Saturday, August 29, 2009

Developing a Future for Textiles in the U.S.

I read a study once a few years ago regarding the attrition of fabric mills across the US. The study suggested a closure rate of 2 mills per month at the time, which I would believe to have flat-lined by now probably somewhere around 1 per month or less. In addition, the rate of new talent entering the sewing trades has declined 70% in the last 3 decades, meaning less and less available talent for apparel and accessory markets. The contradiction is that retail fashion and accessories continue to grow. The obvious culprit is overseas labor, offering low cost alternatives without the employment restrictions and oversight that we are accustomed to here. This serves the consumer by offering lower cost items at comparably measured quality standards, while building the sales and marketing arms domestically. A transformation that has both good, and perhaps equally negative, attributes.

While globalization has bred this transformation in the market, we have a responsibility to maintain some reasonable vocational abilities here in the US . Given the right opportunity, and building value in domestic manufacture, we can continue to grow the US textile market through strategic planning and minor investment in vocational training. Small pockets in historically textile-friendly cities like Portland and San Francisco are tasking their local communities with reinvesting in sewn goods and labor to provide, however, is this a futile effort in the face of government trade imbalances - ie. fabric quotas, tariffs, etc. I cannot fault the efforts of local politicos and commercial ventures for attempting these reinvestment acts, however, I will challenge them to not ignore the larger issue that if we do not have any enforcement or initiatives towards balancing dominance of imported textile products, our efforts may be fleeting, however noble.

In the end we need to establish a base for manufacturing in the US again. Our continuing path towards a 'service-based' country fails to build value beyond the point of sale, and the reliance on foreign labor and raw materials disables our nation as an integral cog in the supply chain. I wish somewhere in Stimulus 2009 there might have been a reinvestment in some of our lost arts and abilities, rather than chasing the next flashy energy idea that is still an unknown. It will be up to small companies like ours to rebuild this textile industry - a noble cause, however fleeting it may seem...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Phew, made it!

As some of you may know, I had surgery last week to remove a ridiculously large tumor attempting to take over my cranium. Lab results were negative, no cancer, and I had multiple nasal complexities simplified for a future of easy breathing. I hope...

Fell back into the office, so to speak, today and found a mountain of things to attend to. I was happy to get started again, although the fog has not quite lifted from the surgery, and the parts affected have yet to return to normal.

During the hospital stay, I came up with about 5 product ideas that would sure make a patient's stay more comfortable. Now to get back into the office and see about making them happen...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Blowing in the Wind! Case Study #1

Three years ago we began to receive inquiries from the wind industry for tool products. As it was, the technicians in wind towers were hauling loads of tooling, equipment, and gear up to the turbine via crane. The vehicle they used was a bag. The bag, after numerous uses, ripped and shredded itself over time and was replaced.

We offered to evaluate the product and look into solutions to extend the life of the bags they invested in. After some careful calculations and testing, we determined some basic design changes were in order and proceeded with testing. What transpired after that was amazing - After the modifications we found that we did not have to replace the bag every 3 months as was standard, rather we could draw life from a bag for 6 months, thus reducing their investment in half.

While this was a dramatic result and not always indicative of all reults, it is critical to our mission to continue to deliver positive-growth programs to our clients. Our challenge is meeting your challenges and overcoming them.