CRM programs run the gamut

February 1, 2016

There are dozens and dozens—maybe hundreds—of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software programs on the market. And it seems that most are difficult to use. In terms of navigating the programs, many CRM packages seem to be rated along an arc of complexity, from user-unfriendly to totally impossible to use. One well-known program, Salesforce, is often …

Out of this world

Brent Anderson is a partner and engineering manager at Aerospace Fabrication & Materials, a Farmington, Minn., company that specializes in the design, fabrication and installation of Multi-Layer Insulation (MLI) Blankets for use on spacecraft, launch vehicles and cryogenic applications. The company’s MLI blankets have been used on AMOS II and SCISAT I spacecraft as well …

When employees leave: fact finding

Mine the hidden resources of departing employees with a thoughtful exit interview. When it’s time to hire that new employee, you pull out all the stops: a complete review of duties and responsibilities, a tightly crafted list of desired skills and careful interviews. You make the hire—and hope that you’ve made the right choice. Now …

Person to person

Meeting face-to-face with overseas customers brings a wealth of benefits. I’ve been traveling to Asia, including China, since 1981, promoting U.S. products for more than 100 firms. One vitally important lesson I’ve learned is the value of talking with overseas customers in person. Face-to-face conversations with prospects and customers bring tremendous and unexpected orders—and they …

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Keep moving

January 1, 2016

For most businesses, change is an essential part of long-term success. Ongoing innovation, in products, processes, service and value, is the best way to beat the competition. Innovation. It’s the essential ingredient in any company’s ability to thrive and stay viable for the long haul. Innovative companies are restless explorers, constantly searching for and testing …

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Streamlining with software

Today’s software and apps help fabricators keep pace and stay competitive, efficient and productive. Few words captivate the software and app sector more than the word change. Software and applications are drastically changing the way we do business, and many specialty fabric end product manufacturers (EPMs) and suppliers have integrated software and apps into their …

Payroll perils

The Internal Revenue Service may be relentless about collecting income taxes, but mistakes in withholding and paying payroll taxes to the IRS can mean real trouble for a business. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can be tough on collecting income taxes, but mistakes in withholding and paying over-withheld payroll taxes can be even more painful, …

Back to shore

Jeff Schmitt balances the reality of off-shore manufacturing with how to bring production back to the U.S. “At the end of the day we’ve got to figure out ways to be competitive,” says Jeff Schmitt, senior vice president of operations for The Coleman Company Inc., Golden, Colo. “As the person responsible for both the U.S. …

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Tapping into innovation

December 14, 2015

Innovation doesn’t always come easily, but creating a culture that fosters creativity can improve the process (and results) of continuous improvement. Every company knows that innovation is vital, but knowing how to innovate is a different matter. Why are some companies able to launch one new idea or product after the next while others stagnate? …

A six-letter word

December 1, 2015

Fabricators take a dim view of extending credit to customers … sort of. On the surface, it seems like a slam-dunk decision for a shop not to extend credit. “Let’s see, when you write off thousands and thousands of dollars—maybe even $100,000 over the 30-year life of the company—you start to think about giving anybody …

Charting a course

Incoming IFAI board chair Katie Bradford takes the helm, using business expertise and networking know-how to lead the association. “I believe good leadership encourages participation and embraces differences,” says Katie Bradford, MFC, IFM, incoming chair of the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) and owner and president of Custom Marine Canvas, Noank, Conn. “IFAI membership is …

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Hazardous duty

How fabric technology is protecting rescuers against ever-more-dangerous situations. On the hot summer day in 2013 when 19 experienced firefighters lost their lives, the Yarnell Hill fire, northwest of Phoenix, Ariz., spanned 8,400 acres. The trees were dry, the humidity was low and the wind suddenly turned, cutting off escape and creating an inferno. The …

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The age of automation

Sewn or sealed, automation is trending as U.S. companies strive to increase efficiency and decrease costs. The art of sewing textiles is lacking in U.S. manufacturing as lower-cost labor in Asia has helped meet consumer demands for competitive retail prices. But automation technology is slowly advancing, helping companies bring production costs down while keeping quality …

Inventing the game

The Last Word Inventing the game Sy Hyman, company founder and retired CEO of Herculite®, is a long-time member of IFAI and became an Honored Life Member in 2014. He shared with us some insights about the challenges of marketing laminated synthetics with a start-up company when no market existed: about learning from customers, production …

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The future of communication?

November 1, 2015

Social media success requires a strategic approach and an emergency response plan. Social media was once considered the future of communication. Facebook and Twitter™ had unlimited and unknown power. That was 2007; 2016 is approaching fast. Countless connections from person to person to company to person have been made as the applications of social media …

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Sustainability: public engagement

October 15, 2015

Raising awareness of fabric recycling and re-using keeps the conversation going. With the proliferation of social media, the general public has become accustomed to interacting with companies as well as each other. And companies increasingly appreciate the importance of being part of the larger conversation. Insularity is no longer a protection of corporate advantage. In …

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How to survive through 2035

October 6, 2015

With a projected global population of 9 billion in 2050, demand for natural resources is rapidly increasing, specifically for coal, gas and oil—resources upon which the industrial textiles industry heavily depends for raw materials. “Once they’re gone, they’re gone,” says Steve Jesseph, chief operating officer at Integrated Consulting Group, an international consulting organization specializing in …

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Making the rounds

October 1, 2015

Textile waste is gaining new life through closed-loop processes, creating more products (and some profits) in more industries. Forty-five years ago, Kermit (the frog) lamented, “It’s not easy bein’ green.” Environmentally speaking, it still may not be easy, but it’s becoming less difficult every day—and more profitable. “We introduced a recycled fabric prototype 15 years …

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Demand + supply = prevail

Robert Cole brings decades of experience and common sense to the time-honored but always evolving economic model of supply and demand. One of the great things this industry has to offer is the quality of its suppliers,” says Robert Cole, IFAI Honored Life Member (HLM) and owner of Goodwin-Cole, Sacramento, Calif. “They’ve kept our industry …

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Navigating the seas of social compliance

Keeping a weather eye on your supply chain. Container ships are the life blood of the global apparel and textile trade. Every year, thousands of vessels traverse the oceans loaded with billions of dollars in ready-made goods waiting to be claimed by eager consumers. The process by which these goods are transferred from ship to …

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Technology and growth

Taking the time now to learn about automated manufacturing processes can save time in the long run, while increasing productivity and revenue. Automated cutting and the associated use of CAD software has been available to those processing textiles since the late 1980s. While technology has matured, price has come down and industry acceptance has grown, …

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Managing cyber security

Don’t fall asleep at the computer. The recent headlines about Internet hacking and high-profile security breaches have focused on large retailers such as Target, Neiman Marcus and Home Depot, and big banks like JPMorgan Chase & Co. Unfortunately, fraud and financial data losses are not limited to retailers or even to one industry. Small businesses …

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Loopy thinking

September 17, 2015

From yarn to fabric, and back to yarn: recycling and repurposing materials. For companies with vision, strategic moves often require a leap of faith. In 2012, Designtex began using yarn produced from recycled fabric waste it had accumulated. “At the time, we were not sure if we would be successful in making a first-quality yarn,” …

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Estimating for profit: Where to begin

September 1, 2015

Understanding the customer’s unique wants and requirements goes to the heart of successful custom projects. Larry Schneider, owner of Homestyle Awning & Upholstery in Bay View, Wis., recently worked on a project that seemed fairly simple—adding screens to a car trailer so the customer could sleep in it. After talking it through with the customer, …

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Explode your business

Is your company growing as fast as it should? Over the years, you’ve built a reasonably profitable business; but lately, sales and profits have either increased only slightly or have remained flat. You know your business has far greater potential, but you’re not quite sure how to make it happen. To get that process going, …

Should you extend credit?

August 24, 2015

Fabricators stress caution when extending credit to customers. On the surface, it sure seems like a slam-dunk decision for a marine fabrication shop to not extend credit to customers. “Let’s see, when you write off thousands and thousands of dollars—maybe even $100,000 over the 30-year life of the company—you start to think about giving anybody …

As the ACA stands

August 1, 2015

Despite legislative and legal challenges, now is the time to prepare for new requirements in 2016. Although the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been around since 2010, despite more than 50 Congressional attempts to repeal it, its shaky financial footing may do it in. The ACA’s sharply increasing health care costs were highlighted in the …

Business and pleasure

July 1, 2015

Attending trade shows is a valuable part of business strategy—with tax benefits. Self-employed specialty fabrics professionals—the owners, managers and employees of an industrial textiles and products business, even shareholder-employees—have long been allowed to claim an income tax deduction for the expenses of attending trade shows, conventions and meetings. Thanks to federal tax laws, the government …

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Retirement plan or tax benefit?

June 1, 2015

Successful businesses often still have things to learn about managing taxes and income. Many business owners and managers are aware of “qualified plans” or programs like 401(k) and Defined Benefit plans, which allow the sponsoring employer: current income tax deduction for plan contributions; tax deferred growth on plan assets; asset protection under ERISA (the Employee …

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Safeguarding ideas

May 1, 2015

Clients may wander to other companies, but your ideas don’t need to go with them. It’s an occupational hazard for event planners and tent rental businesses. You spend no small amount of usually unbillable time developing an event design for a prospective client, only to have that person wander away—your ideas in hand—to a different …

Generations at work

We’re not from different planets, though sometimes it seems so. There are ways to work together effectively. When you interview that candidate, do you invite the parents? Forty- and 50-something jaws might drop, but executive recruiter Eric Herrenkohl says two of his big-company clients want to talk to Mom and Dad at the interview as …

From surviving to thriving

Dan Hooks propels his organization to new heights by maximizing regional opportunities and building a management team. “Surviving the latest recession taught us several lessons about the financial health of our company and what we needed to change in order to go from surviving to thriving,” says Dan Hooks, CEO of Party Reflections Inc., Charlotte, …

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At face value

April 1, 2015

Despite the hype, it isn’t all about social media. Contrary to popular belief, social media isn’t the only way to communicate with the masses.

Productivity paired

Father and son team Stewart and Ross Brown embrace the challenge of change by making the most of their strengths.

Your taxes at work

March 1, 2015

The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014.

The passage of the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 late last year retroactively extended 54 tax breaks—but only for the 2014 tax year. The so-called “tax extenders” law opens the door for specialty fabric professionals to claim many of these popular (but temporary) tax incentives when 2014 tax returns are filed, or even after they have been filed…

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State of the Industry 2015: Part 2

It was a year of respectable growth in the specialty fabrics industry and hope for an even better future, grounded in promising statistics. IFAI surveys specialty fabrics industry end product manufacturers (EPMs) once a year to learn how they are doing and what they anticipate for the future. All but one of the traditional end …

Your taxes at work

The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014. The passage of the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 late last year retroactively extended 54 tax breaks—but only for the 2014 tax year. The so-called “tax extenders” law opens the door for specialty fabric professionals to claim many of these popular (but temporary) tax incentives when 2014 …

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The value of collaboration

Turning today’s students into tomorrow’s engaged and educated industry professionals. While textile students are the future designers and manufacturers for the textile industry, students in areas such as architecture and product and graphic design are our future textile specifiers. Multi-disciplinary design has become a buzzword in education, but unless students are convinced this can help …

Good better best

Charles Webster uses lean techniques to continuously improve production and efficiency. What we try to do better than other companies is give our customers more than they ask for, sooner than they expect it, in higher quality than they’re used to,” says Charles Webster, president and CEO of DOWCO® Inc., Manitowoc, Wis. “When we are …

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The “Philosopher’s Stone”

February 1, 2015

New technology makes sustainable fabric finishing possible. Before knowledge of elements, atoms, nanotechnology and environmental issues, alchemists sought to convert base metal to gold and silver. They believed this transmutation would happen through the magical use of a “Philosopher’s Stone.” Significantly, this ability would also transform the holders of the Stone with riches beyond their …

Stress fractures

Don’t let workplace stress undermine your operations. Fortunately, headline-making instances of deadly violence are a rare consequence of workplace stress. More often, it simmers just beneath the surface, eating away at morale, productivity and profits. And if you think that workplace stress doesn’t exist in your business, think again. “Emotional pain exists in every organization …

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Succession planning

From a financial standpoint, selling or transferring your business requires setting and communicating a clear set of goals and procedures to avoid risk and possible conflict. Sooner or later, everyone thinks about retirement. For those who own a closely-held or family textile products business, retirement is more than just a matter of deciding not to …

Trendsetter

Vern Schaefer is what is known as an “early adopter,” trying new equipment as soon as it’s available. As he transitions company leadership to his daughter, he’s still setting trends. “I don’t believe in being locked into one way of doing things,” says Vernon Schaefer, MFC, CEO of Glawe Awnings & Tents, Fairborn, Ohio. “If …

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Using agents overseas

Before your agent can sell for you, sell your company and your products to your agent. If you are a small or midsize company that sees opportunities in foreign markets, the first and in many ways the most important step will be to find an agent or representative who works in the part of the …

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Saturation point

January 1, 2015

PPE manufacturers are running at capacity to help in the fight against Ebola. Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), or Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a potentially fatal disease that was first identified in 1976. Since then, outbreaks have happened every couple of years, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. However, none of these outbreaks has been as serious as the …

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Habit forming

The secret to a sideline in cleaning and repair is convincing customers to do it regularly. Cleaning and repair of fabric products is a bit like pie-making: It’s an extremely useful skill, and there’s a sizable market for it, but it’s not everyone’s strong suit. Today’s high-performance fabrics are an investment. They have a longer …

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The world of your website

Why it’s important to give your website the careful attention it needs to support the success of your business. All industries experience their share of change. The fabrics industry is no different. From hemp to cotton to microfibers to “smart clothes” that gauge body temperature and GPS locations, the fabrics industry is undergoing a rapid …

Lease or buy?

New rules may make a difference in your decision. Whether to buy or lease new equipment is a tough question for many specialty fabric professionals to answer, even as credit becomes more readily available. There is no one correct answer to fit every situation or business, but compared to the simplicity of buying, leasing is …

Rest stops on the road to success

David Snoad implements systems and empowers employees so his business can flourish—and he can take a vacation. “I’ve been away six months of this calendar year and we’re about to have our most profitable year ever,” says David Snoad, managing director of Pinz Pty. Ltd., Seaton, Australia. “Because of my time away, I’m more productive …

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Real solutions

December 1, 2014

Medical and biomedical textile breakthroughs were presented at IFAI Advanced Textiles Expo. It might be a process that starts at the fiber level or one that uses a material in a new way, but there is no question that textiles are playing an important role in the treatment of many types of medical conditions. New …