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Currently however, there is a trend to bring back textile production to Japan, partly because there is increased interest in Made-in-Japan products...
Masahiro Shima, President of Shima Seiki Mfg. Ltd. speaks about the growing textile markets of Japan, during an interview with Fibre2Fashion Correspondent Manushi Gandhi.
Shima Seiki Mfg., Ltd. was established in February 1962, in Japan. It is involved in manufacturing, sales, marketing and service of computerized flat knitting machines, Seamless glove and sock knitting machines, Computer graphic systems, CAD/CAM systems, other peripheral equipments. The company’s sales for the fiscal year that ended on March 2013 were 30,571 million Japanese Yen. In 1993, Shima Seiki received the Tecnica della Confezione International Award and in 1994, it got the Jubilee Award from the Textile Institute of Great Britain.
Masahiro Shima, of 76 years is President of Shima Seiki Mfg. Ltd. He founded this company in 1962. He is also Director, Japan Institute of Invention and Innovation and Chairman of Wakayama Machinery & Metal Industrial Cooperative. In March 1956, he graduated from Wakayama Technical High School in Mechanical Engineering.
Your company is 51 years old and during this huge time span, technology has gone through uncountable changes. How has the demand for knitting machines and Apparel design systems changed over the time?
Our company was founded on the development of the world's first automatic glove knitting machine in 1962. We introduced our first flat knitting machine in 1967-46 years ago. Our first computerized flat knitting machine was developed in 1978-35 years ago. Our first design system was introduced in 1981-32 years ago. During this period, with the exception of times of financial downturn such as the Oil Crises, our products have increased in technological significance, reputation, and as a result, sales volume. Mechanization and computerization has been the driving force of industrial modernization of the world's textile industry in the past half-Century, and demand for computerized knitting machines have steadily increased, with an even larger spike over the past decade as China grew into the global textile factory that it is today. Likewise, demand for apparel design systems has increased along with demand for knitting machines.
What is current scenario of textile industry of Japan? What growth rate can we expect from Japan?
As with most other consumer markets, the textile industry in Japan is almost completely dependent upon imports, with the exception of a small percentage of high-end products and niche items. Currently however, there is a trend to bring back textile production to Japan, partly because there is increased interest in Made-in-Japan products, resulting from national suspicion raised against questionable business ethics behind products made in China, and mostly because higher wages and labor shortages are making it increasingly difficult to retain the initial benefits touted by manufacturing in China. It is difficult to say what kind of growth rate can be expected from this trend, but one thing is clear in that the return of textile manufacturing depends heavily upon the latest developments by Japanese textile industry leaders throughout the supply chain to increase performance and efficiency while lowering cost enough to remain competitive against Chinese imports.
Do you expect textile machinery manufacturing companies will play a dominant role on the basis of price or quality, and to what extent?
As China grew as the largest textile manufacturing market, initially price was the most important factor in machine sales. As cheaper labor and lower manufacturing costs were the reason manufacturing had turned to China in the first place, needless to say machine manufacturers in China were able to churn out machines at a fraction of the cost of imported machines. For knitting companies wishing to revamp their operations from hand-operated machines to computerized machines, especially in large volume, the cheaper machines were the attractive choice. However the market soon began to realize that the cheaper the machine in price, the cheaper the machine in quality, given that machines offered by Chinese manufacturers often needed replacement after only two or three years, drastically reducing the cost-effectiveness of the investment.
At the same time, apparel companies and brands that were initially attracted to cheaper prices in China are now realizing that speed and quality are factors that cannot be sacrificed to saving a few pennies. Currently, imported textile machines from Italy, Germany and Japan are enjoying a trend within China that has turned the market's focus toward quality, and simultaneously the Chinese machine manufacturers are shifting their emphasis from price to quality.
How big is the market for used machinery in the Asian region? Do you think that demand for used machineries has declined or increased?
A solution to the dilemma of choosing between price and quality can be found in used machinery. Shima Seiki machines are known for their reliability and durability. In fact there are Shima machines in operation from 30 years ago. That is more than plenty of time to enjoy a healthy return on investment. As for demand for used machinery in Asia, yes, with increased demand for overall textile production, demand for used machinery has increased.
Do you feel that direct to garment printing machines have changed the manufacturing process?
Shima Seiki offers such a machine in the SIP-160F2 series inkjet printing machine. With direct to garment printing there is reduced leadtime in producing printed garments, opening up possibilities for smaller lots and more variety. By pursuing this concept to its fullest, it becomes possible to produce individual garments for one-off applications, realizing mass-customization.
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