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Observations on the SOI

Editorial | July 1, 2022 | By: Tim Goral

This issue features our 2022 State of the Industry Report. As the introduction to that story notes, the worldwide textile industry is clearly on a rebound after two years of uncertainty. That is also true of Specialty Fabrics Review readers, as well as readers of Marine Fabricator, InTents and Geosythetics, from whom we gathered the information for our report. Yet, while business is improving, there are still problems to address.

For example, we asked survey respondents what challenges they face, and their answers were wide-ranging. 

Many comments had to do with the shrinking labor force over the last two years. Several commented on the amount of turnover among workers. “The employee’s attitude is not positive,” wrote one. “Staff enthusiasm is not high and is resulting in poor performance,” said another. This meant that “extra work is required” to meet production goals. 

Finding skilled workers to fill those vacancies revealed another problem. “Before the increased demand for the U.S. textile industry caused by COVID and supply-chain issues,” one observed, “few decision-makers considered education in this field to be a valuable career investment.” 

But perhaps the biggest challenges had to do with getting materials and filling orders. One commenter said his company was “overwhelmed with the number of jobs” it had to fulfill. Another called it “a crippling backlog” of orders. “Meeting deadline dates is an occasional challenge.”

Usually, that’s a good problem to have—when you have staff and supplies to fill orders—but it’s a disaster when you can’t get what you need to do your job. The result, according to a few commenters, was customer churn or attrition when a potential buyer goes elsewhere because their order can’t be filled.

“Maintaining inventory levels to meet the demands in the current climate” was a challenge for one commenter. “Many of these issues are related to a lack of employees and our supply chain vendors.”

“Supplier costs are all over the place,” said another. “I have seen as much as a $10 wholesale difference between suppliers.”

In coming issues, we will keep you informed about how the textile industry is attempting to meet those challenges and more.

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