Why ask why …

Week of July 23, 2001

Youthful curiosity led King
to satisfying technical career

By Devin Steele

YADKINVILLE, NC — When Charlie King received a peculiar toy as a kid, he typically had it taken apart within in a few days.

He needed to know just what made that electric train go, why the rabbits on the mechanical shooting gallery spin and why the Magic 8 Ball has all the answers.

King’s 28-year career in the textile industry is rooted in that youthful curiosity. Today, as senior technical manager of Unifi, Inc., he continues to ask questions related to how and why things work.

He often applies the laws of science, including the principles of statistics and engineering, to find the answers.

“When you come across things that don’t obey the laws, you know you’ve really found something that’s different,” he said recently. “And it works both ways. When it works, it saves you work because you know what you’re dealing with. When it doesn’t work ... well, you’ve identified something that’s different. That’s what intrigues me.”

King, whose term as president of the Textured Yarn Association of America (TYAA) expires this week, explained that concept as it relates to his sector of the industry.

“A lot of the textile product development and process development, historically, has been more art than science,” he said. “If you want a good piece of equipment, you get a mechanical engineer or an electrical engineer, using engineering principals to help you design it. help you design it. help you design it.

Charlie King, president of the Textured Yarn Association of America, has sought technical challenges throughout his career. He now serves as senior technical manager at Unifi, Inc., Yadkinville, NC, where he is motivated by a high rate of specialty product development implementation.

“As for polymeric materials, you can’t describe everything there is about them. You can’t measure it. But there’s still a lot of engineering and science that can be applied to designing good processes and products.”

During his career, King has learned to add a statistical approach to research and development, he said.

“I learned to focus on putting the two together — the engineering side and the statistical side,” he said. “You find that most statisticians know nothing about the products and the processes. They don’t want to know and, unfortunately, most engineers don’t want to be bothered with the statistical side that can help them do their job better and easier.

“If you boil it down to the way I go about things, it’s this: the statistical side is empirical; the engineering side is fundamental, or, basically, what makes things work. You put the two together and they complement each other well. Statistics help you define engineering-wise what’s important, what’s not important and how to refine a lot of the calculations you want to use from an engineering basis.”

When working with textured yarn specifically, achieving certain properties is the goal, he said.

“Those properties are the result of how you make POY and how you texture the yarn,” he said. “Many times those two job functions are independent, but they communicate. And a lot of how to get what you want is from trial and error through experience. So how do you pass on all this experience? One way to do it is to boil it down to scientific and engineering-based calculations.

“To a large extent you can do that. You can’t describe all the properties, but a lot of the basic properties, you can. And what that does is obviously diminish the amount of trial and error workload you have to do and it also gives you more insight as to why things behave like they do, which makes it easier to design even more novel types of products.”

In the news ...

Week of July 23, 2001

Allenberg CEO pegs
carryout at high level

By Myrle Croasdale, BridgeNews

CHICAGO — Speaking during a recent Ag Market Network conference call, Joe Nicosia, president and CEO of Allenberg Cotton Co., estimated the 2001-02 cotton crop at 19.3 million bales, with the potential of topping 20 million, even with steep losses in Texas. The president of one of the three-largest U.S. commercial cotton firms, Nicosia projected 2001-02 ending stocks at 8.4 million bales, saying USDA’s export estimate was too aggressive and domestic use figure too high.

Nicosia said cotton losses in Oklahoma and Texas were more than offset by the increase in acreage in the Delta and Southeast and the excellent yields developing there.

“It’s only July 13,” Nicosia said. “The real determination of crop size lies ahead; the crop could shrink or grow. If you use trend yields, you get a crop slightly more than 20 million bales, even with cuts in Texas and Oklahoma.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has projected 2001-02 cotton production at 19.2 million 480-pound bales, with exports of 9.0 million, domestic use of 8.5 million and ending stocks of 7.3 million. Nicosia said domestic consumption was closer to 8.2 million bales rather than USDA’s optimistic 8.5 million.

“U.S. use is sick at best,” he said. “From the end of 1997-98, daily mill consumption is down 30 percent. If we maintained just the past year’s consumption, carryout would be 2.3 million bales lower and cotton would be 20 cents (per pound) higher in price.”

USDA also had export sales at an inflated level, he said.

“The wild card is the export number,” he said. “U.S. cotton is one of the most reliable, affordable growths in world, and exports would be fairly bright if the textile industry around the world was OK, but it’s hurting. (For example), Mexico has a recession in its textile industry and is delaying shipments.”

Nicosia said he couldn’t get near USDA’s 9 million bales in his calculations.

“They should be 8 million bales, though some say 7.5 million to 7.8 million would be a better number, even if China becomes a member of the WTO (World Trade Organization) and starts importing cotton,” he said.

Nicosia said China could import 700,000 to 1.2 million bales of U.S. cotton, but it would need to buy 2.5 million bales from the U.S. to reach USDA’s total sales target of 9 million.

The bottom line on Nicosia’s balance sheet is a burdensome 8.4 million bales in carryout.

Martint meets Blair’s wastewater challenge

By Ron Copsey

BELTON, SC — As production grew at Blair Mills over the last few years, so did certain problems — such as increased wastewater that was overloading the local treatment plant.

But the textile manufacturer has solved that problem, as a company executive explained last week.

“Over the last 10-12 years, Blair Mills has grown almost 300 percent in our production and through that growth we continued to try to conserve water and make the same waste treatment plant handle that increased volume,” said Billy Rice, president of Blair, a leading manufacturer and finisher of towels for the hospitality and healthcare markets.

“To keep us at 100,000 to 120,000 gallons a day going through the waste treatment plant, we added to the concentration by conserving water and adding more production, making it a thicker product, so we had to remove some of that prior to going into our waste treatment plant to get us back where we were. But we still overloaded the waste treatment plant, so with this new equipment we are taking the overload off.”

The new equipment came from Martint Environmental of Cornelius, NC. Martint is a wastewater equipment and chemical manufacturer and distributor of textile dye machines. Martint solved the overload by installing its dissolved-air flotation system (DAF) and a unit that solidified the resulting sludge from the DAF for disposal in a local, non-hazardous landfill.

Lees Carpet tops 11 million safe work hours

By Alfred Dockery

Lees Carpets, a division of Burlington Industries, Inc., has achieved more than 11 million work hours without a lost-time accident at its Glasgow, VA, plant.

The Glasgow plant has not had a disabling injury since March 3, 1997. It has more than 1,250 employees and produces 500,000 square yards of commercial carpet per week.

The lion’s share of the credit goes to the plant’s employees for working safely, using safety equipment properly and maintaining a high awareness of safety issues, according to plant officials.

“We try to get as many people involved as possible. We set the goals and our work force rises to the challenge,” said Joe Wallace, vice president of manufacturing for Lees Carpets. “It is just indicative of the people who work here.”

David Speight, Glasgow plant human resources manager, said that the plant’s hourly employees truly appreciate the value a safe workplace. “Bottom line: our employees like knowing they have a safe place to work,” he said.

Plant and corporate management also played an important role in this team effort. Plant management stressed accident prevention, made a commitment to eliminate hazards and emphasized safety awareness. The company’s corporate health and safety department provided guidance and help to the plant, including assisting with detailed safety inspections and making safety recommendations.

The Glasgow plant has been recognized as the safest carpet plant with more than 1,000 employees by the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI), Dalton, GA, for two years in a row. On each occasion, the plant has held a drawing and taken the winners to Dalton for the award ceremony.

Key components of the plant’s safety program include: safety inspections performed by employees, reviewing identified job hazards with employees, streamlined maintenance procedures for correcting safety issues, management group reviews of safety performance and recognition of safety success.

BASF post-clearing agent shows ecological benefits

LUDWIGSHAFEN, GERMANY — When your white laundry becomes colored, it’s usually because it has come into contact with textiles that were poorly washed off after dyeing, or not washed off at all. When the dye particles are not completely absorbed by a fabric during dyeing, it stains other fabrics worn or washed together with it.

Until recently, removing these unfixed dye residues from textiles after printing was a time-consuming, costly business. BASF said its Cyclanon® ECO is the world’s first liquid post-clearing agent that is perfectly designed for the acid reductive clearing of polyester and polyester-blend fabrics, and of “acetate” blouse and lining materials.

This technological breakthrough in textile processing products is described as “a post-clearing agent of the new generation” by Dr. Ulrich Karl, developer.

One of the innovative features of Cyclanon ECO is that it is a liquid and can, therefore, be metered more easily, safely and accurately than powder products, Karl said. Other decisive advantages, according to Karl, are that “even conservative estimates point to savings of about 40 percent in water consumption and 30 percent in time for the post-clearing of dyed fabrics.”

These are impressive figures given that the textile industry processed about 18 million tons of polyester in 2000. Widespread use of the new BASF post-clearing agent has reduced costs for the textile industry and its customers.

Cyclanon ECO also benefits the environment by removing various steps in the dyeing process, such as changing the dyebath several times from acid to alkaline and back again. Cyclanon ECO is also readily biodegradable in clarification plants.

Southern Mills’ program recognized

UNION CITY, GA — For the fifth straight year, Southern Mills has earned the Environmental Award by the Georgia Water and Pollution Control Association (GWPCA).

The award-winning program is located at the company’s Plant Ray site in Upson County, GA. The award recognizes the plant’s innovative and successful Land Application System (LAS).

Southern Mills competed against 14 other state industrial locations for the first-place award. In achieving the honor, the company surpassed guidelines set forth by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and the Environmental Protection Agency. Outstanding quality control, housekeeping, documentation, training, system efficiency and enhancement were noted by the GWPCA.

Southern Mills is also an inaugural member of the Quest for the Best Certification Program in Safety and Health Processes by the American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI). The company is committed to continuous improvement, as evident in its employee orientation program, team meetings, reduction in the workers compensation costs, continuous training, reduction in ergonomic injuries and a positive trend in reducing the safety incident rate well below the industry average, according to a company spokesperson.

Safety awareness is the first agenda item discussed in daily team meetings. The manufacturing and human resource divisions have created job safety analysis descriptions for each position in the manufacturing processes. These have proved invaluable in analyzing and implementing sound, efficient operational procedures.

Intex unveils ‘safer’ knits

GREENSBORO, NC — Intex Corp. has introduced Xhale™ moisture transport performance knits, which also add safety value in its T-shirts.

Xhale’s high-visibility jersey T-shirts have been tested in labs and pass the American National Standard for high-visibility safety apparel, according to Intex. Lab tests included measurements for color and brightness, color fastness to crocking, perspiration and laundering and fabric bursting strength.

High-visibility garments significantly reduce the risk of injury in hazardous working environments by people such as public safety officers, road construction workers, emergency medical technicians, parking lot attendants, warehouse workers and railway, utility and survey crews.

Made of 100 percent Fortrel™ spun polyester, the T-shirts offer employee safety and wearer comfort, Intex said.

These breathable shirts quickly wick moisture away from the body and into the air, thus keeping the wearer cool, dry and comfortable at work.

Milliken & Co. continues to accumulate accolades

SPARTANBURG, SC — Milliken & Co., a long-time champion of environmental stewardship and sound health and safety practices, has seen several company divisions be recognized recently for efforts in those areas.

The American Chemistry Council has awarded Milliken Chemical the 2000 Responsible Care® Employee Health and Safety Code Sustained Excellence Award. Milliken Chemical took the honors in the small size category.

The award is the chemical industry’s highest safety and health award and is presented to only those companies that exhibit outstanding and long-term progress in protecting the health and safety of their employees, contractors and the community residents living near their facilities. A panel of six judges, representing labor, government, academia, industry, and the broader safety community, was convened to select a winner.

“Everyone in these winning companies should take pride that his or her company has been recognized as the best of the best,” said Patrick R. Tyson, Sustained Excellence Award judge and chairman of the National Safety Council.

The award is given annually as part of the Responsible Care® Employee Health and Safety Code Awards Program to recognize sustained excellence by American Chemistry Council member companies in reducing workplace injury and illness.

Responsible Care is the chemistry industry’s health, safety and environmental performance improvement initiative. Since its launch in 1988, Responsible Care has been recognized as one of the most successful environmental, health and safety initiatives advanced by industry.

To be eligible for the award, a company must have performed in the top 10 percent, or be one of the safest three companies in a large, medium or small size category for each of the three previous years. Companies must also record zero employee and contractor fatalities and be fully implementing the Responsible Care Employee Health and Safety Code at all of their sites. This year marks the first time in Responsible Care Sustained Excellence Award history that a small size company has been honored.

Avondale plants recognized in South Carolina, Alabama

SYLACAUGA, AL — Several Avondale Mills locations have been recognized for their safety efforts by the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance (SCMA) and the Alabama Textile Manufacturers Association.

SCMA honored several Avondale plants in the state for outstanding safety achievement in 2000. Facilities receiving plaques with no-lost time injuries were Warren Garment Dye, Graniteville Office, Gregg, Hickman, Horse Creek, Plant Services, Sage Mill Cloth Warehouse, Sage Mill Raw Materials Warehouse, Swint, Townsend and Warren Indigo Dye.

Locations in Alabama earned ATMA awards during a safety meeting. The company’s Catherine Plant won first place in Division 2 of the fiber and yarn manufacturing group, and the Coosa Plant won first place in Division 3. The Eva Jane Plant placed second in Division 4 of the fabric manufacturing group.

Additionally, certificates were presented by the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations to Bon Air, Catherine, Coosa, Bevelle and Eva Jane for completing 2000 without any lost-time injuries.

Earlier this year, the Catherine Plant achieved its goal of 365 days of continuous operation without an employee suffering an injury requiring medical attention. All employees at the plant were presented a bonus check for a day’s pay in recognition of this achievement.

Guest Editorial

Week of July 23, 2001

Listen to common sense on ergonomics

By Jack Faris

THIS MONTH, the United State Department of Labor (DOL) is holding public hearings on the issue of ergonomics — that is, ergonomic injuries and the need (or lack of a need) for federal workplace standards designed to protect workers from these alleged injuries. It is an issue that has come up before. President Clinton’s Labor Department issued a sweeping ergonomics regulation in the last months of his term of office ... with the apparent hope that, in the hubbub of presidential transition, its size and implications would not be noticed.

But people did notice. Small employers, in particular, noticed. They did their homework and figured out that it would have been the most burdensome, expensive, intrusive regulation ever to be imposed on the small-business community. They knew that there was no scientific basis for the regulation and could cost up to $2,000 per employee to implement. They asked Congress and the new president to stop it — and they did.

But ergonomics, most commonly identified with phrases like “repetitive motion injuries,” is still an issue that demands attention. When stopping the Clinton regulation, the new president and Congress promised that the issue would not go away, that it needed a comprehensive approach, including further research. So the general purpose of the hearings taking place this month (July 16 and 17 in Washington, DC; July 20 in Chicago; July 24 in San Francisco) is for the current leadership at the DOL to gain a sense of what the needs and concerns are of a number of groups ... particularly those of labor and small business.

YOU ARE LIKELY seeing a few news stories about these hearings and about the debate over ergonomics. Labor unions will insist, loudly and in threatening tones, that a federal regulation is absolutely necessary to protect workers. Their message will directly imply that employers don’t care about their employees and are asking them to perform tasks that are physically debilitating, hideously uncomfortable.

And the small-business community will then be faced with the challenge of defending themselves against those accusations. Most of the employers in this country are the head of very small firms, businesses where the atmosphere is one of family, not sweatshop. And a federal ergonomics standard will likely fall the hardest on those small shops. Federal regulation too often treats all business the same, and putting a big regulation on a small family shop can be crushing.

When you read about the ergonomics debate in the papers or see it on the evening news, please remember that the phrase “working Americans” is going to be abused, that the owners of small businesses will be left out of that definition, even though they work more hours and earn about the same pay as wage and hour workers. Please remember that small employers are also friends and family to their employees and are already doing as much as possible to keep their work environment safe and comfortable.

After all, in a small firm, the employer works side-by-side with the employee; they know the shape of the work space and the demands of the job as well as anyone, and their motivation for improving it is pure, simple and true.

THIS DEBATE over ergonomics is going to be a classic “David vs. Goliath,” with big labor unions playing the part of Goliath. The labor unions, who want an ergonomics regulation to be a federal version of state workers’ compensation programs — which have been labored over by competent state lawmakers for years ... and which are functioning quite effectively on their own — will fight this battle with money and tricks. Small business will fight it with reality, with the truth. So please remember to listen extra closely to the small-business owner who submits his or her modest requests at the DOL hearings. From their mouths will come the common sense on which this new labor standard should be based.

Jack Faris is president of NFIB, the nation’s largest small business advocacy group. A non-profit, non-partisan organization founded in 1943, NFIB represents the consensus views of its 600,000 members in Washington, DC, and all 50 state capitals. More information is available on-line at www.nfib.com.