Officials outline marker system

Week of December 23, 2002

Industry representatives participate in the meeting. The tracer system could benefit the textile and apparel industry by identifying U.S.-made yarn and fabric in goods brought into the country under preferential programs.

Photo by Devin Steele

By Devin Steele

BELMONT, NC — A yarn and fabric identification system that could benefit the U.S. textile and apparel industry by reducing illegal imports was outlined by research and government officials here on December 10.

During a meeting at the North Carolina Center for Applied Textile Technology (NCCATT), industry representatives were briefed on technologies under investigation for a textile marker system. Several technologies are being tested at the U.S. Energy Department’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Oak Ridge, TN, which the U.S. Commerce Department is using to help fight fraudulent foreign trading practices.

Bush administration officials hope to have a system in place within 18 months, according to Jim Leonard, deputy assistant secretary of commerce for Textiles, Apparel and Consumer Goods Industries.

The goal of such a system is to determine whether or not U.S. yarn and fabrics are contained in finished textile and apparel goods entering the U.S. quota free and duty free, as allowed under certain import preference programs, such as those in place with some Caribbean, Central American, Andean and African nations.

Led by Dr. Glenn Allgood, an investigator at the lab, at least six technologies are being tested and he said he will make a recommendation Jan. 8 about which process he thinks would work best.

A number of issues are being addressed, he said. Among them, the marker system must not have an impact on the “hand” of the fabric, present no health risks and must be counterfeit proof or at least cost-prohibitive to copy.

“This project is yours,” he told audience members. “I believe that new technology has to be managed and the customer needs to know what’s going on and, most of all, needs to know how to use it.”

The research is part of the Bush Administration’s commitment to aid the embattled domestic textile and apparel industry, Leonard said.

“We are serious about this and I am very excited about it,” he said. “I think it has tremendous potential. We’re never going to stop fraud, but this maybe can slow down a lot of that.”

Leonard indicated that the purpose of the meeting here — in Gaston County, an area hit hard by textile manufacturing job losses — was to apprise industry leaders of the project and to encourage their involvement.

“We’re entering this with our eyes and ears wide open and you folks have to provide information to us in order for it to be successful,” he said. “And I want to emphasis very strongly that this is only the beginning.”

Allgood briefly outlined four possible technologies and added that two others also are being investigated. Innovations being studied involved tagging fabric with either DNA, dye characteristics, watermarking or nanotechnology.

The project is divided into three stages, Allgood said, including evaluating technology, developing and deploying the system and transferring and implementing the technology.

“In all phases, industry will be asked to support and participate to ensure the quality and added value of the system,” he said.

During the meeting, Leonard announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cotton Quality Research station at Clemson University is conducting similar research into textile marker systems, although the technologies differ. David McAlister III of the USDA project, in fact, was on hand for this presentation.

“We have two tracks going on in this effort and I’m excited about that,” Leonard said. “It’s great to have — and I hate to use the word ‘competition’ — two groups moving forward, perhaps using different technologies, but both working toward the same end. That is, to come up with a successful system not only that will work in a production environment but will also be cost competitive.

“If it ends up working and costs $1 a yard, nobody’s going to use it, so those are some of the issues that are being explored.”

Janet Labuda, U.S. Customs division director for textile enforcement and operations, said the presentation has raised concerns related to enforcement.

“We have 301 ports of entry in the U.S., with $1.2 trillion of imports this year and growing,” said Labuda, who sat in on the presentation and briefly addressed the group. “Do we open every container? A lot of issues must be resolved as this project moves forward.”

The ORNL project came about after Leonard received a call from his boss, Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, he said.

“He indicated that he had received a phone call from then-Senate candidate Elizabeth Dole, who said she had heard that there were perhaps technologies that would be applicable to determining the rule of origin for textile and apparel products,” Leonard said. “Secretary Evans asked me to, ‘look into that issue’ and see whether or not there was something there for the industry.”

Dr. Jim Lemons, president of NCCATT, said that a potential for job creation exists, depending on the technology selected. “How will it be applied? Will it be sprayed on? Jobs could come out of that.”

Ingrid Mitchem, director of the industry consultations program within the International Trade Administration, also provided information about her program and urged industry input on trade issues through various committees.

AATCC IC&E
to co-locate with ATME-I in 2004

Week of December 23, 2002

GREENVILLE, SC — The American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC) has signed a memorandum of understanding to hold its 2004 International Conference & Exhibition in conjunction with the 2004 American Textile Machinery Exhibition-International® (ATME-I).

The event is scheduled for September 13-17, 2004 at the Palmetto Expo Center here.

The co-location of the AATCC event adds a high-profile industry conference to ATME-I 2004 and will enhance the display of machinery, equipment, supplies and services for textile finishing, according to ATME-I Director Butler Mullins.

“The co-location of these events creates a strong synergy between the two organizing groups,” Mullins said. “It will make ATME-I a more comprehensive exhibition, especially in the areas of textile design, chemistry and wet processing, and reduces the burden on companies that support both exhibitions.”

AATCC will offer presentations and tutorials that target textile design, merchandising and coloration.

Presentations also will include preparation, dyeing, printing and testing, according to AATCC Executive Director Jack Daniels.

“Co-locating with ATME-I will enable our traditional exhibitors to take advantage of a major global textile trade show, and give AATCC a larger audience to target timely and informative technical and marketing programs,” Daniels said.

ATME-I 2004 is produced by Textile Hall Corp. of Greenville, and sponsored by Textile Hall Corp. and the American Textile Machinery Association (ATMA).

It will include the Knitted Arts Exhibition-Fabric through co-sponsorship with the National Textile Association, which was created by the recent merger of the Knitted Textile Association and the Northern Textile Association.

Spinning Time

Week of December 23, 2002

Air-jet specialist, CTS committed to industry

Dennis Skelton and his wife Sheila join employees of Consolidated Textile Service for a photo. (L-R) James Johnson, vice president of sales; Jimmy Sams, technical manager; Dennis and Sheila Skelton; Danny Plemmons, president and CEO; Vicki Plemmons, office manager; Billy Campbell, shipping manager; and Jamie Lamberth, shop foreman.
Photos by Devin Steele

By Devin Steele

GASTONIA, NC — “Welcome to Dennis Skelton’s Air Jet Spinning World.”

So read a handwritten sign in a new training and service center during a recent open house that officially introduced customers to the operation. Dennis Skelton, as you may have guessed, is the proprietor of the center, located within a large building that houses Consolidated Textile Services, Inc. (CTS).

Through Dennis Skelton’s Textile Service, the textile machinery veteran provides in-depth training on the use and maintenance of air-jet spinning equipment at the facility, as well as service, training and installation at plants around the world.

Skelton brings more than 28 years of experience to the venture, including almost 20 at Murata of America (now Murata Machinery USA) in Charlotte, NC, the U.S. branch of Japan-based Murata. The first American air-jet spinning technician for Murata, he installed more than 500 spinning machines around the world and serviced even more, he said.

“I gained firsthand knowledge working with every engineer who built these machines (at Murata),” he said. “I went to Japan many, many times to learn these machines inside and out.”

During the open house, representatives of about 20 companies dropped by to tour the facility and talk with Skelton about his services, and employees from other companies subsequently visited.

Skelton left Murata almost two years ago before deciding to go the self-employment route in order to continue to use his expertise, he said. He invested heavily in start-up and equipment costs, he said, but he’s being helped “tremendously” by old friend and CTS President and CEO Danny Plemmons, who helped him build the training center within the building and is letting him operate it rent- and utilities-free.

Capital equipment investments include a Murata No. 802H (1993), a totally refurbished air-jet spinning machine that runs like new, he said. He said he is now looking for an 802HR machine to add to the center in the near future.

In addition, he has every generation of knotter carriages and knotter heads, he said. He also bought materials to build the room, located in an area that formerly was used for storage by CTS.

At this facility, he said he is making sure that technicians know more than just the basics of repairing air-jet spinning equipment.

“During the last 20 years, I’ve been in more than 78 mills worldwide,” Skelton said. “I’ve seen so many fixers who don’t know what to do, even after going through training. They get back to the plant and they don’t know what to do. I’m going to show them how to do it and they’re going to do it. It’s hands-on.

“The basics are good. But you can learn the basics on your own. I’m going to show you why it works and why it doesn’t work and how it works. If you understand how it works, then you can tear it down, fix the problem and put it back together.”

Also on display are about 90 different types of yarn packages spun by the air-jet machines, used for education and training purposes.

“Most people don’t know that this machine is capable of making 67 mistakes that will kill you in warping, weaving and slashing,” Skelton said. “So my idea is if I created every problem for them, then the technicians can come here and I go to, say, spindle #1, see it, then go to the machine and see how it was made. They can go through 67 of them and that’s never been done in the world.

“Hopefully, I can teach this easier and quicker and they can understand it better,” Skelton said. “Plus, I’ll be doing electrical. I’ll be showing them why they have broken nozzles, which is the most expensive thing on the machine. I will also be doing lab data — what makes a harsh hand, what makes a good shirt, a bad sheet.”

Also, he’s in the process of mass-producing a training, troubleshooting and repair manual he spent years putting together with former colleague Bill Manning.

Danny Shields (L) process engineer at Inman Mills, Inman, SC, eyes air-jet spinning machine parts with Inman plant manager Bill Hightower.

Opportunity taken

Soon after Skelton left Murata, Plemmons called his old friend, with whom he had worked at Murata more than 20 years ago, and told him to let him know if there was anything he could do for him, Plemmons recalled. Skelton came back to Plemmons later with the idea of building a training facility on the CTS property, and Plemmons said he was more than willing to accommodate the request.

“I wanted to help him,” Plemmons aid. “The textile market is tough and if you’re out here on your own, it just makes it tougher. But Dennis is a good man and he does a good job. I know what he’s capable of. He just needed an opportunity.”

Such a facility would benefit CTS, as well, he added. The company, which Plemmons founded in 1989 as a machinery replacement parts supplier and an agent for Japan-based Mino Corp., developed into a full-service machine shop for the textile industry. CTS manufactures metal, provides turning, milling and in-house injection molding services, makes its own molds and holds patents for redesigned parts. The company is involved in various ways in ring spinning, rotor spinning, jet spinning, winding and drawing.

“With Dennis’ background, technical in jet spinning, it just seemed like a good match,” Plemmons said. “As people come in here to train, the whole idea is that they’ll see what CTS is all about, too. Dennis is after the service business and we’re after the parts business. This is what this marriage is all about.

“We’re also constantly developing and redesigning aspects of not only jet spinning, but winding — Rieter open-end spinning, Schlafhorst open-end spinning. Dennis can keep us out of trouble on jet spinning. We’ll know before it ever hits the plant if something works because now we’ve actually got something to test it on. We’ve got a running machine here.”

As for Skelton’s business, he said his rates are reasonable compared to OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) and that he has others who are available to assist him in the business, on an as-needed basis.

“And I’m going to be teaching beginners, intermediate and advanced, where others just teach the basics,” said Skelton, who said he is the only person in the world who is an outside contractor doing air-jet spinning training and installation. “I’m booked solid right now.”

Here to help

Plemmons said that his company — and Skelton’s — aren’t trying to undercut OEMs, but instead are aiming to benefit the U.S. textile industry in its quest for survival.

“We don’t have the attitude that we’re out to hurt the OEMs,” he said. “We want to help these guys. We’re manufacturing parts for older machines. Older machines are going to be here. They’re going to have to be. If we can hold down (textile manufacturers’) costs and keep them competitive in the industry, maybe we can all keep a job.”

CTS and Dennis Skelton Textile Service are helping manufacturers contain costs in numerous ways, Plemmons added. For instance, Skelton has designed a mechanism that eliminates the traverse cam box in air-jet spinning, which improves the yarn quality and the speed of the machine, Skelton said.

“We’ve already tested it and we know it will work,” Skelton said. “We’re in the process of the legal work (for patents) right now.”

Added Plemmons: “That’s improved that machine and we benefit from it, but the OEM also benefits from it because it still has machines in the field that would have been trash. Maybe it would’ve cost them on a new machine sale, but in the long run, we’re all better off. The customers can still compete, they’re still in the business. Even though they’re running older equipment, it’s been updated. They’re running good quality. We’re still selling parts, the OEM is still servicing and selling parts, so everyone benefits.”

Plemmons and Skelton said they both remain committed to domestic yarn manufacturers, in spite of the turmoil the industry as a whole finds itself.

“We’re going to see this industry through,” Plemmons said. “For those who are left making yarn, hopefully we’re going to be left supplying parts.

“We look to form partnerships with the yarn makers,” he added. “It’s just as important to us that they survive as it is to them. Without them, we don’t have a job. It’s critical. Everybody’s preaching doom and gloom with 2005 coming. If I believed that, I’d pack up and leave today. But there are some good companies out here that have survived some hard times and we want to be a part of their future long-term.”

D E Williams ...

Week of December 23, 2002

D E Williams Company President Davis Williams III (C) is flanked by Gary Crowley (L), executive vice president, and Daryl Walton, production manager, during an event celebrating the company’s 30th year in business.

Marks 30th year in business

CHARLOTTE, NC — The D E Williams Company recently celebrated its 30th year in textiles with a company function at Myers Park Country Club here.

Founded in 1972 by Dave “Shorty” Williams Jr., the company has supplied roving cans, casters and accessories to mills throughout North America and Mexico.

In 1975, Williams was joined by his son Davis Williams III, who continues the company’s personalized service as president. Executive Vice President Gary Crowley has been with the company for more than 12 years.

Combined, the Williams’ and Crowley have more than 95 years of service in the textile industry.

 

Betty Grimes and her husband Ben Grimes, who recently died, attended the function. The late Grimes retired from Burlington Industries and was a Georgia Tech classmate and KA fraternity brother of Dave “Shorty” Williams Jr., the company’s founder.

In recognition of the 30th anniversary, Davis Williams III outlined the company’s philosophy.

 

“We always strived to represent the very best quality products, as well as offering superior service,” he said. “ We approach our customers’ needs as a partnership.”

D E Williams began as a manufacturers representative for NVF, with sliver cans as the primary product. D E Williams picked up product lines to go with that during the next several years. In the early 1980s, the company began to sell its own products.

 

DE Williams sub-contracted manufacturing until about five years ago when it began to make its products at its facility here.

 

Gayle Cloninger serves as office manager of the company.

“We’re working on fine-tuning our quality,” Crowley said. “We’re always seeking continuous improvement. We want to wring out the very last ounce of efficiency for our equipment.”

Located near the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, D E Williams employs 11 people, including Office Manager Gayle Cloninger.

One of its premier products is the Peerless Can, perfectly cylindrical sliver cans that are designed for the ultimate in quality, uniformity and durability, Williams III said.

As an interesting footnote, both of the Williams have served as president of the Charlotte (now Carolinas) Textile Club.

Editorial

Week of December 23, 2002

Santa’s red-faced (for all the wrong reasons)

SHHHHHHHH ... Santa’s got a secret, and it has nothing to do with mommy and kissing. Well, at least not kissing in the traditional sense — as a show of affection. Puckering up and planting one on the boss’s posterior as a means of reverence or prostrating oneself may be closer to the truth. Either way, Ol’ St. Nick’s secret is that he has pink-slipped his longtime, loyal elves, sent them off to fend for themselves in this cold, cruel world. Despite their experience, skill, reliability and trustworthiness, Kris Kringle has sold them up the glacier. Seems those diminutive craftsmen were too much of a drag on the bottom line. Wages and benefits, not to mention training programs and safety and environmental compliance measures, were killing Santa, Inc.’s profits. And, as the good little boys’ and girls’ demands grew higher each year, as their wish lists grew longer, the cost of materials, machinery maintenance and repair and overtime pay was growing, too.

He had to do something. But what? Easy. Enter the “dragon.” Yep, China. The People’s Republic. The “workshop of the world.” Now, the Big Guy is sourcing most of his sack full of goodies from Commie Central. He’s buying so much from China that some are now calling it “the East Pole.” Once a year, he loads up his sleigh and fills stockings with bundles of toys, bringing smiles across the tiny little faces of children around the world. Too bad many of the munchkins can’t read the fine print on those tiny little stickers: “Made in China.” And those who can, apparently, don’t care. Hey, it’s Rapunzel Barbie, isn’t it?

DO YOU REALIZE how much The Clauster is saving by adding a few thousand miles to his pickup and delivery costs? Tons. Sure, he has to leave a little early on his Christmas Eve journey to make a pitstop in Hong Kong — and spend more money for magic reindeer dust — but his return on investment is greatly improved. The number of misfit toys is a little higher than he’s accustomed to, but it’s gradually declining as the quality gets better.

And speaking of misfits, Santa often wonders what happened to Hermie, one of his young elves with big aspirations. Did the promising lad ever earn enough money to get into dental school? Truth be told, Santa did care deeply for his “employelves,” each and every one of ’em. He cried the day he let them go, saying he had no other choice but to “make this difficult decision.” The North Pole government certainly made it harder for him to continue to operate his business on top of the world. All of the trade laws! And he never saw one benefit for his country, only more cheap goods coming in from — you guessed it — China.

BUT SANTA TRIES not to dwell on the past, tries not to let these things trouble him, despite the fact the North Pole (NP) likely will never be known as the land of hope and opportunity again. The economy is in shambles, but its inhabitants are managing to scrape by with the help of aid from countries the NP helped make wealthier than itself. Greenland has been threatening to invade this erstwhile lone super power, but so far — thankfully — it’s only been saber-rattling to this point.

St. Nick also knows that working conditions are terrible in many Chinese factories and that long hours and hard work are rewarded with slave wages. He’s also aware that safety, health and environmental laws are dangerously lax. A good man, these thoughts make his heart hurt. The whole idea makes his face match his red suit (made in you-know-where), as well as the Chinese flag.

No, it’s hard for Santa to say “ho, ho, ho” and make his belly shake like jelly these days. His boss, China, doesn’t care much for merriment or amusement, except when he’s puckering up and groveling. But he asked that we send you this message for the holidays, anyway:

“Merry Christmas and happy 2003 (the Year of the Ram, according to his Chinese calendar).

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