Industry Situation

ot much has changed for spinners, weavers and knitters in the United States. At a recent
meeting of textile executives, several were asked, “What are your feelings on the current state of
affairs in the textile industry?” The answers were generally the same. They might be summed up in
what one of them said: “Never in my 30 to 40 years have I seen anything like it. There have been
times when one or two segments have been bad, but I have never seen a time when all segments were
like we have now. I don’t know what is going to happen.”

One attendee responded a little more positively. He said, “I know of a few areas that are
doing okay. Some are doing so because their competition has closed down and they are getting some
of that business. Others have come up with new/different products, and a few have found a little
life in their military/uniform markets. Also, a few areas of knitting are doing very well. In fact,
I think that there are some positive signs

out there. First of all, plants stopped off during the past several months to reduce or
eliminate inventories. Inventories have really hurt. So this year will start out with very low or
no inventories. Secondly, the pipelines are about empty.” He went on to say, “I look for things to
pick up in the later part of the first quarter or in the second quarter. With inventories at such a
low level and the pipelines almost empty, any movement would translate into a positive response
from spinners, weavers and knitters.”

So, have we seen the worst of it? The optimistic outlook of the above presenter appears to
fall in line with overall views of the general economy. Economists are projecting that the general
economy will begin to improve in the third or fourth quarter of this year. If this is true, and if
history repeats itself, then we in the textile industry should expect to see an upturn during the
first or second quarter. This follows from past eco-nomic trends that indicate the textile industry
leads the general economy into a slowdown or recession, and it leads the economy out of a

How valid are these trends? No one knows. But there is one thing for certain; we in textiles
knew the economy was in recession long before it was openly stated by economists.

Cotton Prices

In the cotton market, things have become much more aggressive. Prices hit a 27-year low
during the past few weeks, and this led some speculators into the market. Last month, the Yarn
Market reported the price of cotton at 26.77 cents per pound for the base-grade
seven-designated-markets average. This month, the quoted price is 33.36 cents per pound. This is a
6.5-cent increase, or about 25 percent. As we have moved down and out of this “trough,” there has
been a large volume of fixing by producers, cooperatives and mills. Does this mean that someone
sees a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel?

Focus On The Customer

Maybe it is time to focus more on our customer needs. It has been stated many times that the
weaving machine is one of the most effective yarn testers in the plant.

If you ask a weaver what he needs most for effective weaving, he would probably say strong
or stronger yarns. However, if you ask the same question of the weaving machine/customer, the
answer would probably be, “more consistent or uniform yarn strength.” Stronger yarns alone, or on
average, may not lead to improvements in weaving performance. In fact, lower average yarn strength,
with less variation, may contribute more to improvements in weaving performance.

As variations in yarn strength are reduced, measurements become more closely clustered about
the average, and extreme measurements are reduced/eliminated.

As a result, one would expect better weaving performance. More recently, a purchaser of
weaving yarns was asked, “What are the most important issues that you have with yarns purchased?”
He listed imprint bruises, cobwebs, overshots, no/bad/trapped transfer tail, loose ends, cuts,
tangles, rolled selvages, damaged sleeve/cone, wild yarn, malformed package/soft/hard, and run-outs
as having serious impacts on quality and production.

An interesting list, particularly since many spinners have no measurable system for these
types of defects. Given all of this, how can we give the weaving machine/customer a package that is
free of anything that might cause it to stop?

January 2002