STA Annual Meeting

June 10, 2003

STA reaps benefits sown by Oates

Larry Oates, president of the Southern Textile Association, serves as vice president of manufacturing for Carolon Co. in Rural Hall, NC. Oates will hold the gavel when the organization holds its 95th annual meeting this week in Savannah, GA.

Editor’s note: Following is an interview with Larry Oates, president of the Southern Textile Association (STA), which will hold its annual meeting this week in Savannah, GA. Oates, vice president of manufacturing at Carolon Company, Rural Hall, NC, answered questions supplied to him in documented form by STN Editor Devin Steele

STN: Please discuss your goals as president and how did you go about accomplishing them?

Oates: To be honest, I guess I was a little apprehensive about the responsibility of being elected president of STA this year. To say the industry is in a challenging period is quite an understatement. The textile industry has undergone a tremendous amount of change, with more on the way.

My goal for STA this year was to recognize these changes and utilize STA’s core mission, which is the transfer of technical knowledge, to serve our industry by providing the best information and technical support that can make bottom-line differences for companies in the textile industry. Luckily, I did not have to do this myself. STA has a strong division structure with involved officers and planning boards who put on some excellent regional meetings this year.

Also, the Board of Governors is a large group of very talented and energetic managers who took a great deal of initiative this year.

Traditionally, the main job of the president is to plan the annual meeting and while that may sound simple, there are many details to be dealt with. I believe we have put together a program that will be entertaining and maybe even a little inspirational to our membership.

STN: Briefly, take us through STA’s successes during the past year.

Oates: I think it has been a very active and productive year with all three divisions each holding spring and fall meetings and our traditional Winter Seminar in Charlotte.

The SC division fall meeting was an all-day seminar held in Clemson and featured technical presentations on Uster testing, slashing and ring spinning, then a panel discussion on weaving. The spring meeting was held in Greenville. The topic was “Perspectives on the Textile industry” with Dr. Bill Ward from Clemson and a terrific speech by Smyth McKissick, CEO of Alice Manufacturing. A total of 294 people attended these meetings that were put on by Division Chairman Joe Venable and his planning board.

Lee Thomas was busy this year. He served as Piedmont Division chairman and first vice president of STA. He and his planning board were responsible for two division meetings, each held at the NC Center for Applied Textile Technology in Belmont. The fall meeting featured U.S. Representative Sue Myrick and Chief Customs Inspector Janet Labuda for an update on progress in deterring illegal transshipping of goods.

The spring meeting was an open house, with a panel discussion of four companies explaining how they were utilizing the facilities at NCCATT. A total of 371 people enjoyed these meetings.

The NC/VA division was also quite active. At the fall meeting, U.S. Rep. Howard Coble spoke on what the government is doing to help the textile industry. Then in the spring there was a technical presentation on Murata Vortex spinning and the C-60 Card. Mitch Hensley was the division chairman and he and his planning group put these meetings together with 243 people in attendance.

So, you can see it was quite an active year in the divisions.

STN: STA’s Winter Seminar, in my opinion, was a big winner in terms of turnout and the quality of speakers. Please comment on the success of that event and the feedback you heard afterward.

Oates: As I mentioned, Lee Thomas was also responsible for the Winter Seminar held in January in Charlotte. He continued a 30-year tradition with an outstanding program involving 12 speakers and more than 200 people in attendance.

Mary Vane of DuPont spoke on world competition, our own Steve Dobbins gave his view on challenges facing our industry and Mike Hubbard presented export opportunities in trade agreements. A team of NC government representatives talked about resources available to companies. Dan St. Louis of the NC Hosiery Technology Center gave an example of industry collaboration, then Peter Kilduff and Tom Revels spoke on vision for the future and controlling health care costs.

Many people commented to me how well rounded they thought the program was and how they found some really practical pieces of information that they could take back and put to use in their operation. I thought Steve Dobbins’ speech was outstanding and I have heard several people quoting some of the things he said.

STN: What other activities was the group involved in this year?

Oates: A new and very active committee is the STA/Machinery Vendors, which is led by Bill Gray. This group is working to create a communication network to exploit export opportunities and to establish a computerized and linked spare parts program. The group has also organized a summer seminar to be held August 19 at NCCATT, to present papers on work that has been done and documented in the textile industry in the last 12 months. This is a great example of results-oriented benefits that STA is working to provide to our industry.

Dan Nation headed a committee to review the finances of the association and I am proud to report that, through the efforts of this committee and the Board of Governors, STA is on very sound financial footing.

STN: How else is STA helping members meet today’s challenges?

Oates: In my opinion, one of the major values of STA is giving its members a forum for communicating with each other. Competitors, people in different parts of the industry, machinery and equipment manufacturers, spare parts, service — all sectors of the textile industry.

STN: Why is serving STA important to you?

Oates: I see this as an opportunity to serve the textile industry. I have spent my entire career in textiles and I think the industry is very important to the future of our country and I have confidence that we will survive and find ways to evolve and prosper. STA can and should serve a roll in this evolution.

STN: How long have you been an STA member?

Oates: I became involved with STA in 1987, when I was plant manager of the Stratford Yarn Plant for Sara Lee Knit Products. The NC/VA division meetings were held at the YMCA in Greensboro and you really had to be dedicated to learning more about the industry to attend these meetings. It sure wasn’t for the atmosphere or the food that was served.

After attending these meetings for a couple of years, David Lindsay of Tultex encouraged me to join the planning board for the division and that is where I began to see the real value in STA. I came to know the other board members better and we began to exchange information and ideas on everything from equipment to human resource issues to computer systems.

I left Sara Lee in 1990 and joined the Carolon Company. It was quite a change in many ways, going from a huge company with all of the plusses and minuses of bureaucracy and infrastructure to a small company where each person has to wear many hats. However, I maintained my involvement in STA and continued to find value in the association, even though I was no longer involved in yarn manufacturing.

I think this illustrates the broad appeal of STA. No matter if you are involved in yarn manufacturing, knitting, weaving, dyeing and finishing, or, in our case, medical textiles, there is value in knowing what is going on in other parts of the industry.

STN: How has the association contributed to your professional growth?

Oates: Serving on the Board of Governors and as an officer of STA has given me the opportunity to get to know more about many companies that make up our industry and to form friendships with people I would otherwise never have met. For anyone in STA who is so inclined, there are leadership opportunities available where you can do as much or as little as you like. In my case, being part of a smaller company, STA has really expanded my peer group.

STN: How have you juggled responsibilities between your full-time job and your position with STA?

Oates: It’s always a challenge to serve two masters. You have to remember which master pays the bills and be sure not to shortchange your company. At the same time, there is a sense of responsibility to STA to take care of business there, too. Luckily, Lillian Link and the staff at AYSA, who serve as administrators for STA, do a wonderful job and are extremely efficient. They take care of most of the details and I don’t know where we would be without them.

My company has been very supportive of my work with STA and has allowed me the time to attend a lot of meetings, especially in the last year. We have a great management group and they have kept things going while I was away.

Most of the president’s work comes toward the end of the association’s year and, as luck would have it, we had several big projects at work that we had been developing for years that came to completion at this busy time.

STN: Please provide a brief description of your company and how it is adjusting to today’s ever-changing challenges.

Oates: I work for a terrific company. Carolon Company was founded in 1973 by Lawrence Reid, who had his textile background with Washington Mills. He is in his young 80s and is still actively involved with the company. His son, Larry Reid, is president. We manufacture medical products, mostly medical grade compression hosiery. The purpose of this hosiery is to apply graduated compression to the legs to increase blood flow velocity and improve circulation. This has many benefits, ranging from cosmetic to life-saving.

We also produce slipper socks, support wraps and hot and cold therapy items. Our work force is second to none — we have some of the most dedicated people I have ever been associated with.

When I joined Carolon in 1990, many of the products were produced by contractors, but the decision had been made to internalize all production possible. A new building was constructed in 1990 and, since then, we have expanded twice. We now are completely vertical, from yarn through packaged product. Processes include knitting, weaving, sewing, dyeing, boarding, printing, inspection and packaging.

The process for developing and producing medical-grade compression stockings is quite complicated and requires a great deal of technical expertise. We are fortunate to have very talented technical people in the knitting, sewing and finishing areas. Also, anti-embolism stockings are considered to be Class II medical devices and, as such, are regulated by the FDA and we are required to operate under a system of Good Manufacturing practices.

We have worked to develop market outlets all over the U.S. and the world. Marketing operations are headquartered at our facilities in Rural Hall, NC, and we have a system of manufacturer’s representatives that cover the U.S. In addition, we have developed international business through our subsidiary, Carolon, Ltd. in the UK and through our relationship with several multi-national companies. Our products are being sold throughout the U.S. and in the UK, Italy, Japan, China, Mexico, Australia, Canada and Saudi Arabia.

STN: Please describe the working relationship you have with your officers and board and the STA staff?

Oates: I can’t imagine a more pleasant working relationship than the one we have at STA. The nature of the association is the cause of that. Most people bring their spouses and some bring their children to the annual meetings and board meetings and over the years, you begin to know people pretty well. You develop friendships and bonds that go deeper than would be possible by just knowing the individual and not their families.

This carries over into the business of running the association. There are no cliques or power struggles. I have never heard a harsh word spoken at an STA meeting.

I guess one thing that helps is that we are not a politically oriented group. Nothing causes disruption like politics. STA’s mission is to promote good fellowship among its members; to exchange professional knowledge and experience on subjects related to textile manufacturing; to promote other social, educational, personnel relations, research and scientific activities for the benefit of the members, their companies and the textile industry.

Henry Surratt has done an excellent job as chairman this year and the other members of the Executive Committee, Lee Thomas, Russell Mims and John Truesdale, have all made big contributions.

STN: Please comment on the leadership skills of Lee Thomas of Parkdale America, your expected successor.

Oates: In my opinion, there is no one better suited to lead STA next year than Lee. He has been a dedicated and hard-working member of STA for many years and has done a terrific job on any assignment he has taken on. In fact, this past year, Lee served as chairman of the Piedmont Division and first vice president of STA. He put together an outstanding program for the Winter Seminar, with 12 speakers covering topics of great interest to our group.

Lee will do an excellent job next year and I look forward to working with him again. And coming along right behind Lee is Russell Mims of Buhler Quality Yarns, who has a tremendous amount of energy and great leadership skills.

STN: How many members are currently in STA? Has membership stayed about the same, increased or decreased? Please explain.

Oates: Current membership stands at 466 and we expect this to increase slightly as we get closer to the annual meeting. This is about 8 percent below last year and 17 percent below what it was in 2000. We feel like things have leveled out and we hope we are going to be able to maintain at our current level.

When you consider all that has happened to the textile industry and the downsizing that has occurred, I think we are doing extremely well to have 466 members. I don’t know of another textile association with that kind of membership.

STN: This year’s annual meeting site, Savannah, represents a change of locale for STA. If I’m not mistaken, the group has met in either Hilton Head or Asheville “forever.” Why the change?

Oates: Several years ago, the Board of Governors took a look at attendance figures for the annual meeting and found that we consistently drew more people to the Hilton Head meetings than the ones in Asheville. We formed a committee to investigate new meeting sites as a possible replacement for Asheville and they recommended the Westin Harbor Resort in Savannah. This is an absolutely beautiful facility, close to Historic Savannah with a great golf course close by. We have had a good response so far and we will see how things go at the meeting.

This is sort of a one-year experiment. The plan is to go back to Hilton Head next year and make a decision about the following year later.

STN: Please give me a brief description of your career?

Oates: I have spent my entire career in the textile industry. I graduated from college in 1970 and went to work for the Kendall Company, spending the first year on their management training program. I learned every job in the greige mill and finishing plant and when I finished that I got to spend two years as third shift supervisor in the nonwoven plant.

In 1980, I left Kendall and moved to Winston-Salem to take a job with Hanes Knitwear, in the engineering department. I worked in Galax, VA, for two years then came back to Winston-Salem as plant manager of the Stratford Yarn Plant, where I became associated with STA.

In 1990, I decided to leave Sara Lee and take a chance going to work for a small company, Carolon, and I have never looked back. We make medical products, all either knitted or woven. It is challenging work, sometimes very technical, but it is very rewarding. We are very low on the bureaucracy scale, and at the end of each day, I leave feeling that I have accomplished something.

STN: Tell me about your childhood and your family dynamic. How did the experience of growing up point you in the direction to get to where you are today?

Oates: I had the best childhood that you could imagine. When I was about 8 years old, my parents built a house next door to my grandfather’s farm. He was a cotton farmer and also raised corn, wheat and cows. I got to have horses that my grandfather took care of with his mules and, in return, I had to help with jobs around the farm. This was everything from mending fences to plowing to getting up hay

In the fall, when the cotton was ready, everybody in the family had to pitch in and help pick. Let me tell you, picking a hundred pounds of cotton in a day is not an easy thing. We were paid the exorbitant sum of 3 cents a pound and if Granddaddy ever found you slipping a rock in your sack, he would dock you 5 pound’s pay. I never would have guessed that I would spend my entire working career dealing, either directly or indirectly, with cotton.

STN: What is the best thing your parents did to prepare you for adult life?

Oates: My parents have been wonderful to me my entire life. My mom was housewife most of her married life and had a career working for Belk’s in Rock Hill for several years. She lives at Carolina Village in Rock Hill and is very active and is in great health. My father was an entrepreneur doing everything from automobiles to landscaping to owning a fleet of ice cream trucks. He spent the last part of his career in public work as the Tax Assessor ( he always said ‘be careful how you abbreviate that’) and later as York County Auditor. He passed away in 1988.

The best thing my parents did for me was to live an example of a good life. They had a great marriage with mutual respect for each other and they had a strong faith and brought me up in the church. I have tried to pattern my life after that example .

I guess the next best thing my parents did for me was to instill in me a work ethic. I grew up thinking that work was something that was expected and not something that you should necessarily get extra rewards for. In all the jobs I have had, I feel that I have given them my best effort.

STN: When the well runs dry, how do you recharge yourself?

Oates: My faith is a really important part of my life. When things really seem to be closing in on me, church always seems to make it better.

STN: What things have you done that matter most to you professionally?

Oates: I am proud of the effort I have given to all the jobs I have had and especially the one I have now. Our company is small and the employees depend on me to make sure our company stays on sound footing. It is a responsibility that I take very seriously.

The other thing that matters to me is STA. When I look back over all the contacts that I have made, seminars and speeches that I have heard and friendships that I have gained, I realize just how much STA means to me.

STN: What things have you accomplished personally that matter most to you?

Oates: Definitely, my family is the most important thing in my life. My marriage of 32 years to a wonderful woman and raising two children who are smart, well grounded and prepared for the world.

STN: Are you comfortable with change?

Oates: You know, I would like to say yes, but this thing with the ACC really bothers me. How in the world will Clemson win any football games in a conference with Miami, Florida State, Syracuse and Boston College? Why can’t they just leave things alone?

STN: Please complete this sentence: “In my wildest dreams, I never imagined ...”

Oates: In my younger life, I always had dogs — real dogs — Labradors, bird dogs. I never imagined I would wind up with a 10-pound lap dog named “Miss Peaches.”

STN: Where is your favorite place on Earth?

Oates: It may sound a little corny, but home is my favorite place to be. It’s always been that way. When our kids were growing up, our house was always the ‘Kool-Aid’ house where all the kids hung out. Now, we have a side patio, shaded by trees, that seems to be a neighborhood gathering place during cocktail hour. We call them the ‘Trees of Knowledge’ because the longer you sit under them, the smarter you get.

STN: At what times are you happiest?

Oates: Probably standing in Fat Harold’s at Ocean Drive, SC. Frankie and I really enjoy dancing and there is nothing like being at shag “Mecca.”

STA Spring Review

June 10, 2003

Dr. Bill Ward, professor and director of the Center for International Trade at Clemson University, addresses STA’s South Carolina division.

Clemson prof. talks knowledge, globalism

By Devin Steele

GREENVILLE, SC — China has almost as many people with an IQ above 115 as the U.S. has people.

Such a startling claim, made by Dr. Bill Ward, means that the Asian country of 1.3 billion people isn’t going anywhere any time soon, he told members of the Southern Textile Association (STA) during the South Carolina Division’s Spring Meeting here recently. In fact, China, based on the premise that knowledge is power, will become an even bigger economic force in the next 15-plus years, he added.

“China looks like it will emerge economically over the period 1990 to 2020 in almost exactly the same way that the U.S. economy emerged over the period 1890 to 1920,” said Ward, professor and director of the Center for International Trade at Clemson University, Clemson, SC.

The “China challenge” was but one talking point that kept about 100 STA members on the edge of their seats during Ward’s presentation. He also touched on the economic philosophy of globalism and the full-blown arrival of the “Knowledge Society.”

Citing economists, Ward noted hat globalism provides a means of achieving two things: 1) to amass the resources needed to bring economic development to the poor countries and to the formerly planned economies; and 2) to put the U.S. at the center of the global financial system.

“It is argued that globalization of markets for trade and of markets for money provides the best alternative for bringing the poor countries of the world up to developed-world standards,” Ward said.

Why is that, he asked? Because, on the trade side of the ledger, globalization gives poor countries access to the markets of the rich countries, he answered. And on the financial side, globalization allows private capital markets to finance the economic development of the poor countries, he added.

“That’s a big change from the system that prevailed from World War II until 1990,” Ward said.

After 1990, private capital for development grew rapidly. Up to 1991, more than half of all capital flows to developing countries came from official development assistance, he said. By 1996, on the other hand, private capital flows to developing countries were four times larger than official development assistance flows, he added. And, he noted, by the mid-1990s, the factories in developing countries were being built by American and German textile firms.

Related to his point that the U.S. is at the center of the global financial system, Ward cited a few numbers about the U.S., which has: roughly 5 percent of the world’s population, one-fourth of the world’s economic activity and more than half the world’s capital market transactions.

“This is important because — in practice — America’s fastest-growing export market is for the creative, sophisticated financial products that are provided by the U.S. financial services industry,” Ward said. “This constitutes a huge ‘trade surplus’ in financial products that are denominated in U.S. dollars. This shows up as a surplus in the U.S. capital account. A capital account surplus means that the U.S. must, by necessity, run an offsetting deficit in the trade account. And the trade account includes manufacturing, agriculture and non-financial services.”

The United States’ success in leading the global finance parade translates directly into a trade deficit — period, Ward added.

“Trade tariffs and quotas and specialized protection won’t make this particular problem go away for the manufacturing sector,” he said. “Not in the global economic environment that has been consciously promoted over the past 30 years. So start out by understanding this. Then find a way to prosper within the reality that this imposes upon you.”

With the 21st century came the “Knowledge Age” — the period in which the ability to innovate and come up with new ideas, new products and new processes determines one’s ability to compete — as foretold by Peter Drucker in 1968, Ward said.

“For most of us, knowledge-based competition means understanding our markets better and incorporating that knowledge into a service that we provide our clients,” he said. “It means having workers whose basic education and personality allow them to adapt and to change as market demands change. It means changing our focus from the fixed assets in our plants to focusing on the ‘soft’ stuff of market analysis, work force quality and constant innovation to stay ahead of the competition.

“This includes focusing on things that differentiate you from the commodity competitors — such as providing style, quickness and responsiveness to market demands.”

Ward’s remarks followed those of E. Smyth McKissick III, president and treasurer of Alice Manufacturing Co. of Easley, SC.

Equipment suppliers

June 9, 2003

Belmont, Resch Power establish partnership

MOUNT HOLLY, NC — Belmont Textile Machinery Co., based here, and Resch Power Heat-Set GmbH of Toging, Bavaria in the Democratic Republic of Germany have entered into a partnership in which Belmont will provide all sales and service support for Horauf/Suessen GVA (yarn heat setting) machines in North America.

“We are pleased to have gained Resch’s confidence and partnership,” said Jeff Rhyne, president of Belmont Textile Machinery Co.

This partnership follows Resch’s purchase of the GVA program from Horauf/Suessen in September.

“With the combined experience of our two companies,” said Peter Resch, president and CEO of Resch Power, “we can assure our customers in North America that the team of Resch and Belmont will provide them with fresh ideas, superior service and a renewed commitment to customer satisfaction.”

Beginning immediately, all issues pertaining to the Suessen GVA machines, such as capital equipment requirements, spare parts orders and service requests in North America, can be directed to Belmont at 704-827-5836.

For more than 30 years, Resch has been the exclusive manufacturer of the GKK for Horauf/Suessen, supplying more than 400 machines in the U.S. and more than 700 machines worldwide.

Equipment suppliers

June 9, 2003

Gneuss celebrates 20th anniversary

A number of guests turned out for an Anniversary Symposium in Bad Oeynhausen, Germany to mark the company’s 20th year in business. The company, which specializes in Rotary Filtration Systems, has a U.S. subsidiary in Matthews, NC.

BAD OEYNHAUSEN, GERMANY — Gneuss, based here, and with a subsidiary in Matthews, NC, in March celebrated the 20th anniversary of its founding with an Anniversary Symposium here.

The foundation of the company in 1983 was based on the development, manufacture and distribution of Rotary Filtration Systems for the plastics processing industry. Compared to systems available on the market, this concept was a milestone in regard to the filtration of plastic melts. For the first time, a filtration process without any pressure variations or other disturbances was possible.

Gneuss’ Rotary Filtration Systems operate fully automatically, pressure- and process-constant and they allow filtration finenesses down to 3 microns (> 1000 mesh).

Today, Gneuss is a specialist in the field of melt filtration. With the advanced and economic rotary technology, decisive progress can be made particularly when processing high-quality products, e.g. fibers and sheet/film, as well as raw material with a high degree of purity, Gneuss said.

Sensors for measuring melt pressure and temperature, as well as control systems, are also part of Gneuss’ product range. These products are popular because of their affordability, high quality and short delivery times, according to company officials.

Seventy percent of Gneuss’s products are exported to all corners of the globe. The daughter company, Gneuss, Inc. of Matthews, NC, as well as sales and service facilities in all developed nations, provide experienced support and assistance.

The company has registered record sales three years in a row, thanks to advantages of the Rotary Filtration Systems, officials said.

ITMA ’03 preview seminar slated

June 9, 2003

FALLS CHURCH, VA — A seminar previewing the International Textile Machinery Exhibition-International (ITMA) 2003 has been organized by the American Textile Machinery Association (ATMA).

The preview event will take place June 17 at the Myers Park Country Club, 2415 Roswell Avenue, Charlotte, NC, from 1:30 p.m. until 6 p.m.

Andrew Bird, operations director for the ITMA 2003 Organizing Committee, NEC, will provide an overview of Birmingham.

An update on ATMA facilities and services will be given by John Broughan, president of World Travel Meeting & Incentives, and Harry W. Buzzerd Jr. and Clay D. Tyeryar of ATMA.

A panel discussion on strategies and expectations of exhibitors and visitors will include comments from Joe Okey Jr., president of American Monforts Corp. and ATMA vice chairman; Kurt Scholler, CEO of American Truetzschler and ATMA past chairman; and a yet-to-be-named speaker.

An overview of technology and innovations is also on the schedule.

ITMA is slated for Oct. 22-29.

For more information, contact ATMA headquarters at 703-538-1789 or visit www.atmanet.org.

Pre-registrations up over ’99 event

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND — The United Kingdom is gearing up to welcome a record-breaking audience to the International Exhibition of Textile Machinery (ITMA) 2003 at The NEC here in October.

Figures released last month show that visitor pre-registration bookings are already up by more than 200 percent compared to the same time out from the 1999 exhibition, held in Paris. With five months to go, figures are expected to climb, with visitors from the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, India and Pakistan leading visitor booking, according to organizers.

Exhibitor figures are breaking records, too — with more than 1,350 confirmed exhibitors to date, space is now sold out in most sectors. The show will welcome exhibitors from more countries (44) than ever before, with exhibitors from Iran, Egypt, South Africa, Thailand and Argentina for the first time.

The British government has pledged its strong support of the ITMA 2003 show from the outset and is working closely with the ITMA 2003 Organising Committee to ensure its success.

The UK Department of Trade and Industry has recently been helping to smooth the visa application process for visitors from certain key countries, and all 140 British Embassies worldwide are actively promoting the event.

Fiber news

June 9, 2003

Making textured yarn covered in seminar

HARRISBURG, NC — The Textured Yarn Association of America (TYAA) recently sponsored its annual “From Raw Materials to Textured Yarn” seminar, an always-popular event that draws textured yarn users, suppliers and support and manufacturing personnel.

The one-day eve nt took place at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway here.

Among those who addressed the group were Rudy Flores of KoSa, who covered “Raw Materials and Polymerization for PET, PBT, PTT, Polypropylene & Polymide;” John Amirtharaj of Universal Fiber Systems, who addressed “Polyamide Extrusion;” Charlie King of Unifi, Inc., who discussed “Polyester Extrusion;” and Paul Seemuth of E.I. Du Pont Nemours & Co., who went over “Finishes for POY.”

Other speakers included Joe Plasky of SuJo, Inc., who presented “Winding of POY:” Alasdair Carmichael of Carmichael International, who gave instruction on “Methods of Texturing;” Jerry King of Milliken & Co., who detailed “Mechanics of the Texturing Zone;” Richard White of Milliken & Co., who informed attendees about “Winding of Textured Yarn:” Robert Johnson of Fiber & Yarn Products and Charles Skipper of Dillon Yarn Corp., who went over “Product Quality Requirements;” and Udo Schweizer of PolySpinTex, who explained “Texturing CDs.”

Nylstar launches campaign
to spread word about Meryl

GREENSBORO, NC — “Be Extraordinary,” a multi-faceted communications campaign designed to focus marketplace attention on a continuous stream of new, fashion-forward Meryl® specialty nylon fibers, is being launched by Nylstar.

The name of the campaign reflects the company’s belief that Meryl’s “extraordinary yarns create extraordinary fabrics,” according to Dina Dunn, Nylstar’s vice president of marketing.

Nylstar said it anticipates three or four product introductions annually for several years. The first of the new products, innovative micro and super micro yarns, will be introduced later this month.

“Our goal is to be a fashion leader in the Americas by bringing new and innovative fibers to market on a regular basis,” Dunn said. “Nylstar’s leadership advantage is our European heritage and our Italian headquarters, which puts us at the center of European fashion and we intend to capitalize on that.”

The “Be Extraordinary” campaign will highlight each new product individually as it is introduced.

Realities of globalization
covered in seminar

June 9, 2003

Neil Snyder, director of the McIntire Business Institute at the University of Virginia, encourages attendees to innovate and change for long-term success.
Photo by Devin Steele

By Devin Steele

RALEIGH, NC — A day that started with attendees checking each other’s shirt labels ended with a healthy — and at times heated — exchange between the lecturer and members of the textile industry on the topics globalization, change and survival.

In between, a longtime industry leader offered an informed and alarming outlook on China.

So went recent proceedings of an all-day executive program sponsored by the Institute of Textile Technology (ITT) and the American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI) here. The seminar, “Realities for Global Textile Manufacturing Competitiveness,” drew about 15 textile/apparel industry representatives who paid a $1,000 registration fee to hear in-depth presentations by academician Neil Snyder and industry insider Carlos Moore.

Perhaps “Harsh Realities ...” would have been a more appropriate title. That’s because Snyder, director of the McIntire Business Institute at the University of Virginia, threw cold water on participants on several occasions.

Snyder spent his two sessions discussing real-world issues and their effects on the U.S. and globalization, all the while challenging attendees to broaden their perspective of the world. He insisted that U.S. textile manufacturing will survive the “radical” shift that’s occurring — if American textile producers learn how to play the game like worldwide competitors have.

 
Attendees of the seminar listen attentively to Neil Snyder during his presentation.
Photos by Devin Steele

“The textile industry will survive because there are people on this earth who require clothes,” Snyder said. “The question is, who will be the players? Do you want to be the players?

“Ultimately, consumers will determine who will survive because of the combination of price and quality, which equals value. You had better figure out how to produce the highest quality at the lowest price, like the Chinese.”

That comment led to about 15 minutes of lively repartee that, yes, did include, shall we say, “vociferous fulminating.” Several industry members “ganged up” on Snyder with the general argument that, as long as a more equitable U.S. trade policy isn’t established, the U.S. will never be able to put up a real challenge to the rest of the world.

“Things will only change in your favor when you make consumers believe that they are paying less for more,” Snyder said in the heat of the battle.

“You give China a 40 percent advantage out of the gate and that’s a hell of a factor in how well you will be able to compete,” one executive intoned.

After several more minutes of banter — and everyone standing their ground — the event ended peacefully and respectfully.

Earlier in the day, Snyder had attendees check his or her neighbor’s shirt labels to determine country of origin. Only two or three were made in the U.S.

“Consumers are becoming very, very price conscious,” he said. “Whether or not it’s made in the USA is irrelevant. They don’t care. And, apparently, you don’t care, either.”

Snyder’s portion of the program also included two breakout sessions on particular subjects related to the changing paradigm, each of which also led to some spirited debate during summations.

Moore on China

Meanwhile, Moore gave an informative presentation entitled, “China Study Shared.” The former longtime executive vice president of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI) and currently an industry consultant discussed early on the negative effects of the Far East financial meltdown, Asia’s currency manipulation and the dropping of quotas on the U.S. textile industry.

Later, on the topic “China — today and after 2004,” he posed two questions: 1) Will China take over the world textile trade; and 2) can anything be done about it?

Moore pointed out that China has several “enormous” natural advantages over much of its competition, including abundant, easily trained labor; a “reasonable” work ethic; low wages; and available raw materials.

But it also has some disadvantages, which he described as “not that significant,” including: an infrastructure in need of modernization; inefficient state-owned companies; major unemployment problems; long distances from major markets; an unpredictable legal structure; and major banking problems.

“However, the Chinese government creates advantages to overcome problems,” Moore said.

For instance, it has in place an industrial plan to promote exports, it subsidizes exports as needed and state-owned operations have low taxes, few environmental, health and safety costs, he said.

The key to containing China will be the U.S. government’s policy response, Moore said. As such, he suggested a number of initiatives, such as taking safeguard actions against China imports; taking a strong stand in WTO negotiations, especially related to tariffs; urging China compliance, especially on the subject of currency and intellectual property rights; encouraging preferential trade areas; and enforcing trade rules.

Moore also apprised attendees of “The China Threat Project,” an ATMI-sponsored information campaign aimed at increasing awareness of the danger China poses to the United States’ manufacturing base.

M&M Machinery, Fiber Controls
in tow, eyes future

June 9, 2003

By Devin Steele

GASTONIA, NC — M&M Machinery Sales, LLC’s recent acquisition of Fiber Controls, Inc. has Marvin Foy feeling somewhat humbled, he said.

“We feel like we bought a lot of heritage,” said Foy, who founded parent company M&M Electric Service, Inc. 30 years ago and M&M Machinery two years ago. “It’s very difficult to go into a textile plant that doesn’t have a piece of Fiber Controls equipment.

“It’s an honor for us to say we own Fiber Controls.”

M&M closed on the deal for one of its largest former customers after Fiber Controls filed for bankruptcy last year. When that occurred early in the summer, much of Fiber Controls’ spare parts and inventories were sold off before M&M was able to work out a deal. Nonetheless, Foy said he was able to acquire its most important assets — the trade name, machinery manufacturing rights, intellectual property rights, patents, sales, service and spare parts.

For half a century, Fiber Controls earned a worldwide reputation for its automated blending equipment for the textile industry. M&M Machinery opened in Jan. 2001 to manufacture equipment for bale opening, blending, reserves, fine opening and card feeding equipment.

Starting “behind the 8 ball” after Fiber Controls’ liquidation has created an early challenge for M&M Machinery, according to Foy.

“All we’re asking our customers for is an opportunity to show what the new Fiber Controls is going to be like,” he said. “You have to prove yourself and that takes time.”

Mike Daniels, a career textile industry veteran who Foy hired to run M&M Machinery, was given added responsibility for Fiber Controls.

“We now have to go out and not only acquire new accounts, but also let all of Fiber Controls’ customers know that there is a supplier for them again,” he said.

The transition has been smooth and the acquisition strengthened by the fact that several of Fiber Controls’ “key employees” were hired by the new ownership, Foy added. Those employees, combined with others brought in from various companies, have teamed up to make M&M Machinery formidable, he said.

Foy waxed philosophic on this meshing of versatile employees and the changes brought forth by this consortium.

“The greatest deterrent in business is change,” said Foy, president of M&M Electric and managing director of M&M Machinery. “People fight change. They always have, in every area of their lives. We brought together a large number of people from different companies. And we just asked them, ‘look, guys, bring the very best that those companies offered to the table. And accept change.’

“One thing I don’t want to hear in any meeting is ‘well, we’ve never done it that way before.’ I don’t want to do it the way it’s been done before because most of the people who have been doing it the same way are in Chapter 11 or are not in existence today. I want to do it a better way, a more creative way, with a little more vision in it.”

Growth came early

Foy and his now-deceased uncle Marvin Wells founded M&M Electric in a carport in 1973. It started as an electrical contractor for the textile industry and migrated into electrical integrating services. It counted among its early customers John D. Hollingsworth on Wheels and Marzoli and later added Crosroll, Fruit of the Loom, National Textiles and Parkdale Mills.

M&M gradually broadened its textile industry base from short staple to long staple for the carpet industry, along with nonwovens. Expansion of its customer base enabled it to move three times into larger buildings.

M&M built its current facility in 1989, has expanded twice and now occupies 32,000 square feet. Meanwhile, the company bought PMI in 1998.

In the late 1990s, several of its customers began to encounter economic problems, which were felt by M&M. That’s when the wheels began to turn in Foy’s mind.

“We began to lose all of our vehicles to the market as an integrator and that’s what moved us to consider to make the step into manufacturing machinery,” he said. “We decided that if we could become the best at what we do, then that will assure us that there is going to be something out there for us to justify this move.”

Foy began to have conversations with Daniels, a longtime friend who had spent 21 years in textile machinery sales. So in Jan. 2001, M&M Machinery opened its doors in a leased, 42,000 square foot building next door to its parent, with Daniels at the helm as president.

“I highly respected Mike and what he had been able to do in his career,” Foy said. “When we first started thinking about this, we were thinking more about agency than manufacturing. Mike’s background the last several years had been establishing connections with agents. He is certainly a man of integrity and a man of his word. I liked that about him. Of course, that’s what this company’s been known for. So it was a perfect fit for us.”

Daniels, who provided technical sales and service at Fiber Controls and later served in sales capacities at American Truetzschler, Marzoli and Speizman, said coming to work with Foy was a no-brainer.

“I’ve known Marvin for a long time and the greatest asset that he has that really excited me about coming to work with him was that he takes the extra step for customers to make sure they come back for your business,” Daniels said. “After working with Europeans and other companies, you only did what you needed to do to make the customer happy. You didn’t take that extra step.

“M&M Electric as a whole and because of Marvin would always take that one extra step, even if they hadn’t included it in the price. Marvin made that choice to make that move to stay on top and he has thrived at staying on top — and that’s what I liked. Halfway getting through things is not my forte. I want to be considered as the best. And he always did and he and I see eye to eye on that.”

Products, services

On the manufacturing side, M&M Machinery’s biggest product line is its Bale Breaker fiber-opening equipment. Other new machinery includes fine openers, blending reserves, intimate blending systems, card feeders and nonwovens equipment.

The company also provides spare parts and accessories for Erko GmbH, U.T.I.T. Automation, Fiber Controls, Marzoli and PMI equipment; buys, sells and renovates used machinery; and offers service such as machinery rigging and moving, machinery installations, turnkey installations, including electrical, maintenance and technical support.

M&M also represents two European companies in the U.S. and Canada. Erko of Germany manufactures a complete nonwovens line for opening, blending, carding and cross lapping, while U.T.I.T. Automation manufactures palleting and material-handling equipment for roving, spinning, winding and open-end packaging.

M&M Machinery has grown from 10 employees two years ago to 25 today — and growing, Daniels said. Combined with M&M Electric’s work force, that gives the combined companies about 90 employees.

Including new, used and refurbished equipment, M&M Machinery has a presence in about 25 plants, according to Daniels.

With Fiber Controls, M&M staff members are making cosmetic changes to the equipment, integrating computer technology into the machinery and addressing safety issues.

“Fiber Controls has brought a great foundation to us,” Foy said. “We will bring enhancements as we see fit.”

Principles, people key

Operating a successful business for the long haul requires strong values and good people, Foy said.

“I’ve been very blessed for 30 years,” he said. “The principles we’ve tried to use in business are to offer the very best and highest quality product we can, as competitively priced as possible and to support it. I think we built our company around those principles.”

People have also played a major role in the company’s prosperity, Foy added.

Foy’s two sons are employed by the company. Both are vice presidents, Mark Foy on the installation and service side and Scott Foy on the software side.

“Also, we have so many people who are well known in the industry and have impeccable reputations — (head of M&M Electric engineering) Barry Stringer, (field supervisor) Barney Cannon, (head of M&M Machinery engineering) Mac Raja, who headed engineering in the Hollingsworth organization, Paul Boyd who supervises the electrical control division and Danny Yarborough manages the machine shop (M&M Machinery).”

Daniels also credited his sales staff, including Darrell Burgess, nonwovens; Joe Williams, long staple and technical support; Scott Spears, short staple; and George Miller, used machinery Scott Wilfong, U.T.I.T. sales and service. “If anybody can bring a better starting lineup than that, I don’t know who it is,” Foy said.

Pondering move

Foy said he thought long and hard about moving into manufacturing before pulling the trigger.

“When we considered going into the machinery business, I paused and asked myself, ‘what’s the one big mistake people in business make?’ ” he said. “I would say that the one big mistake they make is always thinking that it is a manufactured-driven market. They never understood that it’s a customer-driven market. And we want to build a company that’s driven by customers, their needs.”

Operating under that premise has helped M&M thrive, he said, before outlining a scenario he likes to see.

“It doesn’t hurt my ego at all, what’s left of it, if someone says ‘look, this machine will work better if you made it do this.’ If it’s a true enhancemesnt, I believe they’ve done me a favor because they’ve taken a machine that we might have produced that might be inferior in a way and made it superior. They should know — they’re the people running it. I do believe one thing that’s hurt this industry through the years is there’s been too much engineering input and not much operational input. It’s like applications got lost in all of it.”

Foy was sure to credit his bank for showing confidence enough in him — and the industry — to support his decision to open another company.

“When you try to achieve what we’ve done and business being as weak as it had been, you have to have a strong bank behind you,” he said. “That’s where we’ve been really fortunate. BB&T of Gastonia has really made a lot of things possible for us, which was a great risk on their part, with us being in textiles. BB&T has been absolutely unbelievable in its cooperation and it has been extremely helpful in making this happen.”

Expanding through acquisition in this rocky environment is Foy’s way of giving the textile industry a vote of confidence, he added.

“If you look at it logically, you would have to say there certainly are going to be fewer players,” he said. “But textiles is a part of the heritage of this country — and the future. I cannot picture this country not having a certain amount of textile operations. I see it a being stronger in the long staple end in carpet and the nonwoven industries than the short staple side.

“And our nonwovens should always be pretty strong because it’s not labor intensive to manufacture those products,” Daniels interjected.

Foy then added: “I’d hate to wake up one day and know that I’m not making a living in the textile industry.”

Editorial

June 9, 2003

STA-ying power

WHILE SEVERAL textile and related groups have either become mere shells of their former selves or been forced to become broader manufacturing organizations, the Southern Textile Association (STA) just keeps on tickin’. The association, with executive offices in Gastonia, NC, is perhaps the strongest group of its kind in the textile sector today, at least in terms of numbers. Sure, the downturn of the industry in recent years has negatively affected its membership scrolls, but STA still boasts a roster of almost 500 dues-paying people. No other broad-based textile coalition even approaches those numbers.

On more than one occasion, STA members have acknowledged to us how valuable their affiliation with the group is. They’ve told us how they learned to deal with a certain problem by talking with STA peers who have encountered similar issues. They’ve told us how many close bonds they’ve made with industry colleagues as a result of being involved in the group. They’ve told us much they’ve learned about the industry from micro and macro levels by attending various programs, meetings and seminars through the years.

That, in a nutshell, is the essence of the Southern Textile Association. Without a hand of cards at the trade lobbying table, this group of industry representatives who share a common interest in all phases of textile manufacturing is focused on fellowship, networking and education. Which are good things anytime, especially during this tumultuous era of change and challenges.

MANY OF THOSE 466 STA members, along with their spouses, will be on hand when the association holds its 95th annual meeting this week in Savannah, GA. They’ll come together once again to commiserate, converse and connect, as well as to learn, loosen up and laugh. STA President Larry Oates, vice president of manufacturing for Carolon Co., Rural Hall, NC, and his board have put together quite a program that will allow members to do all of those things.

The highlight, perhaps, will be a presentation by Aaron Feuerstein, chief executive officer of Malden Mills, Lawrence, MA, one of the domestic industry’s most visible, vocal and passionate leaders and among its strongest advocates. Feuerstein, of course, knows a thing or two about overcoming adversity and no doubt will have bring a strong, positive message that will resonate with listeners.

The STA, well known for being family oriented, is one of the few organizations that allows spouses to attend business sessions. In fact, the group encourages spouses to attend these functions, and creates programs with that in mind. Along those lines, the association this year has invited Dr. Charles Petty, a motivational speaker, to address members and guests. He will talk on “Climbing the Ladder to Success and Taking Your Family With You.” A number of social and recreational activities, as usual, also are planned.

STA members certainly have plenty to look forward to this week.

BY THE WAY, STA would hardly be the dynamic, effective group it is today without a number of people stepping up to serve in leadership roles. As such, we would be remiss without crediting those members who have volunteered their time and put in the effort to the betterment of the organization. This year, we particularly would like to praise Oates for serving as an officer for three years and holding the presidential gavel during the past 12 months. Giving so much time and assistance to an organization is no small feat, particularly when you’re heavily involved in the operations of a company during a period of industry transition.

To STA and your staff, officers and membership, we say thank you for all you do for this industry.

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