UCMTF had most recently organized two seminars inviting Indian manufacturers. Can you share with us more details on it, and also about the idea behind these increased efforts in India?
India is a major target market for us, as we see the Indian economy developing rapidly and being responsive to new textile related needs; therefore the senior managers of our member companies want to meet personally our Indian customers as effectively as possible. This is why we invited the Indian textile producers to two seminars. The attendances exceeded expectations with approximately 150 attendees in Mumbai and close to 200 in Ludhiana.
The objectives set for the seminars were:
- to present in what ways the French technology can enable the Indian textile producers to enhance their position by providing sustainable competitive advantages in the following markets: Recycling - Nonwovens - Technical textiles - Yarn preparation and yarn treatment - Modern weaving - Knitting - Dyeing and Finishing - Air conditioning of textile plants.
- to get feed back from our customers. Evelyne Cholet, our Secretary General, has been very active in the preparation of the seminars as she knows from experience that very close relationships with the customers is essential.
What all can be said to be core competencies of French textile machinery manufacturers?
Generally speaking, our companies are well positioned for the future because they invest a lot in R&D. During the crisis, while carefully managing our cash reserves, we have continued to invest in R&D in close relationship or partnership with our clients all over the world.
We also work very closely with machinery manufacturers offering complementary technologies to offer our customers a “single point of purchase”. More and more, our clients want to get a complete solution, shop for complete lines or even complete plants. We have understood this trend for several years and adapted our offer. For example, in the fast growing filtration market, the products have to fit so many specific usages, in so many industries, that the processes to produce the fabrics or the nonwovens have to be adapted to each specific application.
As already mentioned, most French machinery manufacturers are specialty manufacturers, SMEs but world leaders or among the world leaders on niche markets and specific applications. These markets are complex, limited in size, but with high value added. They are more difficult to be addressed by the new and large machinery manufacturers from China or India as they are not big enough and highly fragmented.
There is always a room for betterment. So, in your view, which areas French machinery sector needs to hone to gain best growth?
While offering high tech machinery for high tech specialty markets, I strongly believe we have to customize our machines and offer tailor made solutions to our customers. We are not equipped to compete on mass production applications, like short fibers or filament spinning, for which price is the main factor. For these segments, production will continue to be transferred to low costs countries.
Our most important added value lies in working closely with our customers, in producing made to orders machines on short delivery time, in being flexible, and being prepared to face large swings in volume. This also means we must balance the traditional vertical integration organization of our production facilities with a more flexible approach. Most of us may need to outsource the production of most of our components, to build a network of state of the art, cost effective and flexible suppliers, to design machines in modules in order to propose a large and diversified product offer without over-complexifying production. We also have to actively participate in the decision process of our customers in order to propose them solutions for their own production strategies and become more and more process partners and not only suppliers of off-shelf machinery.
Business with a social mission is surging idea these days. How far is it been conceived, and worked upon by the machinery makers of France? How is your Association promoting such ideas?
I would like to extend your question and talk about “durable economy mission”: this includes social targets but stretches to community-related concerns as well as environmental and energy- related issues. I must first remind you that our companies are private, often family-owned. If they have to make a profit to invest for the future, the owners and the managers who are often the same, can focus on the long term, often with an inter-generational perspective.
This is why we are very sensitive to our employees’ well-being and to the preservation of communities where we are located. Because we are serving niche specialized markets with customized products, away from mass production, we have mostly chosen not to delocalize our engineering and manufacturing in low cost countries. Our member companies still employ most of their staff in France and contribute to maintain our know-how and jobs in our country.
We are also more and more active on energy savings and the preservation of our environment. For example, one of our companies, with close to 100 years of experience in fiber processing equipment, has developed new processes to turn textile wastes or otherwise discarded raw materials into alternative industrial products. Used clothes can be turned into nonwoven products which are used as sound and thermal barriers in the automotive, furniture and building industries. Selected products such as cotton yarns and fabrics can also be fiberized and spun into yarns again, thus saving growing more cotton, a major user of water and pesticides. Besides bringing revenues to a charity organization (which collect the used clothes), this allows reducing consumption of raw materials and of heating or cooling energy for buildings.
About energy savings, we have found very different ways to offer energy saving machines: fine tuning the machine to fit exactly the energy profile of the production process, finding new low energy processes for individual machines and optimizing the energy consumption of a whole production line, adapting the machines to the market requirements and designing new technologies to recycle textile products. These approaches are not exclusive one from the other, they can be combined. In many examples, the energy savings are in the 30-40 % range, same or even more for the water consumption in dyeing and finishing.
Textile machinery hence contributes to a better life for mankind and to a durable economy.#######
DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.