IFAI '02

IFAI Expo ’02 called
‘best show in years’

Week of December 16, 2002

Mike Cornell (R), national sales manager for Sunbrella Awnings and Marine Fabrics, and Mark Simonian of partner 3M demonstrate the applications of the Sunbrella Graphics System.
Photo by Devin Steele

By Devin Steele

CHARLOTTE, NC — Strolling the floor of the recent IFAI Expo 2002 at the Charlotte Convention Center, you were hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t have good things to say about the industrial fabrics trade show.

“This is my first time attending the show in several years, but we’re going to start promoting this show and also exhibiting here every year,” said first-time exhibitor Jimmy Herndon, business manager of Charlotte-based Rolling Brook Textiles, a manufacturer of woven and knitted fabrics for all types of applications. “One thing is for sure: When we go out, we raise all kinds of possibilities, but when we stay in our plant, nothing is going to happen. This show gives us a chance to mingle with people and meet people, which is the name of the game.

“As far as interest in our products and services, on a scale of 1 to 10, I would give it a 10 because the show is that good.”

For three days, Oct. 24-26, a record number of exhibitors (490) showed their goods and services to a total of 7,356 professionals representing every market of the specialty fabrics industry. This year’s exhibitor count surpassed the previous record of 482 set in 2000.

The show, organized by the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI), drew participants from 54 countries.

Rolling Brook was among a number of new exhibitors, many of them headquartered in the nation’s “Textile Belt,” the Carolinas.

“That’s why an annual show like ours is successful, because we move it around,” said IFAI President Stephen M. Warner, CAE, whose association is planning the 2003 event in Las Vegas. “No matter where we are, we get a lot of exhibitors from the local area, so we’re pretty pleased with that. And about half of our attendance is from within about a six-hour drive of the location of where we are.”

Being local was advantageous for narrow fabric weaving and warp knitting machine manufacturer Jakob Müller of America, Inc., whose offices, show room and warehouse are located only minutes from the Charlotte Convention Center.

“We had customers from Mexico who wanted to see the machines, so we brought them over to our facility and showed them the equipment there,” said Rene Frei, executive vice president. “It’s nice, not having to bring the equipment to the show.”

Staged in conjunction with the show were the third International Conference on Safety & Protective Fabrics and the annual Textile Technology Forum. Those pre-show events “were very successful and served as a great introduction to IFAI Expo 2002,” Warner said. “I think we surprised a lot of people with the expansion of the scope of the show this year.”

In addition to those events, IFAI Expo featured more than 100 speakers, including keynote addresses by Tom Morris and Gary Heil. The keynote presentations instructed participants on how to strengthen their businesses and on the importance of leading inspired teams within the workplace.

More vendor views

Among other vendors, Allen Barwick, president and CEO of third-time IFAI exhibitor Shuford Mills, Hickory, NC, said he couldn’t be happier with the show.

“We’ve had excellent traffic,” said Barwick, whose company highlighted its Outdura™ fabric. “We’ve had decision-makers here and we are delighted that we’re now a destination as opposed to just the new guy on the block. Folks came here to see us specifically, as opposed to just recognizing the Outdura name from seeing it in advertising.”

Ron McCoy, sales manager of Duncan Technologies, Inc., Spartanburg, SC, said that walking the show floor in Nashville last year led him to encourage his parent company, Erhardt + Leimer, to reserve a small booth at this year’s show.

“It was such a good show last year and this year is shaping up to be, as well,” McCoy said. “There were a lot of what I call shakers and doers there (last year). And everybody I talked to said how much of a good show it was and one thing led to another and here we are. The success of this show will dictate our plans for next year.”

A representative of another longtime IFAI vendor, thread maker American & Efird, Mount Holly, NC, added that the quantity and quality of visitors were encouraging.

“We’ve had people a lot of companies from the New England area and all the way down to the Carolinas,” said Robert Bergeron, director of product service. “A lot of decision-makers are here, which is important when you’re at these shows.”

Scott Leatherman, sales manager of the Carolina Specialty Fabrics Division of Carolina Mills, Maiden, NC, also put a feather in the show’s cap.

“The textile industry has been sort of lackluster right now, of course,” he said. “I go to several shows a year and this is one of the few, it seems, that has really grown rather than diminished from year to year.”

Sam M. “Chip” Butler III, president of Service Thread, Inc., Charlotte, NC, added that this was the best IFAI show in which he had exhibited in recent years.

“It’s a lot better attended than last year and the year before,” he said. “The people coming to our booth seem to be more quality buyers than we’ve had in the past.”

Chuck Holmes of first-time exhibitor Hubtex of North America, Inc., Spartanburg, SC, said on the convention center floor that IFAI Expo already had exceeded his expectations.

“We’ve had a lot of visitors,” said Holmes, whose company makes textile material handling equipment, batching units and traveling cleaning systems. “It’s a different market for us. We’re used to selling to textile mills. Now we’re showing to the textile mills’ customers’ here. I think it’s going to give us some opportunities down the road.”

In a post-show communiqué, Hubtex of North America President Markus Heinis added that equipment was sold on the floor and delivered directly after the show.

“Fifty to 60 additional very promising leads were generated and are being followed up on,” he said. “Hubtex was very pleased with the quality of the people attending and consider its first experience with the IFAI show to be very successful.”

Finally, Robert Poterala of Mascoe Systems called the event “fantastic.”

“We’re very pleased to see the positive attitude of people in such a negative market,” he said. “Everybody is looking for new industrial products here. It’s been extremely good for us, from the standpoint that people are looking at new products and new ideas.

‘It’s been the best IFAI show that I’ve seen and we’ve been participating in them for about 20 years. This one is just outstanding — so much so that we’re in the process of joining IFAI. This show has been 10 times better for us than all the money that we’ve spent at other shows. The right people are here at the right time.”

Meanwhile, winners of the International Achievement Awards were announced during the Chairman’s Annual Breakfast. The 55th annual competition received 293 entries from companies in 12 countries in 26 categories.

Briefs

Week of December 16, 2002

Burlington to close transportation unit

GREENSBORO, NC — Burlington Industries said it will shut its trucking and transportation unit and lay off 130 employees here as it climbs its way out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The company plans to use United Parcel Service Inc.’s Supply Chain Solutions unit to handle worldwide distribution of its products.

Cone Mills extends covenant deadline

GREENSBORO, NC — Cone Mills Corp. announced that on Dec. 2, it amended agreements with its lenders extending the maturity date of its existing revolving credit facility and senior note obligation through May 30, 2003.

The commitment is $58 million and the outstanding balance of the senior note is $22 million. As of the date of closing, the company had availability under its credit facility in excess of $30 million.

Polymer Group, Inc. statement approved

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC — Polymer Group, Inc. (PGI) announced Dec. 9 that the company’s Modified Disclosure Statement has been approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Columbia, SC.

The court has set the date for the plan confirmation hearing on Dec. 27.

Advanced Glassfiber files for reorganization

AIKEN, SC — Advanced Glassfiber Yarns LLC (AGY), one of the largest global suppliers of glassfiber yarns used in a variety of applications, and its wholly-owned subsidiary AGY Capital Corp. filed voluntary petitions for reorganization under Chapter 11 last week.

The company’s international operations are excluded from the filing. The company also announced that it has received a commitment for up to $15 million of debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing, subject to court approval, from Wachovia bank.

Liebenow expected to serve on committee

WASHINGTON, DC — Larry Liebenow, president and CEO of Quaker Fabric Corp., Fall River, MA, is among 32 people expected to be appointed by President Bush to serve on the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations (ACTPN).

The purpose of ACTPN is to provide the U.S. Trade Representative with overall policy advice on matters concerning objectives and bargaining positions before entering into a trade agreement, the operation of any trade agreement once entered into and other matters arising in connection with trade policy of the U.S.

Part of Chile deal troubles NTA leaders

BOSTON — The National Textile Association (NTA) said Thursday that it is concerned that the establishment of significant Tariff Preference Levels (TPLs) under the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement (FTA) reached last week could undermine deal.

“We are pleased that the U.S. government acted on several specific concerns of NTA members in drafting the rules for textile products,” said NTA president Karl Spilhaus.

“NTA’s consistent position with regard to FTAs has been that qualifying goods be made from components formed in the countries that are partners to the agreement. We have strongly opposed derogations from the rules of origin that undermine the value to U.S. textile manufacturers of FTAs.”

Spilhaus added that NTA is “troubled” by the large exemption from the rules of origin for cotton and manmade fiber textiles. This TPL would permit 2 million square meters of cotton or manmade fiber apparel made of third-country fabrics while getting the duty-free benefit of the FTA.

This TPL, which is actually higher than the current level of trade, is hardly a limit at all, he said.

“We note, however, that the TPL is a transitional arrangement that expires at the end of 10 years,” Spilhaus said.

Editorial

Week of December 16, 2002

Industrial fabrics: What recession?

FINALLY, SOME good news. About a trade show. In the industry. Yep, the textile industry. Uh-huh, the U.S. textile industry, smart aleck.

While such industry events have shrunk in attendance and exhibitors in recent times, the recent IFAI Expo 2002 enjoyed a fruitful three-day run at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, NC. A record 490 vendors were registered for the show, and a milestone-flirting 7,356 visitors crossed the turnstiles. Given such figures, you can officially call the specialty fabrics sector a growth area — or, dare we say in hackneyed industry-speak, a “niche.”

And this expansion, ladies and gents, is occurring during a “static” time in general for industrial fabrics, according to Stephen Warner, president of show organizer Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI). He said that a few markets are growing for industrial fabrics, which essentially, are materials created for specific applications where the performance characteristic — not fashion appeal — is the primary criterion for selection. But other markets are suffering.

The reasons some are thriving and some are suffering vary, Warner said. Historically during a recession, manufacturing or otherwise, pockets of the industrial fabrics industry grow because consumers change their spending habits. For instance, instead of buying a new boat during a stagnant economy, a person is more likely to choose to fix up the old one, which includes buying a new cover, he said. The same goes for a house (awnings) and a truck (a tarp), et al, he added. Meanwhile, some specialty fabrics producers and suppliers are hurting because foreign companies are cherry-picking the best lines of their U.S. competitors rather than offering the entire program, Warner said.

THE GOOD NEWS/BAD NEWS paradox is what makes specialty fabrics the “funny” part of the textile industry, Warner said. “There’s the apparel industry, there’s the home furnishings industry and then there’s the other industry,” he said during the trade show, explaining his reasoning. “That’s what we are, we’re the other industry.”

As recently as last summer, Warner began to wonder if his segment wasn’t headed south with its compadres, he said, if interest in the IFAI Expo was an indicator. After all, 95 percent of vendors are typically registered before the discount deadline, which this year was June 1st. But sluggish sales to that point would not serve as an accurate measuring stick for the industrial fabrics trade show. “It was very slow in exhibit sales for the first six months, much slower than any other year that I can recall,” he said. “We really struggled and we were getting a little concerned about it, but we then noticed that it started to build up a little bit.” A steady stream of sign-ups, all the way through to the week before the show, enabled organizers to announce a record roster of exhibitors, which certainly had Warner in good spirits during the event.

SEVERAL OF those exhibitors have stepped out of their traditional market and are flourishing, as a result. Glen Raven Custom Fabrics LLC, a division of Glen Raven, Inc., is one of them. The company has made Sunbrella® fabrics since 1958 and now, through a partnership with 3M and a third party, has embarked on a profitable venture. The company is serving as administrator of the Sunbrella Graphics System, a machine that bonds 3M films to Sunbrella fabrics and supports multicolored artwork and fine details of intricate logos.

Call that innovation — and keeping your ears open, said Allen Gant Jr. president and CEO of Glen Raven. “Listening to the customer, along with innovation and operating within the right cost-structure, are three elements that are important today,” he said. By restructuring, shifting its focus, becoming leaner and developing new markets with top brands, Glen Raven is now enjoying a vibrancy it hasn’t experienced in recent years. But it is a different company than it was even a year ago, Gant said.

Glen Raven is but one longtime textile manufacturer that is finding a way to survive in this ruthless environment.

And that’s the kind of news we all can use.

Textile News Index

IFAI Expo 2002
exhibitors’ products turn heads

Week of December 16, 2002

Mike Cornell (R), national sales manager for Sunbrella Awnings and Marine Fabrics, and Mark Simonian of partner 3M demonstrate the applications of the Sunbrella Graphics System.

By Devin Steele

CHARLOTTE, NC — Of the record 490 exhibitors at IFAI Expo 2002, Glen Raven Custom Fabrics LLC certainly garnered its share of attention among the 7,356 visitors.

That’s because one of the stars of the show, the Sunbrella Graphics System (SGS), was demonstrated at its booth. Making its public debut at the expo, the SGS 100 graphics machine turns applying graphics to fabrics from an art into a science, according to Glen Raven officials.

The machine is a compact unit that employs heat lamps and vacuum pumps to create a secure bond between 3M™ Scotchal™ ElectroCut™ Graphic films and Sunbrella or Dickson® fabrics. It supports multicolored artwork and fine details of intricate logos.

SGS allows awning shops to create digital versions of logos and lettering, which are then cut from 3M film using a plotter. The film is positioned on the fabric and placed in the SGS 100 graphics machine, which is programmed to provide the exact amount of heat and vacuum pressure to create a secure bond of the film to the fabric. “Once they see the graphics, people are totally impressed with this system,” said Doug Dubay, the company’s commercial market manager who has been involved since the early stages of the project. “It’s like the saying ‘a picture is worth 1,000 words.’ They look at these graphics up close and that says it all.” In the past, Sunbrella fabric had to be either hand painted, with random results, or sprayed or rolled using a mask or template as a guide. “Ever since Sunbrella came on the market, people have liked the nice textural look of the woven acrylic, the rich colors, the durability of it,” Dubay said. “It lasts longer than just about any awning fabric on the market, but there’s never been a good way to decorate it for commercial applications, until now.”

Glen Raven Custom Fabrics of Glen Raven, NC, joined forces with high-performance graphics films producer 3M, along with a Gary Childres to bring the concept to market. Childres, owner of Childres Canvas Products of Dallas, designed the machine and made the initial contact with Glen Raven about partnering on the project. Since being “quietly” introduced earlier this year, more than 5,000 applications using SGS machines have been made, according to Allen Gant Jr., president and CEO of Glen Raven, Inc.

Mascoe Systems Corp.
Mascoe, of Mauldin, SC, showed coating and drying equipment available for use in the company’s recently upgraded research and development center. Samples of various coated products were available and personnel were on hand to discuss customer product development or equipment needs. Mascoe also had in its booth a representative of General Electric Silicones (GES), with whom it has teamed up to attempt to solve chemical coating application problems, according to Mascoe’s Robert Poterala.

“It’s been a very good arrangement for both of us,” he said. Added his son, Joe Poterala: “GES has a lot of different applications for industrial fabrics. The biggest issue they have is having a place to test their new products with customers’ fabrics, so they’re bringing them to us and we’re able to do the testing, run the fabrics and then provide the customer with either a place to run the material or provide them with equipment. It’s worked very well.” The show helped GES in its strategy to focus on segments of the industrial fabric market where silicone can provide a clear value proposition as a problem solver or performance enhancer, according to the GES representative, Rob Hennessy, RTV marketing manager.

“We initiated programs with several companies that were interested in the types of performance our materials can provide,” he said. “To that end, the partnership with Mascoe Systems has enhanced our ability to answer both current and potential customer needs, by offering a turnkey system whereby the customer can see the entire process from start to finish, whether it is only a coating need or a complete manufacturing system.”

Mascoe’s ability to provide contract coating, lab trials and finished capital equipment fills the gaps that GE Silicones, as a material-only supplier, generally can’t handle, Hennessy added. “Many companies offer one or two of these services, but Mascoe has taken it to the next level with its integration of the complete coating process,” he said. “As a result, I believe that our symbiotic approach to the show was very successful, and will be repeating the effort next year in Las Vegas.”

Shuford Mills, Inc.
Shuford Mills’ Outdura® fabrics, introduced in 2000, sends the 122-year-old company in a new direction and has helped brighten its prospects for the future, according to Allen Barwick, president and CEO.

“We historically have woven filtration fabrics, substrates and acrylic print cloth, which has been a good program for us, and now medical products, as well as Outdura,” he sa and we’re pleased to be participating in the growth of it. It’s certainly an upper-end product line. It’s not a middle-of-the-road or commodity-type product like so many products that are out there.”

At IFAI Expo 2002, the company was “quite pleased” with the interest and traffic generated by Outdura, according to Steve Bowman, vice president of sales and marketing. “We saw a continued growth of interest in our Outdura premium, 100-percent solution-dyed acrylic fabrics for marine, furniture, awning, canopy and umbrella use,” he said. “We introduced new designs and colors to bring availability up to 25 styles in the 9-ounce marine fabric and up to 21 styles in the 8-ounce furniture fabric.”

Groz-Beckert
The company, with U.S. offices in Charlotte, spotlighted its titanium nitride-coated Special Application Needles (SAN®). “These needles were developed just for industrial textile fabrics, like the heavier fabrics for tents and awnings,” said the company’s Tom Graham. He added that visitors have shown great interest in the product. “The quality of the customer seems to be better here than at standard apparel shows,” he said.

KoSa
KoSa showed its complete line of technical polyester filament yarns for a wide range of industrial applications. “We have been in the process in the last six to 12 months of making incremental improvements to a number of our products,” said Larry Q. Williams, global business director, technical fabrics and sewing thread, Charlotte. “In particular, we’ve introduced a slightly lower shrinkage variant to our stalwart 787 product family for the substrate applications. We believe that this product enhancement offers improved value to our customers and performance to our customers.”

Carolina Specialty Fabrics
A division of Carolina Mills, Inc., Maiden, NC, Carolina Specialty Fabrics weaves cloth of cotton, cotton blends and synthetic fibers for a wide array of end uses. Carolina is a licensee of Cargill Dow’s NatureWorks fiber, derived entirely from annually renewable resources such as corn. The company also weaves Wellman’s Fortrel EcoSpun®, made from post consumer PET packaging. Besides these, the company featured its Genesis II line of environmentally friendly fabrics. “Over the last five years, we have really started to concentrate on expanding our product line from 100 percent cotton and cotton-poly blends to some other fibers and end-uses,” said Scott Leatherman, sales manager. “Niche is an overused word, but we’re really trying to pick up some programs that allow us to service a certain market and service it well.”

American & Efird
The Mount Holly, NC, company, which makes sewing thread, touted its Anefil® and Anecord® lines, according to William K. Langley, Eastern Region sales manager. Anefil is a twisted, multifilament thread construction made from continuous filaments of polyester or nylon that have been twisted together and then plied to hold the fibers together. Anecord, a monocord thread construction, is made from continuous filaments of nylon that have been slightly twisted and then bonded together.

Erhardt + Leimer
Among web control devices, Erhardt + Leimer highlighted its stretch-wrap machine for large rolls, along with related products from subsidiary Duncan Technologies, Inc. as well as Roach Conveyors and Mechadyne Machine, for whom it distributes. “We’ve had a lot of interest in all of this equipment,” said Ron McCoy, sales manager for Duncan, based in Spartanburg, SC.

Coats N. America
At the show, Coats let visitors know that it has broken ground in Orizaba, Mexico for a new industrial thread-manufacturing plant. Construction is expected to be complete by the end of next year, officials said. Among products it showed was Coats’ dabond, a bonded, twisted continuous filament polyester thread. The thread combines superior sewability with excellent UV and abrasion protection, the company said. Staffers also provided information about the Coats Technology Center in Hendersonville, NC, where such activities as research and development, analytical analysis, process engineering, custom quality analysis and training seminars are conducted.

Vicar International
The Union, NJ-based firm exhibited its Sun & Sea awning and canopy laminate; its Aqualon polyester thread line; its Crystal Clear double-polished, roller clear vinyl; its V-Line swap fasteners; and its Solvay Draka pressed, polished sheets.

Sterling Fibers
Sterling Performance Fibers representatives provided information about WeatherBloc® Plus, its newest in flame-retardant, solution-dyed modacrylic fibers. In conjunction with Kanebo Goshen of Japan, Sterling is offering WeatherBloc Plus to help meet the growing needs and demand for flame-retardant fabrics in the outdoor contract furniture and awning market.

Avondale Mills’ Specialty Fabrics Division representatives include (L-R) Chase Caldwell, Keith Hull, Grice Keel, Bernice Mathis and Doug johnson. The company showed coating for all types of fabrics, including nonwovens, with acrylic, vinyl, urethane and silicone.
On hand in the American Dornier booth are (L-R) Ernest Atchley, Gunter Marquardt and Dick Deahl of L.P. Batson, which represents Dornier.
Van Cooper and Jenni Gregory of Pierret show recycled materials from a size-reduction guillotine cutter.
Franklin Braid/Conventry Narrow Fabrics/Wayne Mills team members include (L-R) James Woodruff, Maria Cozzo, Julie Allen and Lynn Bachman.
Kevin Channell of Global-Pak, Inc., East Liverpool, OH, is welcomed in the Jakob Müller of America, Inc. booth by Rene Frei (L) and Albert Hess. The company manufactures narrow fabric weaving and warp knitting machines; inspection, making-up and festooning machines; and warping and shedding machines.
Neuenhauser staffers are (L-R) Paul Ledford, Jess Vergara, Robert Loftis and Daryl Downen. Featured in the booth was robotics and process automation equipment, including palletizers, yarn can and yarn package transport systems, automatic warper systems and more.
 
 
Chuck Holmes of Hubtex, Inc. demonstrated the company’s sales and handling equipment, batching units and traveling cleaner systems.
 
 
Milliken & Co. exhibited textile fabrics for industrial applications. Staff members include (L-R) George C. McLarty, John Murphy, Debbie Powell, Eric Knauss and Nishad Chikhliker.
 
 
(L-R) Joseph Hamilton and Diane Hamilton, both of Apex Canvas Co., Loudon, TN, visit the Shuford Mills booth, staffed by Jeff Jimison (third from left) and Allen Barwick.
 
 
Bob Moran works the Belton Industries stand, where woven polypropylene industrial fabrics were featured.
   
   
 
 
Allen Gant Jr. (L), CEO of exhibitor Glen Raven, Inc., talks with Mike Catapano of GMAC Commercial Credit.
 
 
Staffing the host Industrial Fabrics Association International booth are (L-R) Julia Yach, Jean Hedren, Betsy Taylor and Sarah Hyland. They offered information on membership services, publications and advertising.
 
 
Jimmy Herndon, business manager of Rolling Brook Textiles, and his weave room manager Flossie Hardin are on hand in the company’s stand.
 
 
 
 
Celanese Advanced Materials exhibited its Vectran fiber, a high-performance, thermoplastic, multi-filament yarn. Diane Hess and Scott Goshams staff the booth.
Kevin Kim (L) and Eric Stewart are among staff members in the Hyosung stand. Hyosung produces spandex, nylon and polyester at its facility in Rock Hill, SC.
(L-R) Andy Ball, Joe Morgan and Stephen Ball are present in the Eastern Plastics Co. booth.
John Napoli (L) and John Carroll of Zimmer Machinery Corp., Spartanburg, SC, are on hand to enlighten customers about the company’s equipment for printing, coating, laminating and lacquering.
Left: Paul Saunders, president, and Barbara Montz, consultant, work the Sterling Performance Fibers booth. The Pace, FL, company spotlighted its WeatherBloc® modacrylic fiber.
Barmag/Saurer Group staff members include (L-R) Klaus Hufschmidt, Andreas Frisch and Ken Dunphy.
Mascoe Systems Corp., Mauldin, SC, has in its booth (L-R) Robert Poterala, Robert Oaks, Robert Hennessy of GE Silicone and Joe Poterala.
J.H. Moreland (L) and Mike Alber work for Martin Color-Fi, Inc., Edgefield, SC.
James Rhee (L) and Daniel Kwon are with Alkenz,
Co., Ltd.
Representing Groz-Beckert, a manufacturer of industrial sewing needles, are (L-R) Manny Rojas, Tom Graham, Ron Russell and Tony Amores.
American & Efird, which makes high-performance sewing threads, had W.K. Langley (L) and Robert Bergeron in its booth.
Cedric Gaskin (L) of Defense Supply Center (DSC) greets Gengo Kurokoshi and Shig Kimara (R), both of Takashima, as Susan Pinto of the military clothing and equipment supplier looks on.