Mapping future success for India’s spinners
The shared experience of top textile executives, a global-scale retail group and the leading provider of textile quality management technology gave a unique insight into the Indian textile industry. Market forecasts, valuable business intelligence and a realistic analysis of problems and solutions combined to draw up a ‘Roadmap for the Future’ for India’s spinning mills, at a special event organised by Uster Technologies. Adaptability, attention to quality issues, value added product mix, sustainable manufacturing and focusing on consumer demands were the key recommendations from a forum of experts.
India’s textile industry is already huge, and still growing, with 50 million spindles installed. And the government has set an ambitious target to boost its share of global textile trade from 5% to 20%. Is that a realistic target? How are Indian spinning mills performing today, and what changes are they making in their quest for extra business?
At the third USTER® QUALITY UNIVERSITY held in Goa recently, a group of influential figures discussed these issues and set out a clear vision for present and future expansion. Under the leadership of V.R. Rathnam, Head Uster Technologies India, the expert panel delivered a practical and authoritative analysis, revealing some often surprising and challenging requirements for successful yarn production. The panel comprised: S.K. Khandelia, President, Sutlej Group; Calvin Woolley, Global Supplier Development Leader, Ikea; Iris Biermann, Head of Textile Technology, Uster Technologies; and David McAlister, Product Manager Fiber Testing, Uster Technologies.
The event attracted 25 high-level participants, including directors and promoters of 25 mills from all over India. The theme of the event, from February 5 to 7, was ‘Roadmap to the future of the spinning industry in India’.
Leading industry professional Mr Khandelia provided a telling and hard-hitting account of the key issues and options for Indian spinners today. His experience as the head of a group of four mills producing 300 tonnes of yarn per day is significant, and he first outlined the problems mills face in adapting to new market trends. This was often restricted, he said, by the existing plant design and set-up, which prevented innovations that did not fit with the mill’s capabilities. However, dramatic solutions could be found, as when, early in his career, he rescued a 200,000-spindle mill earmarked for closure by initiating product diversification instead.
Focusing on exceptions, benchmarking and ROI
Mr Khandelia emphasized the need for focus in managing the business – for example, he now works with only one daily report, compared to numerous documents and papers in the past. He also concentrates only on deviations from the norm in mill production, rather than checking and analyzing ‘good’ results: „If we can handle the exceptions, it is enough,“ he said, „but we also know that benchmarking against international standards and best practices is a must, to differentiate our company from competitors.”
Ensuring an adequate return on investment was also essential, Mr Khandelia said, and here he revealed his company’s requirement to earn at least 20% ROI – since 11% would be swallowed up by interest. „You can survive one to two years with a loss but not more,” he said.
One strategy to cope with instability in raw cotton prices had been to switch towards blends, fancy yarns and mélange yarn to minimize the risk and to complement India’s acknowledged strength in cotton against competition from China and Pakistan by creating a sustainable product mix.
Ikea predicts Indian growth, focus on blends and sustainability
Ikea is the world’s largest furniture retailer, with a strong commitment to cotton and a policy of working closely along the entire production chain. At the USTER® QUALITY UNIVERSITY, its representative Calvin Woolley forecast that India – recently overtaken China as the world’s largest cotton producer – has the potential to be the leader in cotton yarn production too. For Ikea, spinning is one of the key points in the value chain, Mr Woolley said, but when the cotton price exploded 2011 they had to look for alternatives – especially blends, to which the market thankfully responded more readily than in the past. For the same reason, air-jet and open-end spinning are taking a bigger share of production from ring spinning.
Ikea has been sourcing in India for almost 30 years and despite many challenges the company developed suppliers in sustainable compliance what Ikea calls its IWAY. Many Indian mills today also suffer from unreliable energy sources, something which is vital for the value chain in yarn production. Ikea is keen to push renewable energy sources, and reduce dependence on coal. Said Mr Woolley: „Zero coal demand will come. Not now but it will come, and those spinners who are the last to move to renewable energy will be left behind.”
Textiles is only part of the Ikea product offering, but it is a vital element in which quality ranks alongside value and price. Said Mr Woolley: „Affordability is what counts. But if there is a quality mismatch with one product, the customer will lose trust in all our products, not only in textiles.”
From left to right: Iris Biermann, Head of Textile Technology, Uster Technologies; Calvin Woolley, Global Supplier Development Leader, Ikea; David McAlister, Product Manager Fiber Testing, Uster Technologies; S.K. Khandelia, President, Sutlej Group; V.R. Rathnam, Head Uster Technologies India.
Consumers, not salespeople, drive the quality message
David McAlister, of Uster Technologies, pointed out that mills were now having to operate in a consumer-led marketplace, rather than merely offering up an existing product range to their customers in spinning and weaving. „Consumers now define the type of products they like and the performance they need,” he said. „It is not possible for a spinning mill to switch overnight from one fiber type to another, but China, for example, had an issue in staying competitive with cotton, so they moved towards synthetics and man-made fibers.”
In some cases, spinning mills needed to be more aware of the implications of using different yarn technologies and other fiber types, said USTER’s Iris Biermann. It is important to design a yarn according to the end-product requirements, not forgetting vital parameters such as pilling behavior, she said. „Too often, know-how is restricted to mill production personnel, so sales efforts are focused heavily on price, price, price – followed by raw material and yarn count. Only then do quality parameters come under discussion.”
The high-level panel dialogue was part of the three-day USTER® QUALITY UNIVERSITY, which also featured a series of workshops and presentations, targeted at improving the knowledge, performance and future prosperity of the sector in today’s increasingly demanding and competitive markets. „In the course of the event, it became clear that key people from leading Indian spinning mills are well-equipped to keep textiles in India as a growing industry, with special importance attached to sustainable products and profits,” said V.R. Rathnam, Head Uster Technologies India.