Tag Archives: Manufacturing

Textile, Textile Product, and Apparel Manufacturing

Nature of the Industry

The textile, textile product, and apparel manufacturing industries include establishments that turn fiber into fabric and fabric into clothing and other textile products. While some factories are highly automated, others still rely mostly on people to cut and sew pieces of fabric together. The apparel industry has moved mainly to other countries with cheaper labor costs, while the textile industry has been able to automate much of its production to effectively compete with foreign suppliers. This industry is evolving and its need for a more highly skilled workforce is growing.

Goods and services.

The establishments in these industries produce a variety of goods, some of which are sold to the consumer, while others are sold as inputs to the manufacture of other products. Natural and synthetic fibers are used to produce threads and yarns—which may be woven, knitted, or pressed or otherwise bonded into fabrics—as well as rope, cordage, and twine. Coatings and finishes are applied to the fabrics to enhance the decorative patterns woven into the fabric, or to make the fabric more durable, stain-resistant, or have other properties. Fabrics are used to make many products, including awnings, tents, carpets and rugs, as well as a variety of linens—curtains, tablecloths, towels, and sheets. However, the principal use of fabrics is to make apparel. Establishments in the apparel manufacturing industry produce many knitted clothing products, such as hosiery and socks, shirts, sweaters, and underwear. They also produce many cut-and-sew clothing items like dresses, suits, shirts, and trousers.

Industry organization.

The three individual industries—textile mills, textile product mills, and apparel manufacturing—have many unique characteristics. Textile mills provide the raw material to make apparel and textile products. They take natural and synthetic fibers, such as cotton and polyester, and transform them into fiber, yarn, and thread. Yarns are strands of fibers in a form ready for weaving, knitting, or otherwise intertwining to form a textile fabric. They form the basis for most textile production and commonly are made of cotton, wool, or a synthetic fiber such as polyester. Yarns also can be made of thin strips of plastic, paper, or metal. To produce spun yarn, natural fibers such as cotton and wool must first be processed to remove impurities and give products the desired texture and durability, as well as other characteristics. After this initial cleaning stage, the fibers are spun into yarn.

Textile mills then go on to produce fabric by means of weaving and knitting. Workers in weaving mills use complex, automated looms to transform yarns into cloth. Looms weave or interlace two yarns, so they cross each other at right angles to form fabric. Knitting mills use automated machines to produce fabric of interlocking loops of one or more yarns.

At any time during the production process, a number of processes, called finishing, may be performed on the fabric. These processes—which include dyeing, bleaching, and stonewashing, among others—may be performed by the textile mill or at a separate finishing mill. Finishing encompasses chemical or mechanical treatments performed on fiber, yarn, or fabric to improve appearance, texture, or performance.

Textile mills that also make the end products in the same factory are included in this sector; otherwise, if the fabric is purchased the product made is considered a product of the textile mills products sector or apparel manufacturing sector. The textile product mills sector comprises establishments that produce a wide variety of textile products for use by individuals and businesses, but not including apparel. Some of the items made in this sector include household items, such as carpets and rugs; towels, curtains, and sheets; cord and twine; furniture and automotive upholstery; and industrial belts and fire hoses. Because the process of converting raw fibers into finished textile products is complex, most textile mills specialize.

The apparel manufacturing industry transforms fabrics produced by textile manufacturers into clothing and accessories. By cutting and sewing fabrics or other materials, such as leather, rubberized fabrics, plastics, and furs, workers in this industry help to keep consumers warm, dry, and fashionable.

The apparel industry traditionally has consisted mostly of production workers who performed the cutting and sewing functions in an assembly line. This industry remains labor-intensive, despite advances in technology and workplace practices.

Many of the remaining production workers work in teams. For example, sewing machine operators are organized into production “modules.” Each operator in a module is trained to perform nearly all of the functions required to assemble a garment. Each module is responsible for its own performance, and individuals usually receive compensation based on the team’s performance.

Photo source: mediaclubsouthafrica.com

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Motor Vehicle and Parts Manufacturing

Nature of the Industry

Despite news of plant closures and unemployed auto workers, the motor vehicle and parts manufacturing industry continues to be one of the largest employers in the country and a major contributor to our economy’s success. Motor vehicle and parts manufacturing is continually evolving to improve efficiency and provide products that consumers want in a highly competitive market, which at times may mean outdated plants are forced to close. It also means companies and workers must adapt more quickly to changes in demand and production practices so that new technologies can be implemented and work can be done on a number of different vehicles at one time. Teamwork and continual retraining are key components to the success of this industry and the ability of the workforce to adapt.

Motor vehicle and parts manufacturers also have a major influence on other industries in the economy as well. Building motor vehicles requires vast quantities of materials from, and creates many jobs in, industries that manufacture steel, rubber, plastics, glass, and other basic materials. It also spurs employment for automobile and other motor vehicle dealers; automotive repair and maintenance shops; gasoline stations; highway construction companies; and automotive parts, accessories, and tire stores.

 

Goods and services. The motor vehicles manufactured in this industry include: automobiles, sport-utility vehicles (SUVs), vans and pickup trucks, heavy duty trucks, buses, truck trailers and motor homes. It also includes the manufacturing of the parts that go into these vehicles, such as the engine, seats, brakes, and electrical systems. Building and assembling the many different parts of a car or truck requires an amazingly complex design, manufacturing, and assembly process.

 

Industry organization. In 2006, about 9200 establishments manufactured motor vehicles and parts. These ranged from small parts plants with only a few workers to huge assembly plants that employ thousands. By far, the largest sector of this industry is motor vehicle parts manufacturing. It has the most establishments and the most workers. About 7 out of 10 establishments in the industry manufactured motor vehicle parts—including electrical and electronic equipment; engines and transmissions; brake systems; seating and interior trim; steering and suspension components; air-conditioners; and motor vehicle stampings, such as fenders, tops, body parts, trim, and molding.

 

The next largest sector, in terms of number of establishments, is motor vehicle body and trailer manufacturing. In 2006, nearly one-fourth of establishments were engaged in this type of manufacturing. These establishments specialized in manufacturing truck trailers; motor homes; travel trailers; campers; and car, truck, and bus bodies placed on separately purchased chassis.

 

Automotive and light truck assembly plants make up the third largest sector. In 2006, about 5 percent of establishments that employ 23 percent of all workers in this industry, were engaged in assembling these smaller motor vehicles. A growing number of these assembly plants are owned by foreign automobile makers, known as “domestic internationals.”

 

A typical automotive assembly plant can be divided into three major sections. In the first section, exterior body panels and interior frame are assembled and welded together. This work is mostly performed by robots, but may also require some manual welding. During this stage, the body is attached to a conveyor system that will move it through the entire assembly process. Throughout the entire process, numerous inspections are performed to ensure the quality of the work.

 

The painting process comprises the second section of the assembly plant where bodies of cars pass through a series of carefully ventilated, sealed paint rooms. Here, the bodies are dipped into chemicals to prevent rust and seal the metal. Then the bodies are primed, painted, and sealed with a clear coat.

 

Assembly of the vehicle comprises the third section of the automobile manufacturing process. Here, parts such as seats, dashboard, and the powertrain (engine and transmission) are installed. While machines assist with loading heavy parts, much of the assembly work is still performed by team assemblers working with power tools.

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