Textile Machinery

SIC 3552

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This industry deals with establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing machinery for the textile industries, including parts, attachments, and accessories. Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing industrial sewing machines are classified in SIC 3559: Special Industry Machinery, Not Elsewhere Classified, and those manufacturing household sewing machines are classified in SIC 3639: Household Appliances, Not Elsewhere Classified.

Industry Snapshot

The textile machinery industry is closely tied to U.S. consumer demand for textile products, including clothing and home furnishing fabrics. Because the economy was in a recession in the late years of the first decade of the 2000s, U.S. textile and textile machinery production slowed, as did most other manufacturing sectors. Although a recovery was expected during 2011-2016, which would result in increased profitability and efficiency, challenges such as the rising price of steel and competition from foreign imports continued to be significant concerns for the industry into the early 2010s.

Organization and Structure

The textile machinery industry encompasses all machinery used from the start of the yarn-making process through weaving the cloth, final treatments, and dyeing. Most fabrics produced by weaving or knitting must undergo a number of further processing treatments before they are ready for sale. In the finishing operations, the fabric is subjected to mechanical and chemical treatment to improve its appearance and quality and enhance its commercial value. Because each of these processes requires different machinery, the scope of textile machinery is very broad.

The term "finishing" or "dressing" is collectively applied to the various finishing treatments required for each type of fabric. For example, textiles produced from vegetable fibers require different treatment--raising, singeing, dyeing, printing--than those produced from animal or synthetic fibers. These procedures require mechanical treatment and processing by chemicals to improve the glaze, shape-retaining properties, crease resistance, smoothness, and drape of the material. Additionally, a textile can be made shrink-proof, water-repellent, supple, soft, or heavy, depending on the kind of material and the purpose for which it is to be used. Mechanical finishing treatments may consist of mangling, pressing, rolling, milling, shearing, calendering, raising, and singeing. Before undergoing these treatments, the material is passed through liquid baths or steam baths in which various substances, such as starch, vegetable gums, glues, gelatins, and mucilages are added to the fabric.

Background and Development

The first hand weaving looms are thought to date back to 4000 B.C. Although the East is credited with the first horizontally arranged weaving plane, its date of origin is unknown. A shedding mechanism, which originated in China, was not introduced in Europe until the third or fourth century A.D. Only minor advances were made with the hand loom over the next millennium. The first major development occurred in 1733, when the flying shuttle was introduced. Designed by an Englishman, the shuttle was equipped with wheels, which reduced resistance as it passed through the fibers. This considerably decreased the time constraints to produce woven fabrics and expanded the capabilities of the hand loom.

Several blueprints for power looms were developed during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. Circa 1500, Leonardo da Vinci sketched a hydraulic-driven power loom. This idea was repeated in 1678 and later in 1745, but none of them were built. It was not until 1784 that an English parson designed the first manufacturable and functional power loom that could produce a limited number of fabrics. In 1796, an automatic loom stopping system, called the "shuttle stop motion," was developed. In 1822, an English engineer made further improvements to the power loom, which prompted the manufacture of the first large series of power looms.

The oldest known patterning device is drawn in a Chinese book dating to the twelfth century A.D. In 1725, a punched cardboard card served as the first dobby, a device used for creating unusual weaves. J.M. Jacquard created the first patterning machine in 1805, and variations of this machine still bear his name. Another significant advance occurred in 1835, when a shuttle was developed that enabled different thread colors to be inserted into the fabric weave.

Textile manufacturers of the early to mid-1990s were secure in a potentially growing market. The development of machinery to support this industry mirrors the outlook of the entire retail industry. Similarly, technological developments in machinery that offer textile manufacturers a competitive edge in terms of cost savings, increased productivity, and better quality also stimulate the machinery side of the textile industry.

Due to higher sales volumes and increased efficiencies from capital investment in machinery, profits in the textiles industry exploded in the early 1990s. Record profits of $1.9 billion were reported in 1992, rising from $882 million in 1991 and $433 million in 1990. However, industry profits dropped to $832 million by the end of 1996, despite predictions that the industry's explosive growth would continue.

Continued investment in textile machinery climbed in the mid-1990s, reflecting textile manufacturers' optimism toward the industry's future. Buyer demands for higher quality apparel and home furnishings at lower prices encouraged capital investment. Manufacturers also shifted to automated processes in lieu of labor intensive operations that could increase costs.

Inventories grew significantly between 1985 and 1993, rising from a value of nearly $4.5 billion to $6 billion. During the mid-1990s, most companies in the machinery industry reduced costs to compete more effectively in global markets. They upgraded plants and equipment, reduced employment, increased inventory turnover, and sold marginal businesses. Many also acquired other firms, consolidating operations to further reduce costs.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, textile machinery represented nearly two-thirds of the sales in this classification in the late 1990s. This was primarily from sales of cleaning and opening fiber-to-fabric machinery, carding and combing fiber-to-fabric frames, and other fiber-to-fabric yarn-preparing machines, which accounted for about 30 percent of the industry's shipments. Parts and attachments for textile machinery made up the remaining one-third of the industry's sales. This primarily was from parts and attachments for weaving machines and fiber-to-fabric card clothing machinery.

Total industry shipments reached $1 billion during the early years of the first decade of the 2000s and the cost of materials was $422 million. North Carolina and South Carolina led the industry in machinery production. By 2004, companies in this industry exported many of their products, focusing the largest growth opportunities in China, Pakistan, and India. With the removal of long-standing quotas for finished clothing and other textile products in 2005, the textile machinery industry recognized the need to change its focus on overseas opportunities to remain viable late into the decade. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 290 establishments made products in this classification in 2007. Of this number, less than one third manufactured parts rather than entire machines. Although a number of textile machinery manufacturers made assorted products, original-equipment manufacturers tended to concentrate production on one or two types of machines. The companies in this industry shipped more than $1.15 billion worth of merchandise in 2007. Revenues derived from the sale of parts and accessories accounted for approximately $100 million of the industry's annual sales that year. Other product groups in this industry included embroidery machinery, with sales of more than $75 million, and silk screening machinery, which generated approximately $50 million.

Shipments decreased to $1 billion in 2008. The largest concentrations of facilities in this industry were in North Carolina, California, and South Carolina. Approximately 75 percent of the establishments in this category had less than 10 employees.

Current Conditions

According to figures from Dun and Bradstreet, 751 establishments engaged in manufacturing machinery for the textile industries in 2010. Together these firms generated $691.4 million in revenues and employed 8,018 workers. Although most businesses were small, with 88 percent employing fewer than 25 people, more than half of the people employed in the industry worked for companies that employed more than 25 workers.

California had the most establishments in the industry in 2010, followed by North Carolina and South Carolina. These three states also held the top spots in terms of revenues: together they accounted for almost 44 percent of total sales. Some of the most important subsectors of the industry in terms of revenue included silk screens, finishing machinery, braiding and embroidery machines, and textile printing machinery.

Industry Leaders

Among companies whose primary products fell within this classification in the early 2010s, National Equipment Development Co., of Lithuania, Georgia, manufactured high-speed folding and packaging equipment for the textile industry. Singer Sewing Co. of LaVergne, Tennessee, was another industry leader, with sales in excess of $1.5 billion in 2006. Former industry leader Speizman Industries Inc. of Georgia went out of business in 2004.


Employment in the textile machinery industry dropped from 17,500 in 1983 to 15,600 in 1987, then rose to 17,400 in 1990. Employment dropped again to 16,700 in 1994 and dropped further to 12,409 in 2000 before plummeting to 8,086 in 2002. In 2007, the number of employees decreased even further to 6,285 who earned just under $260 million in payroll.

Certain occupations in this industry were expected to be cut significantly in the coming years, including secretaries; drafters; engineering, mathematical, and science managers; bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks; welding machine setters and operators; machine tool cutting operators, except in North Carolina; general office clerks; and stock clerks. However, job opportunities for machine builders and North Carolina machine tool operators were expected to increase at least 10 percent. Industrial machinery mechanics positions were expected to increase about 8 percent. In the mid-years of the first decade of the 2000s, however, even North Carolina's employment outlook was dismal. According to Forbes, the industry there lost over 60 percent of its textile industry jobs since the early 1990s.

America and the World

The textile machinery industry is ultimately driven by the retail buying habits of U.S. shoppers. The dramatic political and economic changes in Europe and the former Soviet Union also created new markets for textile machinery. While many machinery suppliers exist within Europe, their technology is inferior to that of the West and Japan. Consequently, textile producers in Europe may look to U.S. manufacturers to help modernize their facilities.

With nearly half of its production exported, the U.S. textile machinery industry markets its equipment aggressively in many foreign markets. The major markets are China, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Germany, Thailand, and Italy. Exports in 2004 had increased 7 percent over 2003 levels. As of 2008, American industries imported approximately $1 billion in goods from 65 countries while exporting $700 million in material to 151 countries.

Research and Technology

One industry leader in technical innovation, Muratech Textile Machinery, developed an automatic transportation system for synthetic fibers. This system can automate every aspect of a synthetic textile plant, from package transportation to package inspection. The company also developed an automatic transportation system for spun yarn, which does everything from transporting bobbins to inspecting packages. These automation systems enhance quality and production control, improve working environments, and save labor.

Hollingsworth Saco Lowell Corporation developed an automatic bale opening system called the Rotomix. Its counter-rotating heads blend the top, middle, and bottom of the bales to achieve a superior blend over other bale mixing equipment. The Rotomix can open three different bale sizes and boasts a maximum production speed of 1,500 kilograms per hour.

Another innovative company, Marshall & Williams, developed a dye pen that operates in a vertical orientation. The pen offers the control and accuracy normally reserved for horizontally oriented pens, while achieving efficiency characteristic of vertically oriented pens. Made of heat-treated, powdered steel alloy components, the pen is durable and stable and provides a superior pen line. Its close-return design features an offset for the return track and reduces nozzle-to-cloth distance. The company also developed an internal incineration system in which small incinerators are placed in several oven zones. Oven exhaust air is drawn into the incinerators, where it is heated to between 1,000 and 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit until all volatile organic compounds in the exhaust have been destroyed. The clean exhaust is passed through a heat exchanger before it is released from the oven. Demand for this system is expected to grow dramatically as manufacturers strive to meet increasingly strict regulations imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

© COPYRIGHT 2018 The Gale Group, Inc. This material is published under license from the publisher through the Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan. All inquiries regarding rights should be directed to the Gale Group. For permission to reuse this article, contact the Copyright Clearance Center.

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