Many in the textile sphere liken the COVID-19 crisis to a wake up call. It’s a time to re-think supply chains, analyze the ability to operate closer to the marketplace, and consider new sourcing models. Creating a culture of collaboration goes hand in hand with assessing supply chain structure. Already, by working together to produce needed PPE to flatten the coronavirus curve, new textile coalitions have formed, encouraging new relationships between companies once viewed as competitors. Here, top-level execs from leading textile suppliers offer thoughts on how to strengthen production capabilities, foster innovation, and ultimately “re-brand” domestic manufacturing as a better, more united industry.
“Our industry has been highly dependent on lower cost, Asian supply chains versus domestic production for a very long time. To ensure some level of domestic security of supply, it is beneficial to consider operating closer to home. This is the right time to consider a rebalanced sourcing model.\People are breaking out sewing machines and sewing PPE in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Central American, and along with this is an appetite to buy USA made. There is movement to lower that percentage of PPE coming from China from 95 percent to 75 percent with 25 percent made here. Will we see a similar shift in apparel manufacturing? Inexpensive jersey knits – probably not. High-value garments made here with expensive technical fabric used for true innovation from a design perspective — yes.
Bespoke manufacturing has remained in Europe and as such there exists a self-reliant supply chain. We’ll see if more of a European model will transpire here in the States.”
Greg Vas Nunes, CEO, Trinity Tech Group (TTG)
“The resources are here and the supply chain exists, they just don’t exist at the capacity that we need. The crisis has caused many companies to take a look at what’s available here in terms of manufacturing.
COVID-19 has placed a greater focus and emphasis on more localized supply chains that are closer to final markets, and this has increased the need for supply chain diversification more essential than ever. Although we are an international company, the heart and soul of Unifi is based in the U.S. We have transitioned to an asset-light global strategy, with vertical supply chains in the U.S. and Central America. This, in turn, creates greater supply chain flexibility for the company. Brands and retailers will likely move to transition some of their supply chains closer to final markets, but the overall need for some diversification is more essential than ever.”
Jay Hertwig, SVP Global Sales & Marketing, Unifi
U.S. mills need to step up their communication skills and speed of development to bring textile production here and away from Asia.”
“For many years now, PrimaLoft has been committed to an asset-light manufacturing model that allows us to be nimble when it comes to producing our products in close proximity to our partners’ facilities. This cuts down on the time, cost and environmental impact of shipping goods, and allows us to adapt our manufacturing locations in response to market factors or crises like COVID-19. We’ve been able to keep capacity high, throughout these past few months, because of this model.
In the case of COVID-19’s impact on the supply chain, bringing sourcing closer to the marketplace would not have helped. In this case, supply chain restrictions moved from China to western countries. So, our supply chain in North America and Europe was impacted in a similar way, due to lockdowns. I believe market-centric sourcing plays an important role in the reduction of inventory and just-in-time inventory. Not so much related to COVID. Bringing sourcing closer to market will impact our ability to meet changing consumer preferences while keeping inventory and supply chain lean.”
Mike Joyce, President & CEO, PrimaLoft
Communication is Key
“Communication needs to improve if want to see production come back here. The problem is things move so slowly in this country. Whereas customer service and the system in place in Asia are so good that it makes it easier, and faster to produce. U.S. mills need to step up their communication skills and speed of development to bring textile production here and away from Asia.”
Chris Parkes, president, Concept III
“The introduction of more diversified IT technologies, such as virtual video conference, location tracking, AI identification, and other digital production management applications, is the key consideration for the construction of new supply chain resources.”
George Yang, CEO, e.dye
“This is a challenging time for our industry and it’s how we deal with this as a collective global textiles community that will help define and set the foundation for the future. We have always believed that innovation becomes amplified by collaboration. A strong focus experimentation, agility and entrepreneurial thinking are core values of Invista and the Ccordura brand and positions us for the new normal. We continue to work on developing our future-proof digital and transformative tools and customer connection points to navigate the journey ahead.”
Cindy McNaull, Business Development Director, Invista, Cordura Brand
Lowering the Competitive Fence
“Schoeller as a company has been much more focused on working toward a safer future lately versus worrying about what may have been competitive concerns in other times. We have been more proactive around sharing technical data and performance insight around select textiles. There have been very heartfelt conversations, knowing that this is all about what’s in the interest for future generations and keeping people safe. It’s been an interesting time to interact with more people who, from time to time, we’ve had competing business segments with, but now the focus is on coming up with better solutions overall.
From my experience, the whole competitive fence has been lowered, and people are being much more open with their own situations, as well as working with customers who may have previously been outside their regular scope.”
Stephen Kerns, President, Schoeller Textil USA
People are breaking out sewing machines and sewing PPE in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Central American, and along with this is an appetite to buy USA made.
“Like COVID-19, sustainability is a huge challenge, which requires significant collaboration up, down, and across value chains. Today brands are collaborating to get their supply chains to certify common manufacturing facilities. New technologies are being developed which are available for open sourcing. In the pursuit of solving major industry challenges we are likely to see more collaboration taking place.”
Jean Hegedus, Sustainability Director, The Lycra Company
An Open Dialogue
“If there’s a silver lining with regard to COVID-19’s impact on the textile industry, it’s that it’s opened up communication among mills and suppliers, many of whom probably wouldn’t have looked at each other just a few months ago. It goes back to your supply chain question—we all felt the disruptions to our supply chains and realized the only way to combat any further slowdowns or losses is to be completely forthright with one another.
For instance, most mill operators have proprietary fabrics we’ve innovated, and while we want to keep those close to the vest, we can be completely frank about greater concerns affecting our production practices, distribution channels, customer requirements, et cetera. Just opening simple dialogue about such matters leads to new product ideas, strengthened relationships, and better business practices for the future.”
Andy Dong, President, DryTex
“MMI has been actively involved in the legislative side with a lobbying group out of DC that we belong to – we would love to see legislation enacted for PPE like the Berry Amendment for military products. The tough hurdle is the price disparity. There is a very wide gap between pricing out of China and what US is able to offer. Many companies feel strongly about getting away from China, but when presented pricing, they tend to back pedal a bit.”
Amy Bircher, CEO, MMI Textiles.