North and South Carolina suffered in the 1990s when the textile industry mostly left the United States, to China, India, Mexico, wherever people would spool, spin and sew for a few dollars or less a day. Which is why what is happening at the old Wellstone spinning plant is so remarkable.
Drive out to the interstate, with the big peach-shaped water tower just down the highway, and you’ll find the mill up and running again. Parkdale Mills, the country’s largest buyer of raw cotton, reopened it in 2010.
American manufacturing has several advantages over outsourcing. Transportation costs are a fraction of what they are overseas. Turnaround time is quicker. Most striking, labor costs — the reason all these companies fled in the first place — aren’t that much higher than overseas because the factories that survived the outsourcing wave have largely turned to automation and are employing far fewer workers.
Monitoring worker safety in places like Bangladesh, where hundreds of textile workers have died in recent years in fires and other disasters, has become a huge challenge.
These trends are changing the American textile and apparel industries.
In 2012, textile and apparel exports were $22.7 billion, up 37 percent from just three years earlier. While the size of operations remain behind those of overseas powers like China, the fact that these industries are thriving again after almost being left for dead is indicative of a broader reassessment by American companies about manufacturing in the United States.
In 2012, the M.I.T. Forum for Supply Chain Innovation and the publication Supply Chain Digest conducted a joint survey of 340 of their members. The survey found that one-third of American companies with manufacturing overseas said they were considering moving some production to the United States, and about 15 percent of the respondents said they had already decided to do so.
“This is a completely different manufacturing paradigm than what we saw 10 years ago,” said David Simchi-Levi, a professor at M.I.T. who conducted the survey
Beyond the cost and time benefits, companies often get a boost with consumers by promoting American-made products, according to a survey conducted in January by The New York Times.
The survey found that 68 percent of respondents preferred products made in the United States, even if they cost more, and 63 percent believed they were of higher quality. Retailers from Walmart to Abercrombie & Fitch are starting to respond to those sentiments, creating sections for American-made items and sourcing goods domestically.
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Parkdale Mills, the largest U.S. buyer of raw cotton. Parkdale was chartered in 1916 by a group of investors in Gastonia, NC. Operation began in 1918, producing 425 tons of thread yarn per year in one plant. Today the parent company, Parkdale Inc., through its subsidiaries, processes 60% of the U.S. annual cotton consumption. It is one of the largest provider of spun yarns in the world, producing over 8,000 tons per week of products at 29 manufacturing plants in the US, Central America, Mexico, and South America. Our customer base in both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres has positioned us to be one of the largest exporters of product out of the United States.
Still Standing: The Real Story of the NC Textile Industry A new, more diverse, globally competitive industry. A handful NC entrepreneurs kept their companies going through the worst industry downturn the state had ever seen. Key role of the NC State University College of Textiles, the world’s leading textile college, providing global education, training, and research, all about textiles, from molecule to market. Mar 29, 2013