Archive for October, 2016

WHY WE’RE IN POLITICS

This week we are featuring a Hickory-based hosiery company that has re-invented itself for 21st century manufacturing and marketing. The Socks Factory and its premiere William Tucker line of high-quality men’s socks are thriving under the management of Michael Banks Jr., who oversees manufacturing, and his brother, Nate, vice president of marketing and product development. The company has thrived with services from the Manufacturing Solutions Center.

The appropriations from the North Carolina Legislature represent the state’s investment in the future of hosiery and textiles manufacturing. That investment has preserved 50 jobs at the Socks Factory alone. Our ongoing lobbying with state lawmakers over the past 24 years is dedicated the success of hosiery and textiles companies across North Carolina. The Textile Technology Center, the Manufacturing Solutions Center and the N.C. General Assembly have pursued a partnership that produced dividends that have been reinvested many times over.

Third Generation Leadership Fuels Hosiery Company Growth

Third Generation Leadership
Fuels Hosiery Company Growth

(L to R) Michael Banks Jr., Michael Banks Sr. and Nate Banks

(L to R) Michael Banks Jr., Michael Banks Sr. and Nate Banks

A family-owned Hickory-based hosiery company is experiencing significant growth, thanks to 2lst century manufacturing and marketing strategies.

Michael Banks Jr. and his brother, Nate, are third-generation executives at The Socks Factory and NuSox Finishing Inc. Their father, Michael Banks Sr. ran the operations for 40 years as a contract finishing company and his father, Alvin Banks, was employed with large manufacturers in the last half of the 20th century.

But things have changed.

Today The Socks Factory is a vertical manufacturer with 50 people employed in knitting, dyeing and finishing operations under the direction of Michael Banks Jr., president. Nate is vice president of sales, marketing and product development. He is responsible for the rapidly-growing online business for the private label William Tucker line of high-end men’s dress socks. Also, the Crazy Compression sock for the medical market is sold online and in hospital gift shops throughout North America. According to Nate Banks, the compression socks line has 60,000 followers on social media.

The 21st century addition of knitting capabilities was prompted by the decision of the Banks brothers to “switch the business model” for the company. The Socks Factory operates machines from 84-needle to 168-needle production. The products range men’s dress and leisure socks to athletic and medical footwear.

Dan St. Louis, director of the Manufacturing Solutions Center, says the innovations at The Socks Factory reflect the renaissance in North Carolina’s hosiery industry. “We are working with entrepreneurs who see opportunities in new high-performance footwear for specialty markets,” St. Louis observes. Nate Banks uses the center’s hosiery technology services for testing and prototyping.

While contract work for marketers of global brands remains a significant segment of the company’s volume, the online and private label segment is fueling growth as well.

“There is still a demand for specialized products made in the U.S.,” Nate Banks asserts. “Success depends on a relentless focus and continuous improvement,” he insists.

A NAME YOU WILL SOON REMEMBER; ADVANCED FUNCTIONAL FABRICS OF AMERICA ( AFFOA)

The U.S. Department of Defense has selected the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to run a $317 million public-private partnership to run a Manufacturing Innovation Partnership to create and manufacture new, high-tech textile products. The initiative is known as AFFOA, Advanced Functional Fabrics of America.

The Textile Technology Center of Gaston College is among the partners which includes 32 universities, 16 industry members, 72 manufacturing entities and 26 startup incubators. The partners are in 27 states and Puerto Rico. N.C. State University College of Textiles and the Manufacturing Solutions Center at Catawba Valley Community College are participating.

An overview of the partnership structure and mission was given to SYFA attendees in Charlotte by Carole Winterhalter of the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research Center. She stressed that the institute will identify opportunities for breakthroughs in high-tech products and pursue commercialization of those with the most potential. The new fibers and fabrics made from them will have the ability “to see, hear, and sense their surroundings…communicate, store and convert energy, monitor health, control temperature, and change color,” a MIT news release reports.

The initiative will focus on the manufacturing of products and the training of production personnel. The Textile Technology Center and the Manufacturing Solutions Center are pushing for a role in personnel training.

ELECTIONS 2016 AND TEXTILES AND HOSIERY INDUSTRIES

The campaigns in North Carolina and across the U.S. include major implications for our manufacturers and their supply chain companies. Nationally, the election results will determine what lies ahead for minimum wages, healthcare insurance, trade and exports. In state government, look for debates on taxes, environmental issues and sustainability, and a list of workforce issues. Regardless of political parties, the impact of a growing electorate of millennials will bring about changes. As millennials and Generation X people take on more manufacturing jobs a cultural change will creep into your workplace.

Current polls among North Carolina voters indicate the significance of change. The gubernatorial race is almost dead-even, with Attorney General Roy Cooper over incumbent Pat McCrory by two to four percentage points. The U.S. Senate race has most polls showing incumbent Sen. Richard Burr just two percentage points over challenger Deborah Ross. In the presidential race, Hilliary Clinton is two to four percentages over Donald Trump.

On the positive side, regardless of political party, there will be more emphasis on jobs for the future and the role of community colleges.

FUTURE INDUSTRY THREAT?

Pursuit of sustainable manufacturing strategies has been touted—and implemented—over the past decade by textile manufacturers. In the future, there will be no option for textile companies in the U.S, according to the keynote speaker at the recent SYFA conference in Charlotte.

Randi Kronthal-Sacco, chief marketing officer for Pure Renewals LLC, asserted that production of textiles products is having a significant impact on climate change, the availability of future water supplies, and clean air. The manufacture of manmade fiber is energy-intensive and creating carbon monoxides. She also said that 62 billion pounds of post-industrial textile waste goes into U.S. landfills every year.

Ms. Kronthal-Sacco argued that sustainable manufacturing is good for business, leading to more innovation, loyalty of consumers, a lower-cost supply chain, and an improved return on assets.

Manufacturing segments that threaten the availability of clean water or over-tax landfills also will face the threat of government intervention if public opposition is aroused. Local and state lawmakers can lead to expensive confrontations as the current coal ash controversy in North Carolina attests.