Innovation + execution:

Week of January 6, 2003

Pliana’s winning formula

Don Clark (R), CEO of Pliana, Inc., said that 2002 was a growth year for the polypropylene producer and that he expects a continuation of that growth this year. He is joined here by Stuart Thackston, sales manager.

CHARLOTTE, NC — Don Clark’s vision of the future for Pliana, Inc. is crystal clear. He sees the company he heads becoming the leader in innovative, high value-added polypropylene products in the U.S. yarn market.

Clark readily concedes that other CEOs in the textile industry have the same vision for their companies. His bet is that execution will make the difference between Pliana and the rest of the pack.

“First,” he said, “we can make polypropylene — fundamentally the lowest cost fiber — look, act, smell and taste as good as, or better than, higher-priced synthetic fibers.

“Second, we have an unyielding focus on innovation, quality products, dependable service and great team execution. That’s our credo, which is instilled in every employee.”

The numbers prove him right. While the overall textile industry fights through the economic doldrums, 2002 was a growth year for Pliana. Clark said he looks for a continuation this year, with his optimism based on a continuing stream of innovative specialty offerings.

Benchmark companies typically generate between 15 and 20 percent of revenues from new products. Pliana is currently at the upper end of that range and Clark is determined to push the percentage much higher.

 

Mario Zetina, plant manager, verifies a color match with Pliana’s color lab technician Joyce Greene. The company can easily create new colors or match those in its extensive color library.
Pliana, Inc. is one of North America’s largest producers of polypropylene chenille yarns. This presentation shows the various types of yarns the company makes.

“We’re working on our bottom line, but we’re spending more time growing the top line for ourselves and our customers with newness and innovation,” he said. “When we identify a high-value opportunity with a customer, product development has to be measured in days, not weeks or months. Our company is nimble enough to do that and our customers demand nothing less.”

Pliana’s nimbleness plays out in many ways other than speed. Color and customization are two examples.

Unlike some competitors, the company has its own color lab facilities. It can easily create new colors or match those in its extensive color library. The company annually adds 30 to 40 new colors, that forecast industry design trends.

As for customization, Clark said his competitors primarily deal in “units of millions.” One-third of his business is small runs of less than 2,000 pounds, which is achievable due to the configuration of his company’s manufacturing processes.

Seventy-five percent of Pliana’s revenues come from contract and home upholstery. Automotive sales account for 15 percent, with the remainder split among industrial, military and apparel sales.

Product glance

Pliana Inc. is a subsidiary of Pliana Holdings, which has 1,200 employees located at sales and manufacturing operations in Charlotte; Tlaxcala, Mexico; and at company headquarters in Mexico City.

The company is one of North America’s largest producers of polypropylene chenille yarns. Building on that strength, three new chenille products are in Pliana’s product portfolio.

Punto® is a fine-denier chenille for home upholstery and apparel, such as sweaters, where its low cost and light weight make it attractive in replacing acrylic yarns. Introduced earlier this year, it is available in more than 30 colors.

Alchemie®, targeted at home upholstery markets, will be available this month and has been engineered to be extremely soft and luxurious.

“It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen from the polypropylene world and is expected to compete exceptionally well with acrylic and cotton,” Clark said.

Pliana’s third new chenille entry is Vibe®, a slub chenille yarn with a variety of deniers in each filament. Fabrics made with this yarn have random degrees of thickness, which has important design implications for home upholstery. Vibe® will be launched this month.

Clark has also set sights on growth in the carpet and automotive arenas. Carpet and rug producers are increasingly interested in polypropylene and nylon chenille yarns which, along with lower cost, bring new design capabilities and fresh looks, according to company officials.

Feedback on a number of new polypropylene and nylon chenille sample programs has been promising, staff members said.

Pliana officials said they believe it can leverage its longtime experience in home upholstery, color capabilities and small lot technology to grow share in automotive markets. This is primarily a polyester market so, in addition to its polypropylene automotive yarn offering, Pliana is developing a line of polyester taslan, false-twist and chenille products consistent with its past record of meeting rigorous automotive specifications.

Clark said he is also eyeing expansion into military markets, where cost and performance are critical. He has high expectations for a new line of polypropylene yarns for thermal underwear, tarps and straps. Timing could not be better, with military spending reflecting the current heightened awareness of national security.

Innovative novelty yarns, which Clark defined as “funky and out there on the leading edge,” are also being introduced. Whirlwind®, Cosmos® and Carousel® offer novel combinations of twists, bulk levels and colors that enable designers to create new, fresh and different fabric concepts.

As he looks ahead to this year, Clark said he believes the peaks and valleys he and the company initially experienced are behind him, enabling a greater focus on the growth strategy.

Clark’s ground rules for growth are as clear as his vision for the company.

“At Pliana, we’re not interested in growth for the sake of getting big,” he said. “We want profitable growth for ourselves and our customers.”

R’Spandex to double warping capacity

Week of January 6, 2003

FALL RIVER, MA — RadiciSpandex Corporation announced in December the purchase of new and revolutionary spandex warping equipment to grow its warp knit division here.

“We are very pleased with our progress in the tricot fabric sector and we have, this month, begun to broaden our focus toward the raschel fabric arena, as well,” said Bill Girrier, vice president of marketing and sales. “We’ve quickly grown into our warping capacity and we need to push forward on productivity. We want our customers to be encouraged by our commitment and our desire to keep ahead of them. The investment in more fine denier warping capacity is a must for us in order to continue to grow.”

RadiciSpandex’s versatile Type S-17 semi-dull spandex fiber has been the premier product responsible for the tremendous growth of the company in warp knit fabrics, he added. The recent launch of Type S-45 high temperature-resistant spandex/elastane has resulted in a surge of interest from many sectors where the challenge of a truly “polyester compatible” spandex has been in high demand for some time, he said.

“We’re the only spandex supplier to answer the plea for such a robust, high temperature-tolerant fiber,” Girrier said.

The new spandex warping equipment, the first of its kind in the market, is the result of a joint technical effort between RadiciSpandex and its equipment vendor.

“The new generation of spandex warper we are installing is an innovation and is revolutionary in design,” Girrier said. “It will dramatically improve our efficiency and productivity.”

The new warping equipment, which will be operational by the end of this month, will double RadiciSpandex’s current fine denier warping capacity, pushing total RadiciSpandex North American spandex warping production capacity to 6 million pounds per year. RadiciSpandex has additional warping capacity already in place overseas that its servicing European accounts.

Awards

Week of January 6, 2003

Cotton Inc. recognizes designers

NEW YORK CITY — Five fashion designers were honored last month as fashion industry leaders gathered for a gala evening at The Metropolitan Museum of Art here for Cotton Incorporated’s 14th “Celebration of American Style.”

“Cotton Incorporated has a long history of working with key designers,” said J. Berrye Worsham, president and CEO, Cotton Incorporated. “The five designers showcased continue that tradition. They are today’s most distinctive and talented designers, and have been singled out because they not only embody the spirit of American style, but also serve as inspiration to the young designers of tomorrow.”

Those chosen were Kenth Andersson, Stephen Hardy for Squeeze, Jerry Kaye for Perry Ellis, Lilly Pulitzer and Lars Nilsson for Bill Blass. The highlight of the evening was a specially produced fashion presentation, “The Best In American Cotton Design,” featuring vignettes of each honoree’s designs.

Andersson’s philosophy is to design clothes to complement a woman’s style, never to overpower her. His made-to-order collections have a loyal following of professional and high-profile women.

Hardy is the first in junior clothing to present a truly designer approach to denim. Squeeze’s made-to-order collection features one-of-a-kind pieces, embraced by celebrities such as Destiny’s Child, Britney Spears and Brandy.

Kaye, executive vice president and design director for Perry Ellis Menswear, has been at the helm of one of America’s legendary menswear manufacturers for the last six years.

For Pulitzer, it all started with a fruit stand in Palm Beach and ended up with the now famous “Lillys.” Her first dress was designed to camouflage fruit stains: a comfortable sleeveless shift made of bright, colorful printed cotton in pink, green, yellow and orange. Before long everyone wanted one, including school chum Jackie Kennedy.

Nilsson was appointed head designer for Bill Blass, Ltd. in January 2001. He came to the position with quite a designer pedigree, having worked in Paris for several prominent courtiers. Moving to New York at the end of the 1990s, Nilsson became design director for Ralph Lauren women’s wear.

Suppliers

Week of January 6, 2003

Neuenhauser, SSI merge

CHARLOTTE, NC & GREER, SC — Two well-known suppliers of technology, products and services to the United States and Canadian textile markets announced their merger and creation of a new company.

Neuenhauser Automation, Inc (NAI) and Sourcing Services International (SSI) have merged and will operate as divisions of the new entity, Neuenhauser Incorporated (NI).

Neuenhauser Inc. is comprised of NI-Charlotte, NAI Division and NI-Greer, SSI Division.

The NAI Division will continue to service the textile industry for material handling automation systems. NAI provides application and engineering, simulation and system design services, project management and custom designed integrated automation systems. NAI has been successful throughout the years providing total automation solutions for package handling, material transport and finish product packaging for many U.S. and Canadian spinning plants.

The SSI Division will continue to distribute, sell and provide service and parts for its European partners for which it is the exclusive distributor. Those companies are:

• Jametti: warp beams and flanges;

• Genkinger: warp and cloth trucks;

• Knotex: warp tying machines and frames;

• Sohler-Neuenhauser: traveling cleaners; and

• Loomdata: production monitoring and information systems.

Additionally, as a result of the merger, the SSI Division will provide sales, service, and parts for:

• Neuenhauser: off-loom take-ups; and

• Sohler-Neuenhauser: top duct traveling cleaners

The Neuenhauser Take-Ups and Top Duct Cleaner System were previously distributed by Hubtex of North America. All responsibilities for sales, service and distribution of those product lines have been transferred to the NI Greer, SSI Division.

Technical associates of NAI and SSI have been trained to provide installation and after-sale service for the Neuenhauser equipment. Spare parts and technical service are now located at the SSI location in Greer, SC.

Philip Riddle, former president of SSI, has been appointed president and CEO of Neuenhauser Inc.

“We are very pleased to bring two companies together to provide service to the USA and Canadian textile markets and to expand our product offerings and expertise to the industry,” Riddle said. “Our customers will benefit from the synergies of our combined products and human resources.”

Daryl Downen will continue to lead the efforts in automation as executive vice president of NI Automation. Bob Brownlee, previously a partner in SSI, has assumed the duties of executive vice president of operations for NI.

This merger enables NI to streamline operations and provide its customers with additional services and expertise. Neuenhauser Inc. will continue to operate the NAI facility in Charlotte and the SSI facility in Greer in order to provide excellent service to its current and future customers.

“As the industry has consolidated, we searched for the best opportunity to expand the level of products and services which we could make available to the industry,” Riddle said. “We were able to take two leading, complementary companies and combine the resources into a more complete technology resource/service center for our customers. The merger of these companies and addition of the product lines available via Neuenhauser Maschinenbau in Germany will provide many benefits to our customers and to our associates.”

Awards

Week of January 6, 2003

Textile history museum honors Samuel Rogers

Samuel S. Rogers (R) receives the first ATHM Community Service Award from American Textile History Museum Board Chairman Edward B. Stevens (C) following remarks made by Hiram M. Samel, ATHM’s second vice chairman and president of Merida Meridan, Inc.
Photo by John Gillooly

LOWELL, MA — Community leader Samuel S. Rogers received the first ATHM Community Service Award at a gala honoring him at the American Textile History Museum recently.

Nearly 200 guests attended the event, which raised $120,000 to benefit museum programs and services. The gala, a black-tie invitational hosted by the museum’s board of trustees, began with a reception, followed by dinner, dancing to the music of Bo Winiker and his orchestra and viewing of the museum’s holiday exhibition “Reflections: Fashions, Dolls and the Art of Growing Up.”

Gala co-chairs were Nancy L. Donahue of Lowell and Hooks K. Johnston Jr. of Andover. Gold sponsors included Ames Textile Corporation, The Demoulas Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Robert L. Gable, Merida Meridian, Inc., Stevens Foundations, Dean and Eliza Webster and Mr. Melvin Weiner.

Silver sponsors included Brown Brothers Harriman, Nancy and Richard Donahue, John and Cynthia Everts, Mr. and Mrs. A. Garcia, Holy Family Hospital, Mr. and Mrs. Hooks Johnston Jr., Pearson & Pearson LLC/Butler Bank and the Rogers Family Foundation.

Recognized for his dedication to the museum and the region, Rogers has maintained a strong philanthropic and philosophical commitment to community service, including serving as former president of the museum and a trustee since its inception; trustee of the Stevens Foundations; former commodore of Chatham Yacht Club and president of Southern Massachusetts Yacht Racing Association; founder of Edgewood Retirement Community, North Andover; founding director of Merrimack Valley Community Foundation and School Volunteers for Lawrence; director of Andover Endowment for the Arts and Andover Committee for A Better Chance (ABC); Boston Council for Public Schools, School Volunteers for Boston, and Associated Grantmakers of Massachusetts, Boston; member of Saengerfest Concert Chorus in Weston; and Andover and North Andover Historical Societies.

Rogers was born in 1924 to Horatio Rogers of Chestnut Hill, a surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Caroline Stevens Rogers of North Andover, who founded the museum in 1960 with a collection of spinning wheels inherited from her father. Rogers attended Phillips Academy in Andover and received an A.B. from Harvard College before serving in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

His career has included executive positions in the Andover and North Andover divisions of J. P. Stevens & Co., Inc., and development and public affairs positions at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and Globe Newspaper Company in Boston, where he founded the Globe Jazz Festival. He is married to Ann Dare Gill Rogers and lives in North Andover. They have four children and two grandchildren.

Gotcha!

Week of January 6, 2003

Retirement party for AYSA’s Jim Conner

Jim Conner (C) makes the rounds after arriving to the surprise retirement party in his honor. Here, he is congratulated by former American Yarn Spinners Association presidents Mark Kent (L), president and CEO of The Kent Manufacturing Co., Pickens, SC, and Andy Warlick, president and COO of Parkdale Mills, Gastonia, NC, as Mary O’Rourke, co-founder and managing director of the Jassin-O’Rourke Group, New York City, looks on.
Photos by Devin Steele
After being asked to put on a boat captain’s hat and a sweatshirt bearing the words “Captain In Training,” Jim Conner took his place on the “hot seat,” a director’s chair, as industry colleagues and fellow staff members took turns saluting the retiring 30-year AYSA executive vice president. Here, longtime administrative assistant Lillian Link has just finished toasting her former boss.

Education & Research

Week of January 6, 2003

TCTC’s on-line courses gaining in popularity

By Lisa Garrett

PENDLETON, SC — Textile employees working toward a textile management degree at Tri-County Technical College (TCTC) today don’t always have to choose the traditional classroom setting.

Instead, they can opt for on-line classes, which are steadily gaining in popularity among those whose work schedules and time constraints won’t permit them to attend classes on the Pendleton campus.

Eight students who began taking these Web-based classes this fall wouldn’t be able to pursue college if it weren’t for this format, said Jim Wilson, who leads Tri-County’s Textile Management Technology and Quality Assurance Technology programs.

“They fall into the ever-increasing category of employees who work swing or 12-hour shifts and attending class on campus is virtually impossible,” he said. “This system provides an alternate way to receive an education.”

Thirty percent of the plants in Upstate South Carolina are working these non-traditional shifts, he added. They offer employees more time off — they work the same number of hours but fewer days, he said.

“Industry is supportive and eager for us to offer these Internet courses,” said Wilson. “We intend to ensure that the quality and content of the Internet classes will be the same as on-campus classes.”

Both the Textile Management and Quality Assistance curricula are becoming Web based, and persons entering this career path could graduate with a degree within three to four years.

“Many textile companies in the state face this same dilemma of associates who don’t have access to textile education,” said Wilson.

Tri-County is the only college in the state to offer a two-year degree in Textile Management Technology.

“We will go statewide with the on-line curriculum and want to become the center for textile training for SC,” he said.

A $67,644 grant from the J. E. Sirrine Textile Foundation funded 10 new textile management technology scholarships at Tri-County this fall and supported the continuing development of the college’s Web-based textile courses.

Specifically, $27,000 is earmarked for the 10 two-year scholarships and the remaining $40,644 is being used to fund the development of two more textile courses: yarn manufacturing and textile manufacturing and synthetic fibers. Eventually, Tri-County will offer all of the courses required for the Textile Management Technology degree over the Internet.

“We are happy with the continued support the J. E. Sirrine Textile Foundation bestows on our Textile Management Technology program,” said Wilson. “Textiles remains the largest employer in our area, and the need for qualified management personnel continues. These funds enable us to offer scholarships that pay for a student’s entire tuition, plus a portion of textbook costs.

“These 10 new scholarships are available to students who are either employed in the textile industry or who want to enter the textile industry on a first-line supervisor level.”

Scholarships provided

Currently, more than 60 students are enrolled in the Textile Management Technology program. The majority of the students enrolled already are employed in a production capacity with area textile firms. Since the program’s inception in 1973, area companies have donated 1,138 textile scholarships valued at $1.65 million.

“Firms are dedicated to these students (their employees) by furnishing scholarships annually. We are grateful to these textile companies for their generous support of our department,” said Wilson.

“Almost all of our textile students are on scholarships, and many of them tell me that the scholarship is what makes it possible for them to earn this two-year degree.”

Many employees are coupling their textile degree with a quality assurance certificate to better arm themselves when looking for a job or being considered for a promotion. The nine-hour quality certificate supplements the degree and is offered on-line every semester.

Also, for the first time, the Introduction to Manufacturing Technology certificate is available on-line. It combines a course dealing with the fundamentals of textiles with others regarding OSHA guidelines, manufacturing safety, supervisory skills and quality assurance.

The degree allows a better chance for promotions, added Wilson. In many companies a degree is a necessity to advance into management level positions, he added.

“The degree makes them more promotable by bringing new skills and technical knowledge to their workplace. Communication, leadership and interpersonal skills, combined with a knowledge of quality assurance, safety, production and cost control, make them a valuable hire in today’s fast-paced environment,” Wilson said.

For those who want to continue their education at Clemson University, qualifying students who graduate from the Textile Management Technology program at Tri-County can now get a scholarship to Clemson’s textile program beginning with their first semester, said Wilson.

“Textiles still remains the largest manufacturing employers in the state,” said Wilson, adding that he is optimistic about the economic outlook for the area.

He cited Liberty Denim, LLC, which opened its new plant recently and Central Textiles that reopened in Pickens earlier this year.

“The need continues for highly trained, motivated leaders to help textile industries to compete in our globally competitive marketplace,” he said.

Other support

The Textile Management Technology department continues to garner the support of area industries. Last year Glen Raven, Inc. donated $400,000 in new equipment — two Jacquard weaving machines with computerized Bonas heads. Picanol and Global Textile Partner donated a new Picanol Omni 340 weaving machine valued at $56,000.

“These are just a few examples of the show of support from the local textile industries, and that’s in addition to the $1.6 million in scholarship sponsorships over the last 30 years. We simply couldn’t do it without them. The vitality of the department is directly related to that level of support,” he said.

“Our goal is to help our textile companies better compete through increased productivity and quality and by providing knowledgeable, new leadership through education,” said Wilson. “This is not the same textile industry of 30 years ago that grandmas and grandpas talk about,” he added. “Today’s textile industry is high-tech and computerized. To deal with changing economies, new technology and stiffer competition, textile education is more important now than ever.

“As an industry, we have to be better at what we do than anyone else in the world. Truly, the world is now our competition. To achieve the greater part of the market share, it will take new leadership and innovation. Education can make the difference. In America, we have the best people, the best manufacturing facilities and right here in the tri-county area we have the educational opportunity to help us be the best in the world.”

Education & Research

Week of January 6, 2003

Philly U. to partner with Italian firm

PHILADELPHIA — The Italian textile company Filatura Di Grignasco, a leading spinner of high-end specialty yarns, announced a liaison development program with Philadelphia University’s School of Textiles & Materials Technology.

This program provides students with an inventory of Grignasco yarns, as well as leading fashion and technical instruction and information.

In addition to donating its fall/winter 2002-2003 fashion collection of fabrics and yarn concepts to Philadelphia University’s textile library for student use, one recent feature of the liaison program was a seminar “Retail-Driven Market for High-End Italian Yarns,” presented by Andrea Rossi, Grignasco’s manager of Export Sales, and Roger Markay, Grignasco’s U.S. representative and vice president of Yarn Sales, Corporation.

From the seminar, students learned the process that is employed to develop new clothing lines, and were enlightened about how extensive and global this process is. The Grignasco executives also explained the growing importance of high-tech products such as antibacterial, anti-static, heat-distribution fabrics, developed for their cooling and warming properties, and for keeping the body dry and comfortable.

To build this level of quality into a product, Rossi explained the need of X-Static The Silver Fiber, a unique fiber that is being used by Grignasco.

Philadelphia University professor Marylyn “Peggy” Goutmann helped establish the university’s relationship with Grignasco. She and Rossi said they are optimistic about the partnership.

“This liaison presents the kind of hands-on, real-world experiences that we try to provide for our students. I’m very excited about this union, and I look forward to working closely with Grignasco for many years to come,” said Goutmann.

Said Rossi” “It’s a two-way learning experience that will work to our mutual benefit.”

Education & Research

Week of January 6, 2003

NTC’s Cunning to step down

WILMINGTON, DE — The National Textile Center-University Research Consortium is seeking a new executive director.

After 11 years of service, Dr. Joe Cunning has announced his intention to step down from this post. He will continue as the executive director until the position is filled. Persons interested in the position can seek more information on the NTC Web site http://www.NTCresearch.org.

“The NTC has become the nation’s premier research organization in support of a large and important industry,” Cunning said. “It is with a sense of pride and satisfaction that I turn the reins over to the next generation.”

Dr. Fred Cook, professor of Textile & Fiber Engineering at Georgia Tech and chair of the NTC operating board said: “We sincerely thank Dr. Cunning for his superb leadership over the last 11 years. He has been instrumental in NTC’s growth from four to eight university members and increasing its annual budget from $7 million to $10 million. While he will be greatly missed, we honor his desire to spend more time with his family and other endeavors.”

Cunning has agreed to remain as a consultant to the NTC.

The NTC is composed of eight core universities: Auburn, Clemson, Cornell, Georgia Tech, Philadelphia, North Carolina State, California-Davis and Massachusetts-Dartmouth. Founded in 1990, the NTC is the partnership by which these universities collaborate to conduct academic research programs.

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