News / USA

US Textile Industry Grows With More Technology and Fewer Workers

US Textile Industry Grows With More Technology and Fewer Workersi
X
December 19, 2013 11:09 PM
After decades of decline, the U.S. textile and apparel industry is growing again and many factories are competing with low-wage operations in countries like China. As VOA’s Brian Padden reports from North Carolina, where the textile industry was once dominant, the industry has reinvented itself using technology but also employing far fewer people than in the past.
Brian Padden
After decades of decline, the U.S. textile and apparel industry is growing again and many factories are competing with low-wage operations in countries like China. In North Carolina, where the textile industry was once dominant, the industry has reinvented itself using technology but also employing far fewer people than in the past.

Robots do most of the heavy lifting at the National Spinning Company plant in Burlington, North Carolina. This factory dyes over 110,000 kilograms (250,000 pounds) of yarn per week in a variety of colors. The yarn is sent to clothing and upholstery makers both in the U.S. and around the world.  Michael Hankensen is one of only two technicians who service the dye producing machines.

 “As you see, most of this is extremely heavy, cumbersome, and trying to move it around in the order that these robots do it, it would take an army of men to accomplish what these robots do," said Hankensen.

Technology is helping bridge the wage gap between labor-intensive factories overseas that pay workers only a few dollars a day and this North Carolina plant where about 100 employees make between $10 and $20 an hour.

Plant manager Ed Atkins says it's important to limit labor costs but the company must also provide higher quality and better customer service to compete in the global market place.  

 “We’ve diversified ourselves, looked for markets that depended on the quick response that you can provide from American-made products, little niche markets. I mean we don’t try to compete in the generic cotton business or anything like that, because it’s not where our strengths are," said Atkins.

The collapse earlier this year of a garment factory in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,000 workers illustrated the tragic consequences of relying on partners that bring down costs by sacrificing health and safety.   

Deborah Wince-Smith, president of the non-profit Council on Competitiveness, says the future of the textile industry lies in innovation, not low wages.

“Companies and enterprises are really bringing their core activities to where they have a skilled workforce, where they have innovation talent and where they’re actually able to develop the next generation of innovation that drives manufacturing," said Wince-Smith.

With 23 U.S. plants built in the last three years, and exports up over 30 percent, the textile industry is making a comeback in America.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

Ali Regained Title in Historic Fight 40 Years Ago

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid