Broadwoven Fabric Mills, Manmade Fiber and Silk

SIC 2221

Industry report:

Production of broadwoven fabrics with content wholly or primarily by weight of cotton is included in SIC 2211: Broadwoven Fabric Mills, Cotton. Production of broadwoven fabrics with content wholly or chiefly by weight of wool, mohair, or other similar animal fiber is included in SIC 2231: Broadwoven Fabric Mills, Wool (Including Dyeing and Finishing). Production of narrow fabric, generally 12 inches or less in width, of cotton, wool, silk, and manmade fiber is included in SIC 2241: Narrow Fabric and Other Smallwares Mills: Cotton, Wool, Silk, and Manmade Fiber.

Industry Snapshot

Broadwoven manmade fiber fabrics are used extensively in the textile and industrial sectors of U.S. manufacturing. Global production of all fiber products in this industry was recorded at approximately 39.7 million tons in 2005, an increase of 3 percent from the previous year. Principal fibers used in broadwoven manmade fiber fabrics for apparel are polyester, rayon, and nylon, with an increasing use of olefin fiber. These fabrics are generally used for men's, ladies', and children's outerwear, including shirts, blouses, pants, and dresses; leisure and activewear; heavy and lightweight jackets and coats; suits; and sleepwear and lingerie. By the mid-2000s global demand was growing for most product sectors within this industry.

The home furnishings market for manmade broadwoven fabrics includes sheets, pillowcases, blankets, bedspreads, and other bedding accessories; table linens or napery products; draperies; upholstery fabrics; and wall coverings. The principal manmade fibers used in home furnishings are polyester, rayon, polypropylene, acrylic, and occasionally nylon. Carpet and rug manufacturers are discussed in SIC 2273: Carpets and Rugs.
Industrial applications for broadwoven manmade fibers include materials used in the automotive, agricultural, geotextile, medical, recreational, and transportation industries. Broadwoven manmade fiber fabrics also find use in conveyor and other industrial belting products, as well as in specialized applications such as soft-sided luggage and protective clothing. Tire cord and fabric production is included in SIC 2296: Tire Cord and Fabrics.
Broadwoven fabrics of manmade fiber for industrial applications are made from the widest variety of fiber types. Traditional manmade fibers such as nylon, polyester, acrylic, polypropylene or olefin, and rayon find numerous uses in the area of industrial fabrics. A number of industrial applications products, however, require the characteristics of some specialized manmade fibers, such as the aramid family. Other manmade fibers with high-performance characteristics for use in specialized applications include carbon fiber, glass fiber, polybenzimidazole, polyetheretherketone, and sulfur.

In the late 2000s, fiber consumption grew 4.2 percent to 70.5 million tons by 2009, suggesting that a rebound may be in sight. Also, the industry reported manmade fibers grew 4 percent to 44.1 million tons whereas natural fibers increased 4.5 percent to 26.4 million tons. Unfortunately, domestic broadwoven fabric mills bottom lines continued to be affected by unfair trade practices resulting in a deficit.

Organization and Structure

Producers of broadwoven fabrics of manmade fiber and silk, like the producers of other broadwoven fabrics, are for the most part vertically integrated textile manufacturing companies; that is, most broadwoven companies manufacture their own yarn requirements. Many of them also dye and finish their own fabrics.

Aside from the many different generic types of manmade fiber--including polyester, nylon, and rayon--and the different brands within each generic type--including DuPont's Dacron, Eastman's Kodel, and KoSa's Trevira--fabrics may be woven from two forms of manmade fiber yarn: filament or staple. Filament yarn is a continuous strand of manmade fiber. Staple manmade fiber yarn consists of many individual fibers cut to a specific length. These fibers measure approximately 1.0 to 1.5 inches in length, if they are to be spun into yarn on a cotton system spinning process. If they are to be spun on a woolen or worsted system spinning process, the fibers are cut up to 6 or 8 inches in length. The form of manmade fiber yarn to be woven depends on the end-use application of the fabric. Staple fiber arrives at the textile plant in bales, just like cotton or wool. It is processed just like cotton or wool on the same machinery.

Of the billions of square yards of manmade fiber and silk broadwoven fabric woven from the mid- to late 1990s, more than half was produced using 85 percent or more of continuous filament yarn. The percentage of manmade fiber broadwoven fabrics produced from continuous filament yarn has trended upward since 1980, when this type represented 37 percent of the 10.7 billion square yards produced. In 1988 the amount of the manmade fiber broadwoven fabric produced from continuous filament yarn reached 50 percent for the first time. Since then, consumption of filament fiber by broadwoven manmade fabric producers has remained at or above this level.

Background and Development

A discussion of weaving systems types and the emergence of shuttleless weaving as the most efficient, productive, and quality producing system can be found in SIC 2211: Broadwoven Fabric Mills, Cotton. All of the shuttleless weaving systems--projectile, rigid and flexible rapier, and air-jet--described in the broadwoven cotton fabrics section are in use in weaving broadwoven fabrics from manmade fiber and silk. Producers of many styles of broadwoven manmade fiber fabrics also can use the water-jet system of weaving. This system requires the yarn to be hydrophobic--the fiber must not absorb moisture, the styles must be relatively simple in construction, and the material must be relatively light in weight so that a stream of water can carry the yarn across the weaving machine. Most manmade fibers are hydrophobic, with rayon and its variants being the notable exceptions.
Water-jet weaving machines are manufactured by Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., Tsudakoma Corp. of Japan, and Zbrojovka-Vsetin of the Czech Republic. Water-jet weaving machines operate at a production rate of more than 1,500 ppm, which is significantly faster than conventional shuttle weaving systems, projectile and both rapier systems, and air-jet weaving machines.

As a group (and aside from competition within the group) producers of broadwoven fabrics of manmade fiber and silk faced two types of competition for market share, especially in the apparel sector and, to a lesser extent, in the home furnishings market. The two types of competition were fabrics and garments imported from developing countries and a trend toward increasing consumer preference for products made from natural fibers.

Increasing consumer preference for products made from natural fibers, including cotton and wool, stems from several factors. The first of these is marketing and promotional campaigns conducted by Cotton Incorporated, an organization sponsored and paid for by the cotton growers of the United States. Formed in 1971 in an attempt to offset the huge gains in market share being made by polyester, the organization's purpose is to promote the use of cotton in fabrics. Since its formation, cotton has increased its U.S. market share at the expense of manmade fiber in production of broadwoven fabrics every year. With headquarters and marketing offices in New York and research facilities in Raleigh, North Carolina, Cotton Incorporated's principal means of promoting cotton as a fiber of choice in broadwoven fabrics were a massive television campaign, "The Fabric of Our Lives," and the use of the cotton bowl logo in products made of 100 percent cotton or the cotton-blend logo in products made of at least 60 percent cotton. In a recognition survey of 12 leading product logos among consumers in 1993, the cotton logo was deemed the second most recognizable logo, behind the Shell Oil Co. logo. The survey found that the cotton logo was more recognizable than such logos as those of CBS, Chrysler, Dutch Boy, Merrill Lynch, Prudential, Maxwell House, Kodak, and Wrigley's.

The second factor playing a part in decreasing market share among manmade fiber broadwovens compared to natural fiber broadwovens has to do with increasing environmental concerns among consumers. Most manmade fibers are produced in chemical plants from a variety of chemicals with inherent potential for contributing to environmental problems. Few, if any, fiber producers violated any environmental regulations, but the perception of potential problems is a factor producers of manmade fiber fabrics face.

The third factor playing a part in decreasing market share among manmade fiber broadwovens is the minimization, if not elimination, of what has historically been the major objection to broadwoven fabrics of cotton. With current capabilities that reduce wrinkles in cotton fabrics and make the products more in the line of "easy care" or "wash-and-wear" polyester products, cotton fabric producers have taken a giant step toward attracting additional consumers. The makers of manmade fabrics have responded by improving existing fabrics and creating new products. Lycra has been adapted to include some cotton-like attributes--breathability and washability--while providing excellent stretchability. Lycra was especially important in the marketing of garments constructed of manmade fibers, when manufacturers promoted the "high-tech" look of stretch twills and suitings. The relatively new microdernier fabrics, although they were initially very expensive, are also expected to become popular for their easy care, breathability, and dense, soft characteristics. Specialty fabrics such as DuPont's CoolMax polyester and Cordura Plus nylon were introduced into apparel manufacturing in the early 2000s.

Production of broadwoven fabric reached 16.4 billion square yards in 1997, up almost 4 percent from 1996 levels. Manmade fiber fabrics increased nearly 2 percent. Although production gains in cotton and wool broadwoven fabrics were realized, manmade fibers and silk broadwoven fabric remained the leader in the market. Mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, and joint ventures were avenues manufacturers of broadwoven fabrics took to become more productive, efficient, and profitable. Companies continued to modernize and expand their facilities, spending $2 billion a year for capital investments.

Manufacturers targeted 3 to 4 percent of corporate sales for capital expenditures. One new piece of equipment replaced five, ten, or more, older machines performing similar tasks. Evolving technology in equipment and production techniques and development and improvement of end-use applications were the focus for manufacturers of broadwoven fabric, manmade fiber, and silk through the end of the 1990s and into the twenty-first century.

Global production of manmade fiber reached 34.2 metric tons in 2000, an increase of 130 percent from 15 million tons produced in 1980. Polyester accounted for more than one-half of all fiber production, with 18.9 tons, up from 35 percent of all fibers produced in 1980 to 56 percent in 2000. During the same period, nylon fell from 22 percent of fiber production to 12 percent, and cellulosic fibers dropped from 22 percent to just 6 percent. Along with polyester, olefin showed substantial growth, from 7 percent in 1980 to 18 percent in 2000.

In 1980 North American and European facilities produced 34 percent and 28 percent of all synthetic fibers, respectively. However, by 2000 Asia dominated fiber production, holding 61 percent of the market, whereas the North American market share fell to 18 percent. Europe's production fell to 15 percent of the world supply.

Between 1979 and 1999, manmade fiber production of polyester and olefin increased in the United States by 15.6 percent and 7.2 percent, respectively. The overall growth rate of the manmade fiber industry reflected a healthy 2.6 percent annual increase during the 1990s, but was adversely affected by the Asian economic crisis during the latter half of the decade, resulting in a surge of fiber imports into the United States.

Three agreements that affected producers of manmade fiber and silk broadwoven fabrics were the General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the American Textile Partnership (AMTEX). The first two are agreements between the United States government and governments of other countries, while the third is an agreement between the United States government and the United States textile/apparel complex.

The third agreement--AMTEX--between the United States Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. textile/apparel complex provides research and existing government technologies to boost U.S. competitiveness.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the broadwoven fabric mills industry was valued at $8.6 billion in 2005, a decrease from the 2004 total of about $9.2 billion. Additionally, a total of 44,960 employees worked in production in 2005 (of 51,606 employees), putting in nearly 90 million hours to earn wages of more than $1.2 billion. Significant losses (56,000 workers) in expected employment were indicated by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics for the fabric mills manufacturing industry as a whole by 2014 after enormous losses (136,000 workers) were experienced from 1994 to 2004; a decrease of 3.79 average annual rate of change is anticipated in output between 2004 to 2014.

Global production of all fiber products was recorded at approximately 67.0 million tons in 2004, according to research from Technical Textile Markets, of which 37.9 million tons were in the manmade sector. In 2003, the manmade fiber industry produced 248.4 million square yards of nylon fabrics, 100.3 million square yards of rayon and acetate fabrics, 422.5 million square yards of polyester fabrics, 369.2 million square yards of glass fiber fabrics, and 4.3 billion square yards of all other manmade fabrics combined.

The manmade fiber industry struggled since the late 1990s to deal with the effects of an influx of low-cost imports into the United States from Asia. The industry also was adversely affected by increased costs of raw materials. Asian prices began to climb during 2002, fueling hopes among U.S. companies that imports from the region will be reduced, and domestic demand will increase. Profitability would likely be aided by a decrease in U.S. production capacity, which was expected to keep supply and demand in balance, as demand for domestic product rose. The United States also hoped to improve its price competitiveness after 2003, when tariffs would be lifted on purified terephthalic feedstock, purchased by U.S. producers solely from Canadian suppliers. The lifting of quotas in 2005 caused staggering increases in the amount of imports from Asia, causing further decreases in employment and profitability for companies in this industry. This prompted the United States to invoke a World Trade Organization (WTO) safeguard with China in November 2005 to limit imports for a three-year period.

Current Conditions

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 430 establishments operated in this category for part or all of 2008. Industry-wide employment totaled approximately 28,697 workers receiving a payroll of nearly $858 million. Companies in this industry tended to be smaller in size, with about 58 percent employing less than five workers. On average, each establishment generated $4.1 million.The majority of broadwoven mills were located in South Carolina, North Carolina, Texas, and Georgia.

The Annual Survey of Manufacturers reported that overall shipments for the industry were valued at nearly $5.5 billion in 2008. Additionally, a total of 23,225 employees worked in production in 2008, putting in nearly 46 million hours to earn wages of nearly $624 million. In 2009, broadwoven fabric mill shipments plummeted to nearly $4.2 billion in 2009, as did production workers to 17,589 who worked nearly 34 million hours earning wages of nearly $480 million.

There were approximately 161 manmade broadwoven fabric mills employing 6,528 workers who shipped more than $1.2 billion in textiles in 2009. Other significant industry sectors were manufacturers of paper broadwoven fabrics with revenues totaling ($871.2 million); fiberglass fabrics manufacturers with shipment values of ($500.6 million); manmade and synthetic broadwoven fabrics manufacturers with ($217.8 million); and polypropylene broadwoven fabrics manufacturers with shipments totaling ($185.2 million).

On a global level, demand for polypropylene fell 6.5 percent to 2.6 million tons, as did demand for polyester with production declining 15 percent in 2009, a reflection of lower demand in the home furnishings market. However, following four years in the doldrums, worldwide acrylic production grew 4.4 percent to 1.9 million tons as a result of pricing power over polyester coupled with restocking.

By mid-2010, there were signs that the textile industry was beginning to rebound as production and shipments were on the rise and employment remained fairly steady. The industry was experiencing an increase in the home furnishings sector with sheets and towels increasing 1.4 percent over 2009. Despite good news, the textile industry continues to be challenged by unfair trade practices resulting in a deficit, in particular, China who is responsible for nearly half of the shortfall.

According to The Fiber Year 2009/10 Report, compiled by industrial group Oerlikon Textile and published in Just-Style, worldwide fiber consumption advanced 4.2 percent in 2009 to 70.5 million tons. Additionally, manmade fibers climbed 4 percent to 44.1 million tons and natural fibers grew 4.5 percent to 26.4 million tons. More importantly, "While this return to growth in 2009 may at first seem positive, the report suggests that if demand had continued at pre-recessionary growth levels, the industry would have been looking at a global fibre shortfall of between 15m and 19m tonnes."

Industry Leaders

DuPont, based in Wilmington, Delaware, was the world's largest producer of synthetic fibers with $27.4 billion in 2006 and about 59,000 employees. In second was Toledo, Ohio-based Owens Corning with $5.6 billion in 2006 sales and 19,000 employees. Rounding out the top three was Milliken and Co. of Spartanburg, South Carolina, with 2006 sales of $3.3 billion and about 11,000 employees.

In terms of production, Women's Wear Daily reported in 2005 that Koch Industries' Invista--formerly a division of DuPont that was sold in 2004--was the leading U.S. producer and third worldwide in synthetic fiber production with 1.24 million tons.

DuPont reported revenues of $30.5 billion in 2008, falling to $26.1 billion in 2009 with 58,000 employees. Owens Corning had sales of $5.8 billion in 2008 before declining to $4.8 billion in 2009 with 16,000 employees. Milliken and Co. posted $2.5 billion in 2008 with 9,000 employees.


According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, fabric mills employed 93,710 people in 2006. The mean hourly wage was $14.79, the median was $12.51, and the mean annual stood at $30,770. About 4 percent of total employment was in management positions, with chief executive officers and general and operations managers possessing the highest mean annual salaries of $155,420 and $104,810, respectively. Production occupations accounted for 60 percent of total employment with the largest number of workers in textile knitting and weaving machine setters, operators, and tenders (19,450) for a mean annual salary of $24,980.

America and the World

The signing of the General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade (GATT) proved an obstacle for manufacturers of broadwoven, manmade, and silk fabrics. Known as the Uruguay Round of GATT, the agreement was signed in 1993 by 117 nations following seven years of negotiations. This agreement phase out tariffs on textiles set by the MultiFiber Arrangement (MFA) in 2005. An influx of products were imported from China, in particular, causing the United States to invoke a World Trade Organization (WTO) safeguard in November 2005 to limit imports from China for a three-year period.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect January 1, 1994, and proved beneficial to manufacturers of manmade and silk broadwoven fabrics. In 1998 Mexico was the largest exporter of apparel to the United States. Mexican export levels rose to 2 billion square meter equivalents (sme), and because more than two-thirds of Mexican apparel exports contained U.S. yarn and fabric, U.S. textile exports to Mexico reached a record $4.5 billion. However, as quotas were lifted for WTO countries the impact could be witnessed in Mexico's exports to the United States. In 2005, Mexico held less than a 8 percent share of the U.S. import market--the smallest amount since NAFTA was enacted.

In 2000 President Clinton signed into law the U.S.-Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act of 2000, known as the Caribbean Basin Initiative, which allowed apparel imports from the Caribbean to qualify for both duty-free and quota-free treatment, if U.S. fabric made from U.S. yarn and U.S. thread was used.

Nine of the ten biggest global producers of synthetic fibers (not including polypropylene) in 2005 were based in Asia, per a WWD article (appearing in order of production): Formosa Plastics Group (Taiwan); Reliance Industries Ltd. (India); Tuntex (Taiwan); Yizheng Chemical Fiber Ltd. (China); Shaoxing Yuandong (China); Huvis (South Korea); Jiangying Sanfanxiang (China); Far Eastern Textile Ltd. (Taiwan); and Sinopec Corp. (China). The Asian companies dominated the polyester market in capacity produced with 52 percent; no other country comprised more than 10 percent of the market.

Research and Technology

The manmade fiber industry is constantly on the cutting edge of technology, as companies try to improve fabrics to compete both within the manmade fiber industry, as well as against the natural fiber industry.

Textile mills used computerization of the industry to develop quick response programs (QR) that shortened the time between the placement of retail orders and the delivery of textile goods to stores. Communicating through the use of bar codes and electronics data interchange enabled companies to use the information to direct production. Reduction in inventory costs benefited the textile mills along with apparel manufacturers and retailers.

The Voluntary Product Environmental Profile (VPEP), an electronic database designed as an information gathering center between the U.S. textile industry and its suppliers, was an effort by the American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI) to make the exchange of important information relating to the environment, health, and safety more efficient. In addition to facilitating a more efficient exchange of data between manufacturers and their suppliers, it provides information required for regulatory compliance and aids them in making better environmental decisions about their operations.

E-commerce for fabrics allowed buyers to search a large database of fabrics and place orders for them online. The database contained digital images of sample yardage sent by the manufacturers, with detailed product specifications included at the Web site. The manufacturers of broadwoven manmade and silk fabrics were able to reach a worldwide market of prospective buyers through the use of the Internet. Marketing experts expected business-to-business e-commerce to be ten to twenty times greater than that of the business-to-consumer market.

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