Denim And Workwear On A Grand Scale

WorkwearOn A Grand Scale
Mount Vernons massive Trion complex invests in customer service. The first thing that
strikes a visitor at Mount Vernons Trion Complex is its daunting physical size. Uniformly the first
thought to flash through a visitors mind seems to be Wow, these plants really are bigger than the
town. The complex is made up of the Trion Denim plant, Trion Finishing plant and the new
88-feet-tall distribution center.Lets look at the denim plant first. Trion Denim is huge. And so
are its production capability and appetite for cotton. The plant produces about 2.5 million square
yards of denim per week and consumes about 5,000 bales of cotton per week.The plant dates back to
1845. It became a denim operation in the early 1970s. Prior to that time, the plant produced cotton
work clothing. Interesting enough, most of the adjacent Trion Finishing plants production is
polyester/cotton work clothing. The Grand Tour: DenimThe plants production processes go from
the cotton bale to finished fabric. Trion Denim has seven Hollingsworth Optomix opening lines. In
carding, there are 53 Hollingsworth 2000 cards and 145 Saco Lowell cards.The older Saco Lowell
cards run at about half the speed of the newer Hollingsworth cards 70 pounds per hour versus 130
pounds per hour. Plant management hopes to replace the older Saco Lowell cards in the next round of
capital programs.The plant has Rieter drawframes and 62 Schlafhorst Autocoro open-end spinning
machines. The spinning machines are equipped with Zellweger Usters Polyguard monitoring system
linked to a central monitoring system. All of the plants spinning capacity is made up of open-end
machines. Trion relies on Mount Vernons Alto Yarn plant and outside vendors for ring-spun yarns.The
warping department is equipped with nine McCoy Ellison warpers and warper creels. All of these
machines are brand new.The Trion plant has one of the largest indigo dye houses in the world
containing two 36-strand Kleinewefers dye ranges and one older 24-strand re-manufactured dye range.
All three ranges can dye the full range of Trion denim products but the 24-strand range is
generally used for sulfur blacks.A sophisticated dyehouse monitoring and control system by
Rosemount a well-known pulp and paper control system vendor controls all three dye ranges. In
addition, all three ranges have Hunterlab on-line shade monitoring systems.Next on ATIs tour was
the rebeaming area where 29 Reed-Chatwood beamers with accumulators prepare warps for slashing. The
plant has six West Point slashers. These machines have been modified to accept larger
1,100-millimeter (mm) beams.The weave room is equipped with 214 Picanol Omni air-jet weaving
machines and 130 Sulzer doublewide projectile weaving machines. At one time, the plant had 440
Sulzer projectile machines.Looking back at changes in the weave room over the last eight years
tells an interesting story. In 1992, the plant added 40 new Sulzer P7100 projectile machines to
increase production capability. In 1993-94, the oldest 130 Sulzer projectile machines were replaced
with 91 new Sulzer P7200 machines.Then in 1997, the Picanol air-jet machines replaced 300
projectile machines. The projectile machines run at about 300 rpm and the air-jets at about 800
rpm. The looms are equipped with a Barco monitoring system and Alexander Machinery off-loom
take-ups.A Luwa Bahnson LoomSphere loom conditioning system is also in place here.The driving force
behind these moves was cost reduction. Warp beam size played a key roll in these decisions. The new
1,100-mm beams used by the air-jet machines can hold more than twice the yardage of the 800-mm
beams used by the projectile machines. This translates to big savings in both weaving and
slashing.Plant management estimates that they have reduced yarn waste by as much as 200,000 pounds
per month since 1992. This reduction also takes into account improvements made in the yarn mill as
well.In finishing, Trion Denim has two denim finishing ranges, a combination overdye and washing
range, and six Morrison sanforizers. In the inspection area, the plant uses a Barco system for
mapping defects and optimizing yardages. 
henderson, vice president, Denim Manufacturing Staying State Of The ArtATI editors visited
Trion Denim just four years ago
(See Making Denim On A Grand Scale, ATI
, March 1996), and there have been many capital improvements over that short time frame.
The weave room was modernized with the addition of Picanol air-jet machines at a cost of about $15
million.The plant has upgraded four of its six slashers to accept larger loom beams for the new
air-jets. All of the plant ball warpers were replaced last year. The power infrastructure was also
revamped.If you go back seven or eight years, the number explodes from $70 million to $100 million,
said Don Henderson, vice president, Denim Manufacturing. Add in improvements to the nearby Trion
Finishing plant and the new distribution center and the number mushrooms to about $125
million. The Distribution Center
The next
stop for ATI editors was the distribution center. Much of Mount Vernons capital spending at this
site went to control costs. At the same time, the modernizations and improvements also addressed
important quality issues. However the $25-million distribution center was built to provide more
intangible benefits including customer service and product perception.Prior to the distribution
center, Trion Finishing was storing its fabric in a warehouse built in the 1940s, and Trion Denim
was handling its fabric four or five times prior to shipping it.The process includes transporting
fabric via an elevator to the loading dock, trucking it to a warehouse, storing the fabric on racks
and finally sequencing the fabric rolls for shipment. Sequencing the fabric involved stacking the
rolls on the floor so they could be placed on the truck in the exact order that the customer needed
at the cut-and-sew plant.Now the fabric rolls ride a conveyor to the distribution center where
seven telescoping ASRVs (automated storage retrieval vehicles) store the fabric. These ASRVs can
move at speeds up to 600 feet per minute and move rolls and cartons of fabric with precision that
has to be seen to be believed. When it comes time to ship a roll of fabric, it exits the
distribution center via elevator and a forklift places the roll on the truck.Before we were doing
about as good a job of tearing up those rolls as we were making them to begin with, Don Henderson
said. We realized that we needed to do something different with our distribution. The beauty of the
distribution center is that our customers use our shipments now as the model for everyone else. It
was not a cost issue. It was a customer satisfaction issue. Its been one of the most positive
things that weve done. The Grand Tour: Finishing
The final
stop of ATIs tour was the Trion Finishing plant. This plant receives greige fabrics from Mount
Vernons Alto and Cleveland, Ga., plants and the companys Fresno, Calif., plant. About two million
yards of fabric are finished here per week. Trion Finishing is an open-width continuous operation.
Production processes start with two four-stage preparation lines, which desize, scour, mercerize
and bleach the fabric. The dyehouse has four continuous dye ranges. Of these, three have thermosol
capability for dyeing polyester. The plant has three tenter frames and five sanforizers. Trion
Finishing has equipped its sanforizers with the Elbit automated inspection system, so fabric can be
inspected while being processed. There are four sanders for surface finishing. The plant has a
Rosemount process control system similar to the one at Trion Denim controlling approximately 2,500
set points.While this system has a central control center, Mount Vernon associates are still
allowed to make changes in the processes from the production floor without seeking permission from
the control center. It allows our associates to be more in control of the process, said Lee Bryan,
general manager, Trion Finishing. We want them to have the authority to do the things that they
need to do. You cannot separate responsibility from authority. Thats the philosophy of the company
to me.Most of the fabric processed here goes into workwear. Mount Vernon is a player with every
major uniform manufacturer. Another big segment is bottomweight fabric for
sportswear. Innovation On DemandRecently, one of Mount Vernons biggest workwear customers came
to the company with a request. It wanted a softer, more comfortable uniform fabric. But the fabric
had to have the same wear-like-iron performance as the current product. Mount Vernon took the
challenge to heart. After a grueling year-long examination of the fabric, Mount Vernons
manufacturing team knew it better than ever before.We proved everything that we believed about that
fabric again, Bryan said. Some of the things that we always believed about that fabric what had to
go into that fabric to make it successful we actually proved wrong.In the end, they developed a
fabric with hand that the customer wanted without sacrificing performance. The details of this
innovation are proprietary and could not be shared with ATI.
May 2000