Fibers and fabrics play a starring role in the effort to harvest kinetic energy

September 1, 2017

Back in the day, a telephone was expected to perform a limited number of functions: alert you when someone was trying to reach you and connect you to those you were trying to reach. Technology advanced and phones became more portable. The same sort of process is happening to fabrics and fibers. The possibility of …

Elissa Decker’s fabric expertise helps Moss Inc. build global growth

The properties of any fabric will be determined by the combined characteristics of its fiber, yarn, construction method, and dyeing and finishing processes,” says Elissa Decker, senior manager of materials, Moss Inc., Chicago, Ill. “It’s such an exciting time to work in the industry, because there’s a lot of performance that you can build into …

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From machines to humans: Boost the productivity of your business

Improving productivity depends on a combination of efficient employees, equipment and processes. Driving improvement in all these areas involves examining the current practices in place and making adjustments to systems, employee training, technology, equipment and tools. From small tweaks in communication processes to large technology improvements, companies are using many techniques to boost productivity. Tecsew …

The efficiencies and versatility of advanced and automated equipment are helping bring back the U.S. sewing industry

When U.S. textile jobs started to leave en masse for China and other cheap-labor countries in the 1990s, an entire industry scrambled to pick up the pieces. Companies that survived the upheaval frequently shared one common trait: adaptability. Some contract sewers courted niche non-apparel product makers, while others invested in equipment to become leaders in …

Information please: Automated reporting paves the way to productivity

In addition to reviewing in-house monthly profit and loss statements, The Dize Co., an awnings fabricator in Winston Salem, N.C., monitors information gathered by an independent, web-based company. “I can go online and see what we installed the week before and what we have in the pipeline for the next four to six weeks,” president/CEO …

Go with the flow: Relocating a business opens the door to efficient shop layouts

After 85 years in a historical, four-story building, Ohio Awning & Manufacturing Co. moved to a newer, one-story building. The Cleveland-based company took advantage of the relocation to design its new floor layout with workflow in mind. The move also allowed Ohio Awning to invest in a cutting machine, which it didn’t have space for …

Does “Made in the USA” matter in the sewn-goods industry?

August 30, 2017

A 2015 survey by Consumer Reports indicates that nearly 8 in 10 American consumers would rather buy a product made in United States than an imported one—and 60 percent of them would be willing to pay 10 percent more for it. But the sewn-goods industry faces critical questions about the “Made in the USA” label: …

Fabric helps brick-and-mortar retailers take visual branding to another level

August 1, 2017

The effects of society’s ever-increasing digital dependency, overabundance of shopping malls and shifting spending habits are not doing the retail industry any favors. But its future is not all doom and gloom. A study released earlier this year by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and IBM found that most members of Generation Z—the generation following …

Chad Miller keeps American National Manufacturing on top of changing market demands

People often ask if we make a particular product, and the answer is often no. But can we? To that, the answer is yes,” says Chad Miller, director of contract manufacturing of American National Mfg. Inc. and formerly co-owner of Plas-Tech Sealing Technologies, Corona, Calif. “We have everything we need to make new products. All …

Crossover skills give upholsterers business opportunities in many markets

The president of the Professional Upholsterers’ Association of Minnesota proudly states that she was the fifth woman to graduate from an upholstery curriculum at Minneapolis Technical College in 1977. “It was considered a man’s field back then,” says Diana Shroyer Guenther, owner of Shroyer Custom Upholstery in Coon Rapids, Minn. She worked one year for …

Know-how now

July 24, 2017

Experienced upholsterers consider the loss of training in their trade, and how to bring in new talent. With 39 years in the upholstery industry, Chip Lueck recalls a vast pool of shops around the country with talented upholsterers. “It’s not there anymore,” says the owner of Recovery Room in Panama City Beach, Fla. “I’ve talked …

An education in upholstery

The owner of The Funky Little Chair sets out to preserve quality and services by offering upholstery classes at her shop. “The Funky Little Chair” could be the title of a children’s book, but Cynthia Bleskachek’s lessons are for adults. “If people want to be a professional upholsterer, they have to dig in and figure …

Mike Peterson reshapes company culture at SugarHouse Awning

July 1, 2017

Mike Peterson restructures an awning company’s culture by asking hard questions, collaborating on the answers, and fearlessly changing the rules. Our old philosophy was to focus on profitability and the end result—and in order to get there we did our best to take care of our customers, and our employees came last,” says Mike Peterson, …

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Closing the loop: long-term sustainability strategies for textile manufacturers

Textile manufacturers are deploying sustainability strategies and forming partnerships to green up products and processes, helping manufacturers meet the requirements of even the most eco-concerned customers—and getting a good start on the circular economy of the future. For most manufacturers, eco-friendly, sustainable products are becoming a competitive necessity. And as concern over environmental issues has …

Layers of safety: textile innovations offer protection when disaster strikes

June 29, 2017

A suit of plate armor weighing up to 100 pounds. A 10-foot-thick stone fortress wall. A thin piece of highly engineered fabric. Whether the danger is a force of nature or a manufactured threat, all three provide protection. But much has changed since medieval days of storming the castle and the logic that “the heavier …

Transitioning to new leadership for the family business

June 1, 2017

Kate Mitchell transitions her diverse fabrics business on the Alaskan frontier to her children- who value a courageous past and anticipate a bright future.  We didn’t homestead like the Kilcher family from Discovery Channel’s ‘Alaska: The Last Frontier,’ but we were here before the roads were paved,” says Kate Mitchell, founder and co-owner of NOMAR …

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Management plans for innovation in process and product

Centering business processes on continual improvement clears the path for innovative ideas to become innovative products. Every industry-changing product started as a great idea. But without an effective organizational structure in place, not every great idea has the opportunity to come to fruition. A good manager knows this. An innovative manager puts it into practice. …

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Cutting-edge fabric innovation: technology that serves the customer

The cutting edge of fabric innovation—generating energy, stopping bullets, fighting pollution and keeping feet happy at the same time. Partnering against pollution It’s no longer just a prototype: The first adidas running shoe made almost completely out of plastic recovered from the ocean officially launched earlier this year. The company hopes to sell 1 million …

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Business innovation throughout the textile supply chain

Pushing, planning and budgeting for innovation relies on creativity, construction, communication and collaboration throughout the industry. It was a tough night for firefighters called out to three major blazes overnight. One exhausted man slogged back to the rig in his soaking-wet turnout gear. When another firefighter touched his shoulder, he screamed. It’s a steam burn—moisture …

Building the best teams and the best practices to put innovation to work

By building the best teams, improving continuously and putting the customer first—always—companies that put innovation to work keep customers coming back. When Steve Jobs, the late CEO of Apple, introduced the iPhone in 2007, his name became synonymous with innovation—a business practice and marketing advantage that isn’t particular to any one industry. Nor is it …

Mastering the craft

May 1, 2017

Jerry Margrave keeps his company on track by staying on top of industry skills, technology and opportunities to solve customer problems. “Every time the phone rings we have a new opportunity to see how we can help somebody,” says Jerry Margrave, MFC, owner of Specialty Trim & Awning Inc., Bakersfield, Calif. “That’s the way we …

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Shade 101: Beyond the basics

Successful marketing and selling means reaching, educating and caring for customers—in print, in person and online. Sit outside in sun and rain.  Reduce cooling costs and glare. Protect indoor and outdoor furnishings from UV rays. Add a level of privacy while enhancing the architecture of your home or business. Increase property value. Gain visibility for …

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Making a mark

As the interest in and use of digital textile printing expands, wide-format printers have become essential players, opening up new and profitable opportunities for specialty fabricators. Wide-format digital printing is expanding exponentially, spurred by advancements in printer, ink and fabric technology. Deployed for all manner of products—apparel, décor, banners, murals, signage, upholstery, wallpaper, vehicle wraps …

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May the workforce be with you

April 1, 2017

Manufacturers are facing a variety of staffing challenges, and responding to the need to educate the public as well as potential employees about the benefits of a hands-on career. It’s easy enough to understand that a lack of jobs can wreak havoc on economies, from local to global scales. What can be more complex is …

From the ground up

Cheryl Yennaco rebuilds a business by making the tough decisions, hiring the right team and setting meaningful and measurable goals. “Last year was our best year, and we’re at another point of growth right now,” says Cheryl Yennaco, owner and general manager of Melrose, Mass.-based Atlantic Awnings. “That growth started when we decided to clean …

Opening the door to architects

Experts discuss the best way to encourage designers to use fabric in their projects. Confession:  I am a licensed architect (please don’t hold that against me!) and I like fabric. I am also a teacher of young architects and designers and take every opportunity to introduce students to the wonders of fabric in architecture and …

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Game on

March 1, 2017

A competitive mind-set is what manufacturers of high-tech fabrics and fabric products say is powering demand for their high-performance solutions.  When you think about high-tech sports and recreation products designed to help athletes hone the competitive edge, equipment rather than fabric likely springs to mind first, but this reaction is behind the times—fabrics have evolved to …

Bring it on

Jacob Schwartz navigates the design and construction process by leveraging group strengths, examining all options and committing to long-term solutions for clients. “Without exception, the more—and earlier—we are engaged in the design process, the more successful the fabric application becomes,” says Jacob Schwartz, owner and director of engineering and construction for International Tension Structures (ITS), Phoenix, …

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Shade with character

Fabricators bring together innovative and classic elements to protect their boating customers from the sun’s harmful rays. Whether permanent or removable, shading on boats has a big job to fulfill: protecting the crew and passengers from the sun while creating a comfortable environment. And boat owners are becoming more knowledgeable about the health dangers that …

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The 2017 State of the Industry: Part 2

The slow economic recovery after the Great Recession has made kick-starting growth in the specialty fabrics industry a continuing challenge. Five of the six key markets covered in Part 2 of this report showed growth in 2016, which is expected to continue in 2017. (The military market was down 6 percent, and is expected to …

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Glamp it up

February 1, 2017

The growing glamping trend brings together comfort and the great outdoors-whether for a weekend getaway or as a way of life.  Glamorous camping—aka glamping—is more than camping for people who want a weekend in nature but don’t want the challenges that come with being outdoors. Glamping is fabric at its best. It’s soft shadows that …

The buck starts here

Chris Ritsema leads his company by building a strong culture that encourages growth and success for his employees. My vision has always been to grow a company that empowers its employees,” says Chris Ritsema, owner of Canvas Innovations in Holland, Mich. “I want to give people a reason to stay here and build their careers—and …

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More than covered

Demands increase for truck covers and tarps that offer weather protection and driver convenience. With millions of trucks being utilized across a wealth of industries, tarps and truck covers are big business for manufacturers and specialty fabric suppliers. As the industry continues to grow, some companies have increased their efforts to gain market share within …

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Part 1: State of the Industry 2017

Despite some slowing of global GDP in 2016, growth of the U.S. and Canadian specialty fabrics industry is slow but steady, and markets like fabric structures, tent rental and manufacturing, fabric graphics and marine fabrication are outpacing national averages. The pace is expected to continue, but can also be somewhat constrained by changes in unemployment …

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Air Apparent

January 1, 2017

Companies and event organizers use inflatables to grab public attention and promote their brands.  Although he now sells spaces in luxury subterranean survival shelters, Robert Vicino once focused his entrepreneurial spirit on loftier altitudes. He put a 90-foot King Kong on the Empire State Building and designed Otto the Autopilot for the farcical movie Airplane. …

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Sun-Powered textiles

Fabrics with self-cleaning properties can last longer, require less maintenance and even reduce air pollution.  Sunlight can damage many types of fabrics, yet it can also have a beneficial effect on textiles that are enhanced with self-cleaning technologies. Thanks to functional coatings and pioneering research, self-cleaning properties—powered by the sun—are extending the life of textiles …

Sustainable Opportunity

Eric and Angie Riggins create new products and capture new markets to ensure a steady stream of work throughout the year.  We’re always looking for opportunities to grow the business,” says Angie Riggins, co-owner of Alpha Canvas, Charlotte, N.C. “We have to be innovative to set ourselves apart from our competitors—we find ways to meet …

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Developing friendlier fabrics

As sustainability is increasingly important to growing numbers of consumers, fabric manufacturers are broadening their eco-friendly offerings, giving specialty fabricators plenty of green options. As a famous frog once lamented, it’s not easy being green. The same can be said for companies wanting to “green” up their product offerings and manufacturing processes, since doing so …

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Built for comfort, durability, and safety

December 19, 2016

Fabric manufacturers and upholsterers balance traveler and commuter requirements. Whether for business or for pleasure, people are always on the go. More than 121 million U.S. workers are employed full time, according to 2015 statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor. To reach their work destinations, 85 percent of these workers commute in automobiles, and …

IFAI Expo 2016: advanced textiles

December 1, 2016

Today’s textile testing is challenged with evaluating varied performance qualities for multiple environments. The Advanced Textiles Testing Track at IFAI Expo examined textile testing in light of a new wave of textile developments. Dr. Emiel Den Hartog, North Carolina State University (NCSU) Center for Research on Textile Protection & Comfort (TPACC), focused on a “multi-level” …

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IFAI Expo 2016: shade and weather protection

The special shade section on the show flow featured end products ranging from retractable awning systems, shade structures and canopies to motorized shade and weather solutions of all types. Programming and events included “Super Tuesday” seminars, tours of local shops and a keynote lunch, plus Wednesday evening’s opening reception at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. …

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IFAI Expo 2016: specialty fabrics programming

A variety of educational choices drove the Specialty Fabrics Program schedule Oct. 18-21 at the IFAI 2016 Expo. Attendees enjoyed dozens of presentations and “campfire” sessions featuring experts on topics as diverse as training the next generation of skilled workers, understanding functional fabric design and beating offshore manufacturers. The exhibit hall showcased the latest in fabrics, …

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Lights, camera, fabric

Fabrics set the stage for manufacturers who want a market share of the entertainment industry. Fabrics don’t get enough credit. Quietly, and usually without fanfare, they provide welcome and shelter as tents and awnings; they enhance decor and create distinct spaces as backdrops and banners; they manage movement of light and sound; and the list …

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IFAI Expo 2016: high points and highlights

Thousands of industry professionals joined the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) in the heart of the U.S. textile industry Oct. 18–21 to acquire a working education in the areas of specialty fabrics, shade and weather protection products and advanced textiles: seminars, exhibits, workshops, market roundtables and four days of concentrated networking. From business basics to …

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IFAI Expo 2016: industry leadership, IFAI style

At IFAI’s annual meeting, Kevin Yonce, MFC, IFM, CPP, past chairman of the IFAI Board of Directors and chairman of the 2016 Leadership Development Committee, announced this year’s election results.    • Dennis Bueker, Keyston Bros., has been elected to his second three-year term as director.  • Brian Rowinski, Rainier Industries LLC, has been elected …

Analyze this

Ed Skrzynski automates production, encourages teamwork and documents processes to deliver quality marine and shade products. There is a common thread with custom manufacturing—it’s very labor-intensive, very expensive and typically done by artisans and skilled trades people,” says Ed Skrzynski, owner of Marco Canvas, Marco Island, Fla. “When I took over the company from my …

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Marketing in the digital age

November 1, 2016

Technology has changed things,  but customer relationships are still paramount. Not long ago, business managers realized that the Internet would change everything,  especially marketing. With the click of a mouse, millions of potential customers could be reached. Although that revolution has come to pass and online platforms have matured, the takeaway for business owners is this: …

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Inside and out

Collecting rainwater, bird-proofing facades, even deflecting airborne volcanic fragments—buildings today are integrated with fabric in nontraditional ways. Architectural fabric can be integrated into buildings in more than the common uses such as roofs, shading devices and exterior cladding. Architects are now finding ways for fabric to improve building performance with special applications and unique materials. …

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Room to grow

As Mother Nature persists in her fickle and sometimes destructive ways, manufacturers of agricultural fabrics and fabric products report strong and growing demand in many areas. The agricultural arena isn’t for the faint of heart; just ask anyone who earns a living by keeping us supplied with food. Too many things can go wrong—too much …

Scheduled Evolution

October 31, 2016

Eric Heischmidt approaches project management with flexibility and an architect’s eye for precision. “Project management means planning ahead,” says Eric Heischmidt, senior project manager, Arizon Structures, St. Louis, Mo. “But more than anything it means being prepared to be flexible, because every project is an evolution. Things change, and you need to react to those …