Finishers of Broadwoven Fabrics of Manmade Fiber and Silk

SIC 2262

Industry report:

Establishments in this category are primarily engaged in finishing purchased man-made fiber and silk broadwoven fabrics or finishing such fabrics on a commission basis. Those companies engaged in the dyeing and finishing of broadwoven cotton fabrics are discussed in SIC 2261: Finishers of Broadwoven Fabrics of Cotton. Establishments primarily engaged in finishing wool broadwoven fabrics are classified in SIC 2231: Broadwoven Fabric Mills, Wool (Including Dyeing and Finishing); those finishing knit goods are classified in the knitting mills industry group; and those coating or impregnating fabrics are classified in SIC 2295: Coated Fabrics, Not Rubberized. Finishing operations found in SIC 2262: Finishing Plants, Man-made include bleaching, dyeing, printing, preshrinking, calendering, and napping.

Industry Snapshot

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 618 establishments operated in the broadwoven fabric finishing mills category in 2007, which was a decline from the 2004 total of 884. Total value of industry shipments reached almost $3.9 billion in 2007, and industry-wide employment was approximately 17,841 workers, as compared to 26,111 in 2004, and employment loss was expected to continue for another decade. Total payroll for the industry was almost $588 million. Companies in this industry tended to be small with nearly 75 percent employing fewer than 20 workers.

Organization and Structure

Establishments engaged in dyeing and finishing of broadwoven manufactured fiber and silk fabrics generally serve three market categories: apparel, home furnishings, and industrials. In the United States, apparel and home furnishings account for the majority of broadwoven fabric production. Because imports are eroding those markets and industrial fabrics are growing in end uses, however, industrials are expected to experience growth.

Finishing of broadwoven fabrics is subdivided into three general processing categories: fabric preparation, fabric coloration, and fabric finishing. Fabric preparation consists primarily of bleaching and preparing fabrics with chemical agents to aid in subsequent processing. Such processes, depending on the end result desired, may be performed in open-width fabric form or in fabric-rope form. Severe bleaching of fabrics of manufactured fibers is not necessary to the extent broadwoven cotton fabric bleaching is required, because impurities from the cotton plant are found in broadwoven cotton fabrics. Machines most commonly used in the preparation process include kiers, J-boxes, roller steamers, conveyor steamers, semi-J-box steamers, and high-temperature pressure steamers. The most common chemical agent used is hydrogen peroxide.

Coloration of fabrics consists of a variety of dyeing methods, either in batch or continuous process procedures and printing. The continuous process is by far the most popular in the United States as it is based on high-volume, low-cost-per-unit operations. However, as more and more companies begin participating in "quick response" (QR) or demand-activated manufacturing architecture (DAMA) partnerships, it may become necessary to increase the number of batch operations, which generally are geared toward shorter-run, lower-volume products. Printing of broadwovens may be performed by screen printing machines, roller printing machines, roller-screen printing machines, or by a process known as transfer printing.

The subcategory of finishing is itself divided into surface or dry finishing and wet finishing. Surface or dry finishing consists of such processes as sueding, sanding, and napping and imparts a certain texture or feel to the fabric. Wet finishing consists of preshrinking or sanforizing, mercerization, or heat-setting. Chemical finishes for water repellency, flame retardancy, mildew proofing, and wash-and-wear characteristics are applied during finishing processes.

The practice of treating fabrics with resins or other agents to impart shrinkage stabilization, crease-proofing, and shape retention has become extremely important. Collectively, these properties are known as durable press. Compressive shrinking, generally known as sanforizing, takes place during finishing and prevents shrinking of finished garments. In finishing, widths are set, while fabrics are straightened and given particular feels or hands. It is the final process in textile manufacturing of broadwoven fabrics.

Background and Development

In the early 2000s, the majority of establishments in the broadwoven fabric finishing mills industry were located in California (174), followed by New York (160) and North Carolina (82), according to the U.S. Census Bureau. South Carolina shipped the highest dollar amount in 2002 ($2.3 billion) and employed the greatest number of people (9,899). In 2002, the industry employed nearly 34,000 people, down from 45,031 a decade earlier, and shipped $6.7 billion in product, down from $8.4 billion. The industry was divided into four segments: finished cotton broadwoven fabrics (finished in finishing mills) with 44 establishments and $1.9 billion in total value of shipments, job or commission finishing of cotton broadwoven fabrics with 51 establishments and nearly $873 million in total value of shipments, finished manufactured fiber and silk broadwoven fabrics (finished in finishing mills) with 54 establishments and $2.1 billion in total value of shipments, and job or commission finishing of manmade fiber and silk broadwoven fabrics with 60 establishments and more than $791 million in total value of shipments.

Two trade agreements enacted at the end of 1993 had an effect on the industry. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which reduced or eliminated tariffs among the signing nations, spurred the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995. The WTO provides governments with a forum to resolve trade problems. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which essentially removed all trade restrictions among Canadian, Mexican, and U.S. businesses, had short-term positive impacts on the U.S. textile industry, because North American countries were the U.S. textile industry's most important export markets throughout the 1990s, and because Mexico was expected to continue to be a growing market. The agreement was anticipated to continue to have a long-range positive effect on U.S. dyers and finishers of broadwoven manmade fiber and silk fabrics, according to officials at the American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI). Formally dissolved in 2004, ATMI had represented the interestes of approximately 425,000 workers in the U.S. textile industry.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the textile industry continued to be influenced by global trade conditions. ATMI reported at the end of 1999 that textile shipments decreased in 1998 and 1999 because of competition from low-priced Asian textiles. Asian textile prices fell 6.5 percent, negatively impacting the U.S. textile market. On the other hand, U.S. textile imports to Mexico continued to grow and increased 19 percent during the first 10 months of 1999. By the end of 1999, Mexico and the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) region were the two largest U.S. textile export markets. U.S. textile shipments during 1999 totaled $78 billion. The broadwoven fabric finishing segment accounted for more than 10 percent of this total with $8.42 billion in shipments.

Declining demand for home furnishing fabrics impacted at least a few U.S. companies. Greensboro, North Carolina-based Cone Mills Corp. eliminated 250 jobs in late 1999, citing declining demand. Established in 1891, Cone struggled to improve its earnings with some success. Two of its plants lost $3.6 million during the second quarter of 1998 and decreased losses to $1.7 million during the second quarter of 1999. However, company spokespeople blamed the sluggish industry conditions in part on slow international sales, caused by the Asian economic crisis that lowered the price of foreign products and hurt the entire industry. Cone Mills reported that sluggish earnings were not caused by competition from cheaper imported materials. In 2003, the company was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection which led to WL Ross & Co.'s 2004 acquisition of Cone's assets. WL Ross merged Cone Mills and Burlington Industries in 2004 to create the International Textile Group (ITG), and the company's name was changed to Cone Denim.

The entire fabric and apparel industry suffered a major but expected setback when, on January 1, 2005, all import quotas were removed for WTO member countries. In order to compensate for the influx of imported products, domestic manufacturers implemented several fundamental changes to meet the challenge, including consolidation, outsourcing, and domestic technological development.

According to a 2005 FDCH government account report, U.S. shipments of textiles and apparel between 1995 and 2004 fell drastically (textiles and fabrics by a third and apparel by a half) to about $56 billion in 2004. However, textile product mills (e.g., carpets, bedspreads, curtains) remained relatively steady. Overall industry employment also declined more than 50 percent for the same period. Conversely, imports of textiles and apparel products grew significantly, from $44 billion in 1995 to approximately $83 billion in 2004. Importation of synthetic filament fiber fabric from China increased 278 percent from January 2004 to January 2005.

As textile and apparel imports from China flooded the U.S. market, driving down domestic sales and prices and causing thousands of job cuts in the apparel and textile industry, the fiber-producing sector of the U.S. textile industry joined with labor unions in early 2005 to petition the U.S. government to invoke the WTO safeguard mechanism to limit damages. Such a safeguard, incorporated in the WTO agreement, allowed China to continue to expand its exports to the United States but limited growth for three years on Chinese-produced textiles. Based on the previous year's figures, Chinese textile imports could increase 10 to 15 percent in 2006, 12.5 to 16 percent in 2007, and 15 to 17 percent in 2008. The National Committee of Textile Organizations and other industry organizations lobbied Congress for a new import-monitoring program on Chinese products, although no agreement was reached as a result of the mid-2009 discussions. However, 2009 textile imports from China were down, causing some optimism.

Current Conditions

According to Dun and Bradstreet, 506 U.S. establishments employing 6,274 workers were primarily engaged in finishing purchased manmade fiber and silk broadwoven fabrics or finishing on a commission basis in 2008. Total annual sales reached $388.3 million. U.S. exports of textiles, including manufactured fiber and silk broadwoven fabrics, continued to decline throughout the late 2000s. According to the Federal Bureau of Statistics, from July 2008 to March 2009, textile exports declined 7.58 percent to $7.2 billion, as compared to $7.8 billion the previous year.

By the late 2000s, several manufacturers were involved in the development of smart fabrics and intelligent textiles (SFIT), and researchers were at work finding new applications and capabilities. Other cutting-edge technology involved electronic-integrated textiles (E-textiles), which used cotton fibers coated with electrolytes and carbon nanotubes. These fibers were capable of reacting to and detecting albumin, a key protein in blood, opening up possibilities of producing clothing that could monitor a wearer's vital signs and perform other high-tech functions.

Industry Leaders

One of the industry leaders in the late 2000s was William Barnet and Son LLC of Arcadia, South Carolina. Founded in 1898, Barnet operated three manufacturing plants in the United States and conducted business in 50 countries. Annual sales in the mid-2000s were around $117 million. Another leader was Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based Microfibres Inc., a family-owned company founded in 1926 as the Rayon Processing Company of Rhode Island. Microfibres Inc. had manufacturing facilities in three countries and sold its products in 50. Annual sales in the mid-2000s were about $83 million. Other prominent companies in the industry included Kenyon Industries Inc., in Shannrock, Rhode Island; Amerbelle Textiles LLC of Vernon, Connecticut, engaged primarily in the coating and dying of fabrics for clothing, luggage, and industrial applications; and Diversified Flock Products Inc. of Easton, Pennsylvania, formerly known as J&J Flock Products Inc.

Research and Technology

Research and technological developments played a vital role in keeping the U.S. textile industry competitive, and as a part of this industry-wide effort to remain competitive in the international arena, cotton broadwoven fabric finishers explored several new operating systems. One such system, called "quick response" (QR), demonstrated throughout the 1990s that as a communications process it could boost production of U.S.-made broadwoven cotton products. The QR system requires partnerships throughout the soft goods pipeline, including fiber producers, textile manufacturers, apparel manufacturers, and retail establishments, and makes use of electronic technology, especially bar coding and Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), to receive up-to-date information. This process, when all elements are in place, reduces costs at all pipeline partner establishments and reduces the number of necessary markdowns at the end of the season in the retail establishments. The system also overcomes some of the advantages held by establishments exporting products from low-wage, developing countries into the United States.

The American Textile Partnership (AMTEX) enacted a pact in 1993 in which national laboratories, in conjunction with the United States Department of Energy, work on selected projects with the U.S. textile industry and its research facilities to develop systems to make the industry more competitive. The AMTEX project with the most immediate and far-reaching results is demand-activated manufacturing architecture (DAMA), which expands on the QR system. Under the DAMA system, electronics inform each pipeline partner of each garment sold by making use of point-of-sale data generated during scanning of bar-coded hangtags. The DAMA pilot project, begun in September 1996, showed that the creation of an electronic marketplace could improve operations and reduce costs through controlling warehouse costs and inventory size and reducing waste, while improving customer responsiveness and product development. The QR system has allowed the textile industry to realize the competitive advantages of capitalizing on the information superhighway.

Waste produced by textile mills has been a concern for decades, and in 2009, researchers in India found that a particular species of earthworm called the Eisenia foetida (E. foetida), which is grown commercially for composting because of its ability to convert organic waste into compost, could possibly be used at the mills. According to the researchers, as reported in a 2009 Space Daily article, "E. foetida is ambivalent about the source of organic matter it will vermicompost" and "could be used to produce compost from the huge volumes of solid sludge produced by the textiles industry."

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