing them with invaluable hands-on experience and unparalleled access to technology that will help them succeed well beyond their time here.”

Attendees received German beer steins stamped with the slogan “I spent a year without trade shows and all I got was this lousy mug.”

Overall Consensus

The general conclusion is that Techtextil North America 2021 met, or exceeded, most expectations and offered a much-needed positive start as the textile world emerges from a rough year and a half.

“We were thrilled with the turnout in Raleigh,” said Kristy Meade, vice president of Technical Textiles & Technology Shows at Messe Frankfurt North America. “It was so great to see the amount of business being done on the show floor, and the feedback we’ve received since has absolutely confirmed that the industry was desperately in need of an in-person event. Our goal was to provide a platform for the industry to reunite and get back to business after the rough 18-plus months we’ve all endured due to COVID-19, and I believe we more than succeeded in doing so.”

Here’s to the industry continuing the momentum forward!

September/October 2021