Week of July 22, 2002

Howell: People make textiles a great industry

Robert Howell reviews paperwork with Eleanor German, AFK supervisor, during a recent walkthrough of Dillon Yarn Corp.’s plant.
Photo by Devin Steele

By Devin Steele

DILLON, SC — A member of Dillon Yarn Corp.’s security/housekeeping staff, who happens to be Hispanic, recently approached Robert Howell Jr. with a serious question.

“I am getting married in September,” she said. “Will you throw me away?”

“I think you mean ‘give’ you away,” he answered, smiling.

“Yeah, ‘give’ me away,” she said. “All my family is in Mexico and I don’t have anyone to give me away.”

Howell agreed to do so.

“You know, I can’t wait to ‘throw’ her away,” Howell, the company’s general manager, told STN recently, after relating that story.

You’ve probably earned a pretty good place with your employees when you’re asked to participate in their wedding. And Howell certainly seems to have done just that — and that’s one thing that makes coming to work every day easy, he said.

“That’s what I like about this industry and this company — the people, more than anything else,” said Howell, president of the Textured Yarn Association of America (TYAA), which will holds its Technical Conference this week at Myrtle Beach, SC.

So meaningful are the relationships he’s developed during a 25-plus-year career in this industry, he hopes one day to write a book about those experiences and the people with whom he’s crossed paths. And he may indeed have a story or two to tell.

Like the time a patrol officer pulled him for speeding in front of the plant — though he insists he was going the speed limit. With a couple of tickets already under his belt, he said he was making sure he was on his Ps and Qs when he got behind the wheel. But he knew he had been had when the officer handed him a 40th birthday card from his colleagues, who had put the officer up to the prank.

He may need a wordsmith to help him describe some of his experiences.

“Like the feeling I had when I went to work on third shift for the first time,” he said. “I was virtually by myself. It was a lonely feeling.”

Hope his memory serves him well.

Hooked early

Howell “fell in love” with the textile industry as a teenager, he said, after spending a summer laying up yarn on a winding machine at Cannon Mills’ Plant 6 in Concord, NC. Prior to then, the 16-year-old aspired to be a doctor.

The next summer, he drove a lift truck at the company’s Plant 1 in nearby Kannapolis, NC.

During his senior year, his guidance counselor encouraged him to apply for a scholarship given by Cannon Mills, which he did, and accepted a near full ride to Clemson University. He majored in textile science and industrial management.

And while at Clemson, he met a girl — on a blind date.

“I had a friend a year older than me at Mount Pleasant High School who had gone to NC State,” Howell remembered. “He came to the Clemson area as an intern at Duke Power and he called me and said, ‘we ought to go to Atlanta. I know a couple of girls we can take.’

“One of those girls we went to Atlanta with is now my wife,” he added, “and we’ve been ‘dating’ ever since.”

Newly married, Howell joined Milliken & Co. as a shift manager in 1974. He rapidly progressed through the ranks and, by age 29, was a plant manager.

He stayed with the company until 1989, when he was courted by Dillon Yarn, a textured yarn and nylon processor. Don Stout, now vice president of manufacturing, offered him an opportunity he couldn’t refuse, he said.

So Howell, his wife and young son packed up and headed to the environs of this town best known for Pedro — the mascot of the South of the Border tourist complex off I-95.

“Dillon Yarn was a great opportunity for me,” he said. “Dillon Yarn in 1989 was not the Dillon Yarn you see today. It was in need of help. The equipment was ancient, the expectations were very low, the equipment was not clean. A world of things needed to be done.”

As such, the parent company, Titan Textile Company, Inc., began a major modernization project that Howell and others helped oversee.

“We jumped into it with these folks and have made this a world-class manufacturer,” Dillon said. “We made upgrades in equipment and upgrades in quality. Our owners made the decision to provide capital to keep it viable and keep it a major player in the textured yarn industry. We’ve expanded several times since then.”

Guiding forces

Today, Howell calls his parents a “guiding force” in his life. His mother, a Wake Forest University graduate, taught English in the Mount Pleasant area for nearly 30 years. His father was superintendent of a finishing plant, which he had joined in high school and worked his way up to that position.

“My dad never missed a day of work,” Howell said. “And he went to school 12 years and never missed a day. He taught me discipline to give it all you’ve got. I don’t think I’ve missed much work myself.

“My mother taught me writing and speaking skills — among them, that ‘ain’t’ ain’t a word.”

Howell wouldn’t mind one day seeing his children — Bobby, 16, who happens to be spending the summer playing Pedro at South of the Border, and Travis, 12 — become a part of the textile industry, if they’re so inclined, he said.

“My kids love this place,” he said. “If I come by to check on something, they always want to come in. They’re very interested in what goes on here.”

His sons are so much a part of his life, he calls their activities his primary “hobby.”

“I don’t play golf, I don’t hunt, I don’t fish,” he said. “But I go to every ball game, every band concert, every awards ceremony there is.”

To Howell, “getting away” means loading up the family and heading to a 120-acre tract of land he owns in the country near Monroe, NC.

“That’s our place,” he said. “It’s quiet. We all can relax there.”

Sounds like a good place to “throw away” your cares.


Week of July 22, 2002

American & Efird: Above and beyond call of duty

The environmental, health and safety department at American & Efird consists of (L-R) Dawn Reeves, P.E., corporate environmental engineer; Michael Scott, director of health & safety; Nancy Lane, safety technician; and John Eapen, vice president of environmental, health & safety.
Photo by Lorene Edwards

By Devin Steele

MOUNT HOLLY, NC — Above and beyond the call of duty.

If American & Efird were to choose a motto for its environmental, health and safety programs, that would seem appropriate. That’s because the sewing thread manufacturer strives to exceed all standards related to those initiatives, according to John Eapen, the company’s vice president of environmental, health & safety.“Our goal at A&E is to participate in an environmental, safety and health excellence process, which is not just meeting the permit limits and the limits set forth by the city, state or federal agencies, but to go beyond that and to do the right thing,” Eapen said.

And “doing the right thing” has enabled American & Efird to stand tall in an industry that prides itself on its environmental, safety and health record.

One example among many: On the environmental side, the company exceeds standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Its VOC-destroying technology is so effective, in fact, that the EPA is using A&E’s numbers as a baseline as it develops new industry standards, according to Eapen.

Meanwhile, in the area of safety and health, all 10 of A&E’s U.S. manufacturing plants have reached almost three years without a lost-time accident.

Success in the company’s environmental, health and safety programs is attributable to across-the-board commitment to making them work, Eapen added. And his staff plays a vital role in constantly keeping these programs viable and up-to-date, he said. Those staffers include Michael Scott, director, health and safety; Dawn Reeves, environmental engineer; and Nancy Lane, safety technician.


Before recycling was in vogue in this country, American & Efird was implementing a program to keep waste out of landfills, Eapen said. Now, more than a decade later, the company as a whole recycles about 90 percent of the waste it generates, he added. Among recycled items: cardboard, plastic, aluminum cans, thread waste and plastic cones.

“There is no requirement today that you have to recycle this percentage, but we do,” he said, “Our goal is to reduce the generated waste and then to recycle 100 percent of all of our waste, which we’re working on.”

A charter member of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute’s (ATMI) Encouraging Environmental Excellence (E3) program, A&E does recycle 100 percent of its wastewater from one process.

A&E works closely with its customers on environmental issues, particularly recycling, Eapen said.

“Our customers like our program because we do a lot of good things on the environmental side,” he said. “We’ve helped our customers set up an environmental program on occasions when you get that kind of a request. And our big customers always like this because they don’t want to get into trouble if one of their suppliers gets into trouble.”

Another pollution-reducing initiative involves the company’s choice of fuel for the boilers in its finishing plant, Eapen said. A&E uses natural gas, the cleanest fuel possible, about 99 percent of the time, the exception being during high-consumption periods when demand is high and priority is placed on residential natural gas users, he said. Then, the company burns low-sulfur fuel oil on three boilers.

An older, fourth boiler runs on another grade of low-sulfur fuel oil, but the company is looking to replace that boiler with a more efficient one soon, according to Eapen.

Also, low-nox (nitrous oxide) burners have been added to each of the boilers, which reduces the amount of harmful ozone emissions when fuel oil is burned, he added.

The company also recovers the heat from hot water generated in its dyeing plant, using it to heat more water.

As mentioned earlier, A&E destroys most of its VOCs — 99.7 percent — using a special oxidizer at the filament plant.

“We could have managed with 95 percent if we had gone strictly with the regulations, but we have added things to help us in reaching that 99.7 percent,” Eapen said. “That’s why EPA is using us as a model for the entire industry, which we are very proud of.”

The manufacturer also has switched from using solvents to using a more eco-friendly cleaner on its machinery parts, he noted.

As a member of ATMI’s E3 program, A&E meets 10 guidelines annually to remain qualified, and each of its U.S. manufacturing plants are a part of the program, Eapen said.

“We believe very strongly in E3,” said Eapen, the program’s first chairman, from 1992-94. “The program challenges us to do better things and go beyond regulatory compliance.

“And we’ve found it to be extremely useful. Information is shared with all the other textile companies that are a part of the program. ATMI puts out an annual report of all the good things each company does. What a way to share. We have learned quite a bit about what other companies are doing, and we have adopted some of them within our company.”

A&E’s environmental initiatives aren’t limited to these borders, however. With manufacturing facilities in 10 countries, the company has established a set of environmental, health and safety guidelines under which each location must operate, he said.

“If a country has more stringent standards than ours, then obviously we’ll comply with those,” he said. “If they’re less stringent, we comply with A&E’s international standards in every country.”

Safety & health

American & Efird’s safety accomplishments are impressive, as noted earlier. If none of the company’s 10 domestic manufacturing sites incurs a lost-time accident before October 1, they will collectively reach the three-year mark for working safely. Also, each of those facilities has logged more than 1 million safe work hours.

“Our president, Fred Jackson, decided to give a Safety Milestone Award to each plant because this is the first time in the history of A&E that every plant was operating at more than 1 million safe work hours at the same time,” Eapen said.

One plant, the Rush Plant here, has worked 10 years without a lost-time accident, though given its size (fewer than 100 people), it has taken that long to reach 1 million work hours. Meanwhile, the Nelson #12 and #2 plants have each worked more than six years without a lost-time accident.

Notably, though not a manufacturing site, A&E’s Corporate Office has posted 25 years without a lost-time accident.

Such achievements haven’t gone without recognition. The North Carolina Department of Labor presented awards to each A&E plant, plus its Corporate Office and the Logistics Department, for its safety success in 2001. Qualifying sites must have an incidence rate at least 50 percent below the statewide rate for the textile industry.

Those locations also received awards for no lost-time accidents in 2001 from ATMI and the American Yarn Spinners Association (AYSA).

“We are proud of the effort all our associates put in to reach special safety milestones,” said Ron Ensley, senior vice president of manufacturing worldwide. “Safety is a team effort at A&E.”

A&E also is a charter member of ATMI’s Quest for the Best in Safety and Health program, which Eapen currently chairs. Like the E3 program, qualifying companies must meet a set of stringent guidelines each year.

“Zero accidents is our goal,” Eapen said. “These are our associates and we don’t want them to get hurt. That’s a logical goal for any company. And then, indirectly, there is a strong reduction in cost also associated with this goal. It also improves the morale and productivity in the company. That goes without saying. If someone gets hurt, somebody else has to be brought in and training and quality are issues. So, overall, it just makes sense.”


American & Efird’s environmental, health and safety programs work for a number of reasons, Eapen said.

“At A&E, both on the environmental and on the health and safety side, we have done extremely well because of our commitment — from our parent company, Ruddick Corporation, to its board members, to A&E’s board and senior management to our manufacturing associates,” said Eapen.

These programs at every U.S. and worldwide location are audited by Eapen and his staff and, when required, by outside organizations, he said. This information is shared with the boards of both A&E and Ruddick.

“It gets attention at the highest level,” said Eapen, an A&E director. “It is very important to the Ruddick Audit Committee that we present this information every quarter.”

Involvement at the plant level is essential, as well, he said. Committees made up of rotating manufacturing employees are present at each location. These groups handle a plethora of environmental and safety and health issues.

Also, related to safety, a safety coordinator is located at each site and programs are designed to recognize safety achievements, safe acts, participation, etc., he said.

“We are very proud of our safety, health and environmental programs, but we still feel there are things we can do to get even better,” Eapen said.


Week of July 22, 2002

Members reaped rewards in 2001-02, president says

Photo by Devin Steele

Editor’s note: Following is a Q&A with Robert Howell Jr., who has served as president of the Textured Yarn Association of America (TYAA) during the past year. Howell, general manager of Dillon Yarn Corporation, Dillon, SC, will turn over the gavel this week during the group’s 30th Technnical Conference at the Wyndham Resort, Myrtle Beach, SC. In reflecting on his term, Howell answered questions submitted to him by STN Editor Devin Steele.

STN: What were your goals for TYAA when you became president and how did you meet them?

Howell: My goals for TYAA were to provide our members with the best technical and economic/political information possible. This was especially important after the economic downturn of this past year.

I also wanted to maintain membership, which was difficult considering the economic situation.

STN: How did TYAA members benefit this year?

Howell: Our conferences this year have been well attended and received favorable comments that the information shared was valuable to our membership. I feel that our membership continues to get a good return on their investment.

STN: What were some of the highlights of this year’s Winter Conference and how was attendance?

Howell: Attendance at our Winter Conference was excellent. Jock Nash, Washington counsel of Milliken & Co., was certainly a highlight. The information he shared with us in regards to the political environment was very informative.

STN: What kind of progress has been made on updating your Internet site since last year, when the Website Committee was charged with improving the site (www.tyaa.org)?

Howell: Our Website Committee has made much progress this year. This will certainly benefit our membership when complete.

We foresee much of our correspondence occurring via the Internet, thus saving time and money.

A presentation is planned at our Summer Conference explaining the Website to our membership. Feedback from our membership will be valuable and beneficial.

STN: Has the textured yarn side of the industry seen an upturn in business, following the lead of the rest of the industry?

Howell: There appears to be an industry-wide upturn in business.

STN: How is TYAA helping members deal with these changing times?

Howell: A portion of each conference is dedicated to providing speakers who are knowledgeable in the political and/or economic side of our business. These presentations have offered great insight as we face further globalization.

STN: How is Dillon Yarn Corp. responding to these challenges?

Howell: We realize we are operating in a very competitive global marketplace. Customer requirements and expectations are far more stringent each year.

To meet these requirements and remain competitive, we strive to reduce costs and improve quality but never jeopardize the customer in the process.

STN: What are some of the trends you see developing in your side of the industry?

Howell: A major trend is more niche business and less commodities. This leads to more complexity and the need for quicker customer response.

STN: Why is serving in a leadership role such as this important to you?

Howell: Being TYAA president has allowed me to interact with all facets of the textured yarn industry as never before. This has allowed me to establish relationships that I consider valuable, personally and professionally.

STN: How long have you been a member of TYAA?

Howell: Since 1989.

STN: Please describe the working relationship you have with your officers and board and the TYAA staff.

Howell: I would describe it with one word: Teamwork.

Textile bill

Week of July 22, 2002

Textile bill introduced in House

WASHINGTON, DC — A resolution that calls upon the Bush Administration to take specific steps to help protect the remaining U.S. textile and apparel sector was introduced July 11 by members of the House textile caucus.

The resolution will also serve to help educate government policymakers of the contribution the U.S. textile and apparel sector makes to the domestic economy and to the well-being of the U.S. military structure.

The Textile and Apparel Act (TARA) notes that the combined textile and apparel industry continues to employ 1 million U.S. workers nationwide. Also, it points out that the industry contributes nearly $50 billion annually to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and pays $36 billion in annual compensation to its employees.

Moreover, the resolution says that the textile and apparel industry is a critical supplier to the armed forces, providing a stable domestic production base for thousands of vital military materials.

The resolution also claims that surging imports from low-wage foreign suppliers, along with massive currency devaluations, have combined to produce the most severe and prolonged economic crisis the U.S. textile and apparel industry has ever faced.

In addition, the act notes that America is the most open market in the world, though U.S. exporters fail to enjoy reciprocal access around the globe.

“We have taken a number of positive steps this year in an effort to help protect and promote the U.S. textile industry,” said U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes (R-NC), a textile caucus member. “For the first time in a long time, we’ve got people on every level discussing the plight of the textile industry, but we must do more.

“This resolution will serve to clearly lay out some exact steps that should be taken by the administration in an effort to help this important industry. There are too many jobs on the line to standby and do nothing but complain.”

TARA is a non-binding resolution that calls on the president to take the following actions:
• to ensure vigorous enforcement of U.S. trade laws and crack down on transshipments;
• to deny requests from U.S. trading partners for unilateral liberalization by the U.S. of its textile market other than that provided for under existing international trade agreements;
• to implement strategies to open foreign markets to provide equal access for U.S. goods; and
• to report to Congress no later than one year from the date of passage with a report on what has been done toward accomplishing these goals.

“It is critical for Washington policymakers to begin to acknowledge the tremendous value the U.S. textile and apparel sector contributes to our communities, our military and our economy as a whole,” George Shuster, CEO of Cranston Print Works and co-chair of the American Textile Trade Action Coalition (ATTAC), said in a statement. “The devastating trade deficit is a national issue affecting industry after industry and millions of workers.”

ATTAC is a new coalition of U.S. yarn, fabric and textile employees and companies representing more than 300,000 U.S. employees.


Week of July 22, 2002

Weavetex opens two facilities

UNION COUNTY, SC — Weavetex, a manufacturer of specialty fabrics for industrial usage, announced plans to open a production facility and a distribution/warehouse facility here.

The weaving operations will be located in the old Rosemount Plant of Spartan International and the warehouse and distribution facility will be in the former Dye-Namics building. The associated capital investment is $5 million.

“We are delighted that Weavetex found the perfect location in South Carolina’s existing buildings,” said Secretary of Commerce Charles S. Way Jr. “Union County has a talented work force and access to established customers and new markets in a business climate that will positively affect their bottom-line.”

“We are pleased to re-open the plant and put people back to work,” said David Schmidt, vice president of Weavetex. “We plan to bring in people as business demands, but will initially start with about 25 employees. As the business continues to increase, we hope to ultimately employ around 130 people.”

Donnie Betenbaugh, Union County supervisor, added, “I am very proud to welcome Weavetex to our industrial community. They have shown enthusiasm for Union County and the people who live here. The jobs they will bring will mean security for some of our citizens and many opportunities. I am sure Weavetex will prosper and bring as much to Union County as we will receive.”

“We are excited about Weavetex and its management,” added Stanley Vanderford, Union County Development Board director. “These guys have worked extremely hard for the last eight months putting this operation together. It shows the confidence they had in their previous employees and this community. Union County welcomes them.”

Mohawk Industries

Week of July 22, 2002

Mohawk Industries to expand SC plant

CALHOUN FALLS, SC — Mohawk Industries, one of the world’s leading flooring covering companies, will expand its Rocky River yarn manufacturing plant here, the Abbeville County Development Board (ACDB) announced.

The company will be adding a new production line this year with additional investment to follow over the next three years, according to Jamie Gilbert, ACDB’s executive director. The expansion will result in a capital investment of $6.4 million and 51 new jobs between now and 2005.

Bobby Kilby, plant manager at the Rocky River plant, said the expansion is due to the tremendous growth the company has experienced.

“Mohawk is a $5 billion company that has experienced record sales the past year,” he said. “The demand for Mohawk’s carpets and rugs meant the company had to increase its yarn production. Mohawk has several facilities across the U.S. in which the new production could take place. However, we chose the Rocky River plant for several reasons.

“From the outset ACDB demonstrated its support and desire to see the project come to the Rocky River plant. That, coupled with the willingness of the Abbeville County Council and South Carolina Department of Commerce to assist with the project, convinced our corporate officials that the Rocky River operation was a good fit for the project.”

“We believe in Mohawk Industries and its commitment to South Carolina,” said Gov. Jim Hodges. “Their $6.4 million expansion demonstrates that Abbeville County has the capable workers, access to infrastructure and positive business climate that companies need to reach their business goals faster.”

Mohawk will add about 50 jobs with the expansion, according to Secretary of Commerce Charles S. Way Jr.

“Mohawk’s announcement demonstrates its deep commitment to Abbeville County and its economic stability,” Way said.

Noting the regional impact of the project, Sam Konduros Upstate South Carolina Alliance President and CEO, said, “Abbeville County possesses the qualities that make Upstate South Carolina one of the most cutting edge-locations in the country for manufacturing. Mohawk is a world-class company and the Upstate area shares Abbeville County’s excitement that the Rocky River plant is the preferred location for Mohawk’s future growth and expansion.”

Mohawk Industries, headquartered in Calhoun, GA, has more than 20 operations throughout the U.S., many of which are located in the Carolinas and Georgia. The Rocky River plant employs 475 people and has more than 500,000 square feet of manufacturing space.

Mohawk carpets are sold under the names Aladdin, Karastan, American Rug Craftsmen and Helios.

“In the recent past we have experienced a national decline in economic growth, yet Abbeville County, through the leadership of Jamie Gilbert, has experienced 11 expansions during the 2002 fiscal year, which will result in 174 new jobs and nearly $11 million in capital investment,” said Jay West, ACDB’s chairman. “Much credit goes to the diligent work of the development office for their continued efforts to assist industries such as Mohawk in their expansions. We look forward to the future growth of Mohawk and we hope they will continue to find Abbeville County a place to grow and prosper.”

Larry Walker, chairman of the Abbeville County Council, said he was pleased by Mohawk’s commitment to the county.

“With the textile industry being so volatile, I can’t help but be excited that one of the county’s largest textile employers, Mohawk, is doing so well and will be creating new jobs in Calhoun Falls,” he said. “This is good news for Abbeville County.”


Week of July 22, 2002

STN collects four awards

CHARLOTTE, NC — Southern Textile News (STN) recently captured four awards during the International Association of Business Communicators’ (IABC) Crown Awards ceremonies here.

The Charlotte chapter of IABC organized the event, which was open to entries from throughout the Carolinas.

No other organization garnered as many awards.

STN earned Silver Crown Awards for four entries, including one for general excellence in the “newspapers” category for its Textile South edition of Sept. 17, 2001. The edition, “U.S. Textiles: Hanging by a Thread?” offered an in-depth look at the crisis facing domestic textile manufacturers and their suppliers, from several perspectives.

Editor Devin Steele and Contributing Editors Ron Copsey and Alfred Dockery wrote much of the content, while Wes Chaney designed the publication.

Steele, meanwhile, won three Silver Crown awards for writing in 2001. Two of the winning entries were for editorials: “America. Free. United. Awakened.,” which provided a perspective on the terrorists attacks on America, and “Stink, Stank, Stunk,” which offered commentary on how communities affected by plant closings were coping.

The other award came in the feature writing category for a profile of Guilford Mills’ Chairman and then-incoming American Textile Manufacturers Institute President Chuck Hayes entitled, “Passion ranks among Hayes’ best attributes.”

The IABC/Charlotte Crown Awards recognize outstanding achievement in business and organizational communications throughout the Carolinas.


Week of July 22, 2002

Inman earns safety award

INMAN, SC — Inman Mills, a manufacturer of greige goods for the apparel and home furnishings markets, has been awarded the Liberty Mutual Gold Award for its outstanding safety performance in 2001.

All three Inman Mills Plants — Saybrook, Ramey and Mountain Shoals — had accident rates 80 percent better than any other U.S. textile manufacturer. The company reported only one lost work day case companywide for the year. By working with Liberty Mutual, Inman identified loss areas and improved safety practices.

“This award focuses on the interest and team effort put forth by our people to reduce the accident rate,” said Robert H. Chapman III, president of Inman Mills.

In recognizing this achievement, Chapman noted that Inman “is pleased to receive this award because it reflects not only our commitment to safety but most importantly, our commitment to the health and well-being of our people.”

Roger Arledge, Liberty Mutual safety consultant servicing Inman Mills, said in presenting the award that his company “is proud to recognize Inman Mills for its excellent safety performance. Inman’s attention to detail and control of workplace injury exposures have made possible a continuously improving safety record, which is tremendous for its workplace.”

Founded in 1902 and continuously owned and operated by the Chapman family, Inman Mills is a textile manufacturer of woven cotton, poly/cotton, polyester and other blended greige fabrics. Air-jet and rapier looms at Inman plants produce top-quality fabrics, including fancy dobby patterns, lightweight twills, broadcloths, piques, sateens and poplins used for draperies, upholstery, home furnishings, pocketing, apparel, industrial and other end uses.

Boston-based Liberty Mutual is a diversified group of insurance companies that provides workers compensation, general liability and business auto insurance to Inman Mills.


Week of July 22, 2002

Springs gets ‘back’ on track

Lifting-related injuries decline

FORT MILL, SC — Last year, Springs Industries decided to take action to reduce the number of ergonomics-related injuries its employees suffered.

Ergonomics-related injuries refer to those associated with repetitive motion and manual materials handling. Common ergonomics injuries are tennis elbow, sore wrists, stiff necks, carpal tunnel and back strains.

As a result of last year’s actions, fewer Springs employees experienced ergonomics-related injuries in 2001 than in the prior year. In addition, the cost of those injuries in 2001 was reduced by $600,000, according to the company.

What led to this significant reduction? First, in early 2001, employees were trained on safe lifting techniques, while plant ergonomics committees placed greater emphasis on preventing back injuries. Spiney, a cartoon character developed by one of those committees, was introduced and shared weekly tips on back-injury prevention.

To help educate employees about safety, plants were provided with presentation materials and the “Safe Lifting and Material Handling Procedures” outline, which were developed by Eddie Brewer, manager of environmental, safety and health and training.

“We looked at where the injuries were occurring and shared this information with the plant safety managers,” Brewer said. “We provided a common sense outline, the Springs Safety Trainer, that shared tips on safe lifting techniques and guidelines. Plants used these to train associates. The Spiney character reinforced the training throughout the year.

“By focusing our efforts and energy on back injuries, we were able to significantly reduce this number.”

While many plants saw huge improvements in the number of employees with ergonomics-related injuries, several were particularly impressive. Nearly all nine bedding grey manufacturing plants went 12 months with no back injuries. These facilities reported seven costly back injuries in 2000.

“The Central Safety and Health Committees and Ergonomics Teams focused on back issues,” Brewer said. “The plants used bulletin boards, posters, banners, handouts, safety meetings, STOP card observations with both negative and positive feedback — basically everything they could think of to make sure everyone was aware of the safe way to avoid injury.”

The Montgomery, PA, Window Fashions facility realized 40 fewer ergonomics- related injuries in 2001 compared to the year before. This translated in a bottom-line savings of more than $200,000. According to Dell Pratt, safety engineer, this improvement occurred as a result of the plant ergonomics team recommending and implementing improvements to work stations and job tasks.

This year, John Lopez, director of industrial hygiene and toxicology, is challenging each Springs facility to eliminate all back injuries.

“As far as I’m concerned, even one back injury is one too many,” he said. “The things we make — pillows, sheets, comforters, shower curtains — are relatively light items and not usually associated with heavy lifting.”


Week of July 22, 2002

Site nominated for VPP designation

FORT MILL, SC — After nearly two years of preparation, Springs Industries’ window fashions facilities in Montgomery, PA, have been nominated to receive the highest safety designation possible in the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP).

Employees were notified they are in line for designation as a VPP StarSite following an intensive audit by a team of outside inspectors.

“For us, the key to this program and VPP designation is raising safety awareness among all associates and making safety an integral part of everyone’s job,” said Dell Pratt, safety engineer for the Springs Montgomery facilities.

Montgomery Plant employees completed a rigorous process to qualify for the Voluntary Protection Program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The VPP process relies on cooperative efforts of facility management, labor and government to monitor, measure and improve workplace safety. On average, VPP sites experience about half as many injuries as their industry counterparts. A strong focus on safety at the Montgomery plants has contributed to a significant savings in Workers Compensation costs this year, according to Springs.

The OSHA program designates a facility as a Star or Merit site. Of the 7 million work sites in the United States, only about 850 have qualified as VPP sites. Springs’ Hartwell Finishing Plant is a VPP Star Site and the Hartwell Yarn Plant is a VPP Merit Site. Both are in Hartwell, GA.

Springs employs more than 700 people at three Montgomery facilities, which produce window covering products that are marketed under the Graber and Bali brand names. About 130 employees are involved in specific plant safety teams that contributed significantly to the VPP process.


Week of July 22, 2002

Workplace health crucial to Springs

FORT MILL, SC — Besides maintaining Springs’ record of 100 percent cotton dust compliance and implementing an industry-best hearing conservation program, Larry Dyer and his supervisor, John Lopez, director of industrial hygiene and toxicology, see to it that all Springs Industries’ facilities meet or exceed governmental standards for workplace health.

The industrial hygiene (IH) duo:
• installs and monitors cotton dust testing equipment in nearly every Springs plant each year;
• tests noise levels and provide technical support for plant nurses administering hearing tests;
• conducts a chemical exposure and screening program;
• enforces plant IH programs and the use of personal protective equipment;
• inspects filtration equipment;
• promotes pollutant reduction;
• monitors hazard prevention programs;
• participates in OSHA inspections; and
• surveys ergonomic and heat stress conditions, lighting, microwave and radiation use, and “nuisance dust.”

“Some associates may consider our procedures a nuisance because we require their cooperation and participation in some of our testing,” Dyer said. “But they don’t realize we’re working to protect them from hearing loss and cotton dust diseases, among many other things.

“Much of what we do is mandated by the government, but we are more proactive than the government requires us to be. For instance, we’ve set higher standards on our hearing conservation program to better protect our associates. We initiated heat stress programs and have virtually eliminated the use of ozone-depleting chemicals in our manufacturing processes,” Dyer added.

Springs’ Industrial Hygiene Department is one of the only in-house IH functions in the home furnishings industry.


Week of July 22, 2002

Treatment plant upgraded, reducing pollutant levels

FORT MILL, SC — Wastewater treatment may not be a hot topic of discussion, but it’s an essential aspect of operation for several Springs Industries’ facilities, including Hartwell (GA) Finishing.

Because the finishing portion of the manufacturing process produces industrial wastewater, the company must pre-treat the wastewater before it can be added to the City of Hartwell’s wastewater system. Since the City’s wastewater treatment system was unable at times to adequately treat normal industrial pre-treatment wastewater, the City adopted a restrictive sewer ordinance.

The effluent limitations in the City’s ordinance are set at treatment levels typical of treatment facilities for domestic wastewater and are much more restrictive than the normal limitations for standard industrial pre-treated wastewater.

If the wastewater generated from Hartwell Finishing exceeds the sewer use ordinance limits when it flows into the city’s system, the city issues fines for each day the treatment levels exceed their limits.

To avoid these fines and to assist the City of Hartwell in its efforts to improve the operation of its wastewater treatment system, Springs implemented a project to upgrade Hartwell Finishing’s wastewater pre-treatment system.

When Springs purchased the Hartwell operation from Dundee Mills in 1995, the complex’s wastewater treatment plant was insufficient and in need of repair. Springs made several improvements, including:
• repairing a leak in the wastewater basin;
• overhauling and increasing the capacity of the press, an instrument that squeezes excess water from solid waste before it is disposed of in a landfill;
• increasing the temperature of the wastewater holding basins during colder months (oxygen-depleting pollutants are removed more effectively in warmer environments);
• improving flow controls to better monitor the removal of wastewater from the plant;
• raising the wastewater basin wall to better contain the waste and regulate water temperature; and
• installing a new filter to ensure that suspended, or buoyant solids, aren’t released into the city’s waste water collection system.

“Since we completed the improvements to the plant’s treatment facility, we’ve been able to reduce oxygen-depleting pollutant levels considerably from previous years,” said LA Graham, manager of water quality systems, who recently celebrated 55 years of continuous service with the company.

“It was a challenge to identify technologies that would work for us,” said James Higgins, Hartwell Finishing plant manager. “The team developed an innovative solution that helps the plant comply with the most stringent wastewater pretreatment permit anywhere in Springs.”

Springs also operates wastewater treatment facilities at Grace Complex in Lancaster, SC, Springfield Plant in Laurel Hill, NC, and at Griffin Finishing in Griffin, GA.


Week of July 22, 2002

Air Products among best

LEHIGH VALLEY, PA — For the fourth consecutive year, Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. achieved the best safety record in the category of total recordables among large-scale chemical manufacturers in the U.S. for 2001, according to Responsible Care performance measure data recently released by the American Chemistry Council (ACC).

In the category most often cited when evaluating the safety of the chemical industry — total recordable incidence rate — Air Products improved 13 percent with an incidence rate of 0.83 per 200,000 employee hours worked versus 0.94 last year. The industry average for large companies — 20 million or more employee hours worked per year — was 1.85.


Week of July 22, 2002

Industrial dust explosions can be prevented

For years manufacturers have contended with industrial explosions from relatively unknown causes. Despite recent discoveries into dust explosions that have generated a wealth of new protection technology, most manufacturers remain in the dark about this serious problem and the available solutions.

For a CEO facing the stark reality of an uncontrolled dust explosion in one of his or her facilities or processes, the sheer complexity and unpredictable nature of these events is probably best defined by the late Dr. Carl Sagan in his award-winning PBS documentary “Cosmos.” Sagan explained that the formation of the universe — the “Big Bang” — was essentially one gigantic explosion of dust and gas, expanding outward at nearly the speed of light.

Despite the more modest scale of a dust or gas deflagration in an industrial or material process, the damage they cause to people and property is all too real. While their complex nature is most visible in the potential number of overlapping factors that cause them, understanding and preventing these dangerous events is one of the most challenging tasks facing companies today.

Current statistical calculations estimate that the average manufacturing facility will have a dust explosion about every 20 years, while chemical, pharmaceutical and milling plants are likely to experience more frequent events. As major manufacturers become aware of this dangerous problem they are implementing safety programs to offset the potential hazard before a real disaster occurs. As many managers are discovering, the solution is akin to rocket science.

According to Dr. Franco Tamanini of Factory Mutual Research, a leading research scientist in the field of dust and gas explosions, process engineers depend on a complex body of standards and regulations created by organizations like the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in the U.S. and parallel organizations in Europe.

With a Harvard Ph.D. in applied physics, Dr. Tamanini is one of a select cadre of scientists worldwide who possess an advanced understanding of the processes underlying dust and gas events, and as such he supports the activities of the NFPA 68 committee steering ongoing standards development.

By conveying research results obtained at Factory Mutual Research, an affiliate of commercial and industrial property insurer FM Global, his perspective is understandably neutral and influenced most strongly by science.

Existing in documents such as NFPA 68 & 69, these guidelines include fairly rudimentary abstracts from combustion and explosion science to support the development of simple formulas and correlations for practical design application.

Beyond rocket science

To protect the lives of workers and the revenue stream fueling the company, safety-conscious managers often turn to specialized consultants and technology vendors to help them develop a strategy to reduce or even eliminate the underlying causes of the explosive events and increase process safety.

David Cvetas, president of Cv Technology, a prominent explosion protection consultant company, provides a Saganesque view of his own on the challenges facing CEOs and their process engineers. “Dust and gas explosions are beyond rocket science,” he said. “You can aim a rocket.”

Based in West Palm Beach, FL, Cv Technology provides engineering and consulting services for process evaluation and protection system design, to remove concerns about personnel safety, equipment protection and process continuity. The company has introduced dust and gas explosion protection technologies to major U.S. industrial and manufacturing companies.

Cvetas explained that his company has invested a great deal of time and effort investigating innovative technologies throughout U.S and European markets. This expands the range of possible protection solutions he can offer U.S. clients, as part of what he emphatically terms a “non-intrusive” protection philosophy.

Such technologies include the Q-Rohr, a quenching device originally developed by Rembe of Germany to enable safe indoor venting of process-driven dust explosions.

“When it comes to the best technology to address a protection issue, it’s often not obvious what the best solution is,” he said. “For example, if you have a piece of equipment inside a building, you have a list of at least four or five protection options you should consider. There may also be circumstances, which may be economic in nature, that will push you in a certain direction as opposed to another.”

Despite the efforts of companies such as Cv Technology to expand the protection options available to U.S. companies, many corporations are not only slow to accept the reality of the problem, but also unaware that a solution exists.

Incident studied

One large manufacturer, however, Procter & Gamble, has not only been open to this technology, it has helped to pioneer its use in the U.S. market according to John McIntosh, a veteran process engineer at P&G. As the global manager of health, safety & environment for P&G’s Food and Beverage Division, McIntosh is no stranger to dealing with dust and gas deflagrations. Cv Technology has worked with Procter & Gamble on a number of specific protection applications.

“One incident at a site in the early ’90s that cost the company in excess of a million dollars was the catalyst for my initial contact with the Rembe technology,” McIntosh said. “Fortunately, nobody was hurt, but there was a significant amount of equipment damage due to a deflagration.”

When the particular process, which was operating at several facilities, was evaluated, the incident history indicated that a fairly major deflagration occurred about every 10 years. Harnessing P&G’s extensive incident database, the company compiled a list of every facility incident stretching back over a 30-year period.

Evaluating the two types of processes, one continuous and one batch, when they used pareto analysis to plot the data, one important fact became clear: While the process incident numbers were almost even, 99.5 percent of the dollars lost to the deflagration events were burning up in the continuous process.

“When we started looking closely at the continuous process, we realized that what was happening was not a dust explosion at all,” McIntosh said. “It was actually a gas deflagration.”

According to Cvetas, Procter & Gamble’s situation is not uncommon, adding that every company CEO he speaks with recognizes that they’ve been exposed to a near-disaster at some point. In the past, many have taken action using available technology to protect their facilities. Unfortunately, active suppression technology was the only option for many years. More expensive to implement and maintain than passive technologies like Q-Rohr, it is also highly intrusive to day-to-day operations when it reacts.

“What explosion protection systems really provide is insurance,” Cvetas said. “They give companies the peace of mind that they are operating their plants safely, not only preventing potential loss of life but also protecting their capital goods and the valuable process revenue that they depend upon.”


Week of July 22, 2002

Safety #1 priority at Sonoco Crellin plant

By Devin Steele

FOREST CITY, NC — Walk into the lobby of Sonoco Crellin’s manufacturing facility here and, right beside the visitor’s log, you’ll see a pamphlet that begs pickup with these words: “Welcome to Sonoco! Safety is the #1 priority at this facility.”

That certainly seems to be the case, if you consider the plant’s safety record, its safety program and the entire company’s stringent safety requirements.

Geared toward plant guests, the tri-fold leaflet contains general safety rules, the corporate safety policy and philosophy and a blank area for safety suggestions.

The company’s basic philosophy: “All personal injuries can and must be prevented,” according to H.E. “Harris” DeLoach Jr., president and CEO of Sonoco¸, whose signature is attached to the policy on the brochure.

An admirable goal, yes. But it truly is etched into the minds of all Sonoco employees, according to Steve Drummond, Forest City plant manager.

“That’s a pretty serious statement, when you think about it,” he said. “But from the top down, that’s the belief. All injuries can and will be prevented.”

At the plant here, in particular, you sense its preoccupation with safety when you drive up and see a big sign that reads, “This Plant Has Worked (fill in the blank) Days Injury Free ... A Safe Work Place Begins With You. Do Your Part & Work Injury Free.” As of this writing, employees at the site had posted more than 300 days, or about 10 months, without a recordable injury.

Walk through the plant, and you see how employees remain fixated on safety. Signs are posted on every wall and every machine, reminding employees to work safely. “BE CAREFUL: This machine has no brain ... use your own,” is a common warning. Also, a permanent Safety Pledge, signed by every employee, outlines employees’ rights and responsibilities related to safety and hangs on a wall as you enter the manufacturing area.

“If I were to attribute something to the success of our safety efforts, it has to be the mindset of the employees and how the mindset has been changed over the years,” said Drummond, whose plant manufactures plastic carrier tubes used primarily in the textile industry. “Having utilized tools and resources to improve our safety programs, you can see the benefits — a safer, cleaner workplace and a better environment for employees. Once you witness that, if you were not a believer, you soon will be. People jump on board pretty quickly.

“Our people understand that safety is a condition of employment.”

Safety in numbers

The numbers speak for themselves, according to Steven Pierro, Sonoco Crellin’s business unit manager for textiles. Lacking a recordable injury this year, the plant has a total incident rate (TIR or TRR) of zero, of course. Pretty strong, considering that the 2001 national average for the injection molding industry was 6.13, as determined by the Society of Plastics, Inc. (SPI), he said.

Sonoco’s Molded Plastics Division, with a TRR of 1.7, also compares favorably.

For last year, the Forest City plant received an award from SPI for bettering the national average, using Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes.

Consider also that the corporation as a whole changed its method of classifying injuries to match the Department of Labor’s, which are even stricter than the company’s previous formula.

“If we’re held to that standard and rated against that standard, we needed to align ourselves with that, and that’s what we did,” Drummond said. “That was a big step for us because, when you look back three, four or five years ago, what we didn’t classify as a recordable injury is now going to be a recordable injury. But that has really helped us improve our safety efforts because we’re held to a higher standard.”

Under that standard, if an employee gets so much as a blister or a stitch, it is classified as a recordable injury, he said.

“They’ve raised the bar on safety and it has made us go back and take a look at things that in the past weren’t a recordable injury that we didn’t think we needed to act on,” Drummond said. “It is a recordable injury now and because it is, it has made us that much better.”

STOP for safety

As a corporation, Sonoco began to “turn the corner” on safety about 15 years ago, according to Pete Papajohn, textile market manager.

“Sonoco took a very critical look at its historical safety record,” he said. “From the top level at that time, the decision was made that the company would improve in the area of safety and embarked on a series of safety initiatives to improve our safety record across the company.”

As such, the company sought the advice of an industrial leader in safety, DuPont, one of Sonoco’s largest customers. Sonoco adopted some of DuPont’s safety programs and, later, bought DuPont’s highly successful safety training tools, called “STOP,” which it had begun to market and sell to industry.

STOP — Safety Training and Observation Program — was instituted throughout the company, including the Crellin Division after it was bought in the early 1990s.

“It’s a program that you can do for the leadership group in the plant or you can do for the employees,” Drummond said. “We choose to do both. It’s designed to raise the safety awareness in your plant. It teaches people what to look for when they go out in the plant.”

Plant personnel recently completed retraining in the seven-part course, he added.

One of the most successful pieces of STOP, Drummond said, is the Observation Reports, which also are posted as you enter the manufacturing area. Employees voluntarily fill in “STOP cards,” where they document unsafe conditions or suggestions. After the hazard has been corrected, the card is hung alongside similar cards for all to read.

“We’re closing the loop as far as communication goes with these STOP cards, so employees can see that their STOP card was acted on and corrected,” Drummond said. “This has been a very effective tool in helping this plant work safely.”

Employee involvement also extends to safety committees, he added. In addition to a safety steering team, other committees focus on such areas as housekeeping, ergonomics, training and safety activities.

Whenever a safety milestone is reached — usually about every two or three months — plant personnel are recognized and rewarded in one way or another, typically with a luncheon.

On a bi-weekly basis, a teleconference linking representatives of each U.S. plant in the Molded Plastics Division, and occasionally those in international locations, takes place. The one-hour discussions focus on results of safety audits at each location, where positives and negatives are reviewed. Plant managers host the calls, but one or two hourly employees who are safety team leaders also participate.

Another useful tool, Pierro said, is an internal electronic database of company-wide incident reporting, which includes information about recordable injuries, non-recordable injuries and even close calls.

“It’s been a tremendous help to the safety program because, if the plant has a problem, it’s likely that another plant might have a similar situation and it has helped us be proactive on certain things,” he said.

As mentioned, Sonoco’s safety effort starts at the top, Drummond said.

“Safety is not just a plant-driven thing at Sonoco. Any meeting that Harris DeLoach has — if he came to the plant or you go to (corporate headquarters in) Hartsville (SC) for a meeting — he opens the meeting on the topic of safety,” he said. “He wants to go into the safety performance of the company — the positives, the negatives and where we want to go with safety.

“Also, if you attend a board of directors meeting at Sonoco, the opening comments are going to be on the safety performance of the company and what the initiatives are and where we stand against our annual objective.”


Week of July 22, 2002

BASF, J&J renew facility’s carpet, please Mother Earth

DALTON, GA — Noticeable changes are taking place at Dalton’s flagship facility, the Northwest Georgia Trade & Convention Center. While the carpet’s new design and color depth are visible from the front door, the average visitor will never see the environmental impact produced in partnership with J&J Industries and BASF Fiber Products.

“With the growing usage of the facility now approaching 700 events each year and an expected 200,000 visitors, our specifications precluded the need for high performance and visually interesting carpet,” said Doug Phipps, director of operations for the center. “J&J Industries exceeded the criteria set before them in designing a full line of color and design options that move us from offices to banquet rooms.”

Along with J&J’s custom design and color work, J&J Contract Services provided full turnkey services on this project, including carpet removal, installation, recycling and reclamation.

“We take our environmental responsibility seriously and were pleased to recommend BASF’s 6ix Again® Carpet Recycling Program to the NWGA Trade & Convention Center as an alternative to land filling the removed carpet,” said Doug Schneller, director of J&J Contract Services.

BASF’s 6ix Again® Carpet Recycling Program is based on patented, closed-loop carpet recycling technology and ensures that environmentally responsible actions are taken to reduce the impact of used carpet on landfills. J&J Contract Services reclaimed 13.2 tons of used carpet from the Trade Center that will become part of BASF’s cradle-to-cradle recycling.

“Through 6ix Again, our carpet recycling program, BASF has kept millions of pounds of waste nylon out of our landfills. Qualified used carpets can be recycled after their useful life, back into prime carpets for commercial use,” said Ian Wolstenholme, manager sales and marketing, BASF Carpet Products.

To further enhance this environment effort, the 7,000 square yards of new J&J carpet installed in the Trade Center are made of 100 percent Encore®SD Ultima® fiber, which has 25 percent recycled nylon content and is fully recyclable at the end of its useful life through the 6ix Again® Program.

6ix Again program expanded

CHICAGO — BASF announced the expansion of its industry-leading 6ix Again® recycling program to include Zeftron® 200 nylon upholstery yarns, thus making it possible to recycle old nylon upholstery fabric back into virgin grade nylon.

“Like BASF’s branded nylon carpet products, Zeftron 200 solution-dyed nylon is made from nylon 6 so it can be recovered after use and recycled back into nylon using our patented, closed loop technology,” said Tim Blount, manager, marketing programs. “Upholstery fabrics made with Zeftron 200 nylon will be recycled in a similar manner as carpets returned through the 6ix Again program, now in its eighth year of evolution. The nylon fiber will be recovered and then recycled back into virgin quality nylon 6 polymer at BASF’s depolymerization plant in Arnprior, Canada.”

As a world leader in solution-dyeing technology, BASF has for years selected only high-quality, environmentally safe pigments, Blount said. With solution-dyed nylon, the color is locked into the yarn at the earliest stage of fiber production, requiring no additional energy for a dyeing process.


Week of July 22, 2002

Company latched on to recycling initiative

By Devin Steele

FOREST CITY, NC — From the environmental side, Sonoco Crellin’s plant here is involved in a major recycling initiative.

The facility recycles an appreciable amount of the scrap plastic carriers it generates and also takes back from outside recyclers many of the used carriers it manufactured and sold, according to Pete Papajohn, textile market manager.

The plant grinds many of the thermo-plastic tubes into pellet-sized fragments and remolds them into carriers for other applications or industries.

“Thanks to this recycling effort, the material continues to live. It doesn’t go into a landfill,” Papajohn said.

Ten years ago, these types of tubes indeed were landfilled, said Steve Drummond, plant manager. But Sonoco Crellin quickly latched on to the recycling movement, he said.

“We’ve really made a lot of changes in the way we do business when it comes to what happens to our tube when the customer is done with it,” he said. “We’ve come up with options for the customers, working with them, to provide solutions to what can be done with their used tubes. We help them with these efforts, working through recycling here at the plant or in coordinating these efforts with other recyclers.”


Week of July 22, 2002

Bankrupt Guilford files plan to emerge

GREENSBORO, NC — Guilford Mills, Inc. said July 12 it has presented a plan to emerge from bankruptcy proceedings.

The company said it expects to emerge from bankruptcy by September 30, the end of its fiscal year.

The plan represents the agreement reached in cooperation with its major lenders. Guilford proposes to reduce its debt to $150 million, down from $270 million before entering bankruptcy court.

Under the plans provisions, the company’s suppliers will be paid in full, based on claims filed. Also, ownership of the company will change, as Guilford’s senior lenders will own 90 percent of the firm and existing shareholders will hold the remaining 10 percent.

“I’m very pleased to announce that in accordance with a term sheet agreed to in March with our senior lenders, we filed with the bankruptcy court Thursday a plan of reorganization that will significantly reduce our senior debt, allowing us to focus on our core operations,” said John A. Emrich, Guilford Mills’ president and CEO. “Quite simply, we are moving toward a swift and successful reorganization.”

Certain differences between the plan filed Thursday evening and the term sheet signed in March include two trusts instead of one to dispose of non-core assets, and elimination of a unanimous board vote requirement to approve a business combination transaction in the first year after emergence.

Sales and operating profits continue to exceed Guilford Mills’ expectations, the company said. Because of this strong performance and its solid relations with its suppliers, the company said it is not borrowing on its court-approved, $30 million debtor-in-possession financing. The sale of its non-core assets is proceeding according to schedule.

The company has closed all of its apparel-fabric producing facilities and plans to focus on automotive and industrial fabrics.

Guilford would not disclose whether or not longtime Chairman Chuck Hayes would remain with the company.

Fiscal notes

Week of July 22, 2002

Earnings, sales rise at Quaker Fabrics

FALL RIVER, MA — Quaker Fabric Corp. earned $4.5 million, or 26 cents per share, on sales of $101.9 million in the second quarter.

For the same period of 2001, the company made $3.1 million, or 19 cents per share, on $84.6 million.

Measures paying off at VF Corporation

GREENSBORO, NC — Benefitting from cost cuts and a reorganization, apparel maker VF Corporation said Wednesday its second-quarter earnings rose 28 percent from the same period a year ago on lower sales.

Income was $88.9 million, or 79 cents, from $69.4 million, or 60 cents.

Sales dropped to $1.19 billion from $1.32 billion as it exited certain businesses.

Levi Strauss takes restructuring hit

SAN FRANCISCO — Levi Strauss & Co. reported a second-quarter loss of $80.9 million after restructuring charges and related expenses of $171 million.

Sales dropped 12 percent to $924 million.

Sonoco sees income more than double

HARTSVILLE, SC — Packaging and carrier supplier Sonoco said its second-quarter income more than doubled, reflecting sales grown and acquisitions.

The company earned $37.7 million, or 39 cents per share, from $16.9 million, or 18 cents per share.

Mohawk Industries posts record in 2Q

CALHOUN, GA — Mohawk Industries, Inc. posted record net earnings of $75.5 million, or $1.10 per share, up from $46.5 million, or 88 cents, for the comparable second quarter last year.

Net sales climbed 42 percent to $1.23 billion from $865 million.

Profits up, sales down at Oxford Industries

ATLANTA — Oxford Industries, Inc. saw fourth-quarter earnings rise 7.1 percent to $5.6 million, or 74 cents. Sales fell 11.2 percent to $191.7 million.


Week of July 22, 2002

Glenoit set to emerge from court shelter

NEW YORK — Glenoit Corp. said it expects to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings within the next two to three months.

The company, which filed bankruptcy two years ago, said it plans to emerge under the ownership of its current lenders and would be forgiven of its $95 million corporate bonds debt.

Glenoit sold its specialty fabrics division earlier this year in order to focus on its more profitable lines, such as bath products and decorative pillows.

Williamson-Dickie Mfg. to close another plant

WESLACO, TX — After closing its McAllen plant with 331 employees last month, Williamson-Dickie Manufacturing Co. said it is shuttering its manufacturing facility here in a move that will ax about 670 jobs.

The company, based in Fort Worth, TX, makes Dickies-brand khaki pants, T-shirts, overalls and jeans and Workrite safety uniforms.

Employees at the plant here made service uniforms.

Zellweger Uster, eCotton form marketing alliance

RALEIGH, NC — eCotton, Inc., a software provider to the cotton industry, and Zellweger Uster, Inc., a supplier of testing equipment to spinning mills and gins, announced a strategic marketing alliance to bring revolutionary new products and procedures to the cotton market.

The companies said they formed the alliance to create an information system to improve efficiencies and add value to the cotton fiber supply chain.

They plan to develop certification of cotton quality that will be coupled with evidence of title (Electronic Warehouse Receipts) and then transmitted electronically to the textile mill community. This process will significantly improve the speed that cotton moves from the gin to the spinning mill, the partners said.

“Now the ginning community can take advantage of real-time quality measurements taken while ginning,” said Joe Yankey, senior product manager, Zellweger Uster. “This information offers a solution for gin process control, offering better quality fiber to spinning mills and improving yield for the producer. The value of having cotton quality data immediately available for selling, shipping and storage management will provide immediate benefits to the ginner and warehouseman.”

Nilit, Unifi to share trade show booth

NEW YORK — Nilit Ltd., an Israel-based manufacturer of nylon 6.6 fibers for fashion legwear, intimate apparel and bodywear, will be exhibiting for the first time at the Yarn Fair International trade show this week.

Innovations such as Sensil Arafelle™ and Sensil Colorwise™ will be showcased as a joint effort with Unifi, one of the world’s largest producers and processors of textured yarns.

“Nilit and Unifi have formed a joint venture in Israel to produce nylon 6.6 poy yarns for texturing,” said Kimberly Lewis, marketing director, Unifi.

The nylon produced by the joint venture is used in apparel, industrial and home fashion yarns.

Separately, Unifi announced the release of an enhanced version of Fyberserv, an on-line business tool for the textile industry that provides Unifi customers with access to comprehensive, real-time account information. The updated release of Fyberserv includes new features, as well as enhanced versions of pre-existing features, to provide cost savings and speed-to-market advantages for Unifi customers.

BASF to hike price of various products

MOUNT OLIVE, NJ — BASF Corporation said it would increase North American prices for caprolactam by 15 percent, effective July 15; nylon 6 spinning polymers by 10 percent, effective August 1; and extrusion polymers by 8 to 12 percent, effective August 1.

Caprolactam is supplied by BASF as a raw material for fibers and various engineering plastics. The company’s spinning polymers are primarily used to produce carpet fibers. BASF’s extrusion polymers have applications in film packaging, monofilaments, wire and cable and compounding.

These price increases are necessary to improve unsatisfactory margins compounded by continuing increases in raw material costs, said Mark Dobson, marketing and sales director, Fiber Intermediates.

Quickwash Plus makes impact at Milliken plant

BLACKSBURG, SC — During her 18 years in the lab at Milliken & Co.’s Magnolia Finishing Plant here, Debbie Blanton said she has never seen a machine make a greater impact than her new Raitech Quickwash Plus unit.

“We’re using it everyday. I love the machine,” said Blanton, a senior operator. “What used to take 14 hours, we now have gotten down to 15 minutes. It cuts turnaround time dramatically. We can do process checks while production is going, so it really eliminates quality problems.”

Her lab installed its Quickwash model this spring and uses it to conduct shrink testing on fabric samples at the finishing plant. Introduced in 1997 and now installed at hundreds of labs, Quickwash Plus is a tabletop, microcontroller-driven unit. It test washes and dries all varieties of sample fabrics in minutes instead of the hours required by conventional washing machines and dryers.

JS humidification: Superb for Superba

Textile machinery manufacturer Superba said it chose the JS JetSpray direct air humidification system for its showroom because of its superior quality and consistent reliability.

Superba, a France-based company, manufactures a wide range of steaming, shrinking, dyeing and laboratory equipment for the industry. It approached JS Humidifiers of the United Kingdom with a stringent specification for a high-quality humidification system that would introduce moisture into the air of its 1,500 cubic meter, custom-built test room and demonstration area.

“When working with textiles, it is imperative their moisture content is optimized in order to maintain their quality, avoid breakage and make them easier to handle,” said Philippe Massotte, research manager for Superba. “In our showroom we test our machinery and demonstrate it to prospective customers. Reliable humidification is therefore of paramount importance to ensure the textiles processed by our products are always displayed in the best condition.”

The JS JetSpray direct air humidifier produces a fine spray of moisture directly into the air. This evaporates quickly, raising the relative humidity to the required level which the automatic JetSpray control panel then consistently maintains. Incorporated within the Jetspray is a JS PureTec UV water sterilizer to provide hygenic and safe operation.


Week of July 22, 2002

DuPont sharpens focus on apparel

WILMINGTON, DE — Newly formed DuPont Textiles & Interiors (DTI) announced plans to upgrade its global apparel business focus.

Designed to support its consumer-driven strategies by accelerating response to consumer demands, the model incorporates a three-pronged growth strategy — marketing, innovation and speed — as well as consolidating from four apparel segments to three.

Additionally, DTI Apparel said it has committed to deliver 25 new product innovations within the next five years, five of which will be introduced next year.

“Our customers and consumers can expect fabrics and garments that are more relevant to their needs — such as smart fabrics and garments — on a more frequent basis,” said Bill Ghitis, president, Apparel, DuPont Textiles & Interiors. “Our business model is designed to give us a thorough understanding of consumers needs in apparel categories, develop innovations together with the textile leaders in our Lycra® Assured network and finally support our downstream partners through the use of our powerful portfolio of consumer brands like Lycra®, Teflon®, CoolMax®, and Tactel®.”

To meet this business goal, DTI Apparel said it is committed to seeking alternative solutions to help them identify, meet and exceed consumer needs. Among others, these may include customer alliances and minority investments, such as the recently announced partnership with Design Development Concepts Lab (DDCLAB).

DTI Apparel has consolidated its apparel categories into three consolidated segments including: 1) intimate apparel/activewear/outdoor/swimwear; 2) legwear; and 3) ready-to-wear. Specific roles within each category have responsibility for all three growth factors — marketing, innovation and speed/planning.

Additionally, DTI Apparel has assigned growth responsibilities to global marketing directors, coupled with holding global vice presidents accountable for growing business in a cost-effective manner.

DTI Apparel has created the new position of global marketing director, and the five new directors’ responsibilities are to identify relevant growth opportunities, develop consumer-driven strategies and support their execution through regional segment directors.


Week of July 22, 2002

Upkeeper unveils maintenance cart

CHARLOTTE, NC — Upkeeper Corp., a supplier of vacuuming and cleaning equipment to the textile and other industries, has unveiled its Voyager Turbo Kit 2002 Maintenance Cart, which features a Rubbermaid janitor cart fitted with Voyager Turbo 55-gallon drum kit.

The cart enables maintenance workers to store tools and accessories on a mobile platform for easy and convenient access to vacuuming tasks. A battery power option for complete mobility is offered and an additional storage bag is attached to the cart.

Other options include a super-sized crevice device (4 inches X 36 inches) and a right-angle, articulated, super-size crevice tool. A hinged, flip-top barrel cover allows easy access for emptying or changing containers.

Solutia introduces heat-transfer fluid

ST. LOUIS — Solutia Inc. introduced the first new high-temperature vapor phase heat transfer fluid to hit the market in more than 50 years.

Therminol VP-3 is a proprietary fluid that offers a boiling point of 243&Mac251;C, which is lower than conventional biphenyl/diphenyl oxide eutectic fluids, giving users more flexibility in operating in the vapor phase region, according to the company.

This compares to a boiling point of 257&Mac251;C for current high-temperature vapor phase heat transfer fluids, such as Therminol VP-1.

“That boiling point difference of just 14 degrees Celsius can have a major impact on the efficiency of nylon and specialty polymer operations,” said Dale Kline, Solutia’s worldwide business manager for heat transfer fluids.

SourceTech develops program for knitters

HUNTERSVILLE, NC — SourceTech Systems, a provider of PC-based software for the textile industry, announced the availability of its new VI2600 program designed and developed for contract knitters.

VI2600 is a family of modules prepared exclusively for knitters to manage the entire order and knitting process.


Week of July 22, 2002

Label this industry safe, eco-friendly

BROWSING ITEMS in the clothing section of the local “Big Box” Warehouse Club recently, we were awestruck by the prices of certain brand-name items. Ralph, Tommy, Calvin — all there. “What a bargain! We’ll get two each of the most desirables, since they’re practically giving them away,” we thought.

And then it hit us.


A quick perusal of the labels will certainly temper anyone’s glee, when you consider the blood, sweat and tears that went into getting that Alexander Julian golf shirt on that shelf for $14.99. Made in Macao ... Indonesia ... Myanmar ... and, of course, China.

Not that anything about that shopping trip surprised us. We know, of course, that most of our apparel — and much of our textile products — are imported these days. We know that Asia has cornered the market on manufacturing. And we know that U.S. consumers are benefitting in the pocketbooks, as a result.

But at what price falling prices?

Eyeing a label, we could almost see a 13-year-old girl sewing on buttons in a windowless, sweltering factory. Rubbing the label, we could almost see dangerous chemicals being mixed in vats by men wearing flip-flops and no safety glasses. Flipping the label, we could almost see plumes of pollutants emanating from a smokestack.

Made us want to tear off that label.

THEN WE considered the rest of the price: Good, ol’ American jobs. Never mind the fact that those Americans worked in some of the safest and most environmentally friendly facilities in the world. Forget the fact that their paychecks were some of the most competitive anywhere. Disregard the fact that many of them had given most of their lives to one company.

Uplifting stuff, this globalization thing, huh?

And, like it or not, the U.S. textile industry isn’t calling the shots. It’s retailers who are selling you down the river for rock-bottom prices. It’s apathetic consumers blinded by dollar signs who are costing you your livelihoods. It’s a government more interested in playing politics and coddling wayward countries than looking after your best interests.

In a manner of speaking, your souls are being sold, little by little.

Don’t misunderstand. We’re not anti-globalization. Free trade can benefit this industry and this country, if allowed to occur properly. But it’s not right that we trade with countries that violate international trading laws, that have little or not safety, health and environmental codes, that pay slave wages.

Yet, it’s happening every day, folks.

THAT’S WHY this year, more than ever before, it brings us great pleasure to bring you this week’s STN, our annual Safety and Environmental edition. It’s important that the safety and environmental programs some of our companies and suppliers are involved in be spotlighted. Many of you are going to great lengths to make sure your employees are safe and healthy and that the Earth is protected, regardless the cost.

For that, we applaud you.

While this issue touches on only the safety and environmental reasons the forces of globalization should consider when deciding with whom to do business, many others exist. That U.S. textile and apparel employees work in safe, healthy environments and their companies aren’t polluters should be reason enough.

Textile News Index