Planning Group, Total Design Center Shima Seiki Mfg Ltd
There is a lack of manufacturing capacity for future demand
Shima Seiki Mfg Ltd of Wakayama, Japan, is a leading manufacturer in the computerised flatbed knitting machine industry. A pioneer in complete garment manufacturing technology called 'Wholegarment' wherein a knitted garment is woven in its entirety on the machine without any linking or sewing afterwards, it has since its inception in 1995 emerged as the undisputed leader in this niche. Masaki Karasuno of the Shima Seiki Planning Group, Total Design Center talks to Fibre2Fashion about the company's plans for ITMA 2015.
What new can the knitting industry expect from Shima Seiki at this edition of ITMA?
As 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the Wholegarment knitting technology, our presentation at ITMA will centre around this commemorative event. It so happens that Wholegarment was introduced to market two decades ago at ITMA '95, the last time ITMA was held in Milan. Therefore, this is an even more significant occasion. At ITMA 2015 we will present the latest lineup of computerised flat knitting machines, including the latest in Wholegarment knitting technology with a line of new machines, and 3D computer design technology that promotes Virtual Sampling. Also on show will be Shima Seiki's new SRY machine with inlay capability that offers unprecedented hybrid fabrics that combine both knit and weave characteristics.
What are the challenges that the machinery market faces? What steps have you taken to counter these?
There are many issues that not only the knitting industry but the textile industry as a whole faces, and machinery manufacturers consequently also face. One is the lack of manufacturing capacity for future demand. This is not a problem with machines, but with the workforce. As China and subsequently any other market that the textile industry turns to for cheap labour becomes wealthier, wages increase beyond what made manufacturing in those areas attractive enough initially to invest in those markets. Also, with the rise in the standard of living, textile manufacturing becomes less attractive and we see an exodus of labour from the textile industry. Furthermore, as the standard of living in manufacturing nations rises, an increase in consumer spending requires more manufacturing for the domestic market, and consequently those markets cannot support manufacturing for the export markets.
Finally, there is increased global awareness for sustainable production, and the textile industry has traditionally been the focus of attention in this area. Shima Seiki's Wholegarment technology addresses each of these issues effectively.
Which are your biggest markets?
China and Hong Kong, as well as China-plus-one countries in South and Southeast Asia are our largest markets in terms of machine sales.
Which new markets are you exploring?
We are beginning to explore non-apparel markets such as technical textiles, as well as sports, medical and other functional wear applications.
What is the percentage profit that you allocate to R&D?
While I cannot divulge this information in detail, one thing is for certain. There has been a trend in machine manufacturers to offer cheaper machines, especially from China. This means lower manufacturing costs, and of course, smaller profit margins. The smaller the margin, the less investment can be allocated to R&D, and that prevents innovative progress-a detriment to the entire flat knitting industry. As a leader in flat knitting innovation, we feel a responsibility to continuously advance the industry and therefore we charge enough for our machines to be able to invest in further R&D. Unintentionally, we are now known in the industry as a "premium" brand manufacturer.
What new initiatives are being planned at Shima Seiki?
Environmental issues are becoming more important.
How do you deal with issues of less efficient but cheaper copies of machinery and components?
As mentioned earlier, we are known as a manufacturer of premium brand machines, and therefore we do not compete directly with cheaper copies of our machines. Because we take innovation seriously, we do not tolerate patent infringement. We have a very strict policy against that and will take appropriate action if any infringement should be found.
Published on: 04/12/2015
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