Several of your association members recently presented their innovations at Texprocess Americas, and also during the special “High-Tex from Germany” exhibition organised by the German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. What are the most promising markets for German manufacturers of textile processing machines?
Elgar Straub: German and European manufacturers of sewing and clothing technology and machines for processing technical textiles export worldwide to pretty much all markets. One of the biggest and most important export markets of the last few years is definitely the USA. There is also a focus on Asian markets like China, Bangladesh and Vietnam. Africa is an important market of the future, a lot of our member companies are already operating, for example, in Ethiopia. But the biggest market remains Europe, whose importance is growing steadily as production facilities are relocated closer to consumers and microfactories are established.
Digitalisation, individualisation and autonomisation seem to be hot topics in the industry right now. Can you give us any stand-out examples of current new developments by your member companies? Which developments with disruptive potential should we be aware of?
E.S.: There is an increasing demand for personalised products, whether in terms of clothing, shoes, furniture, technical textiles or cars. This individualisation is demanding new and flexible production processes and increasing the need for the automation and digitisation of the entire production value chain. The first microfactories are already being built. But the prerequisite for a digital interlacing of design, machinery and logistics is a common data basis and data security. The data has to be made available across the entire value chain with cloud solutions. Another important growth market in the sector of clothing and technical textiles is digital printing, the direct printing of clothing, shoes and technical textiles. Bringing together the production steps of digital printing and cutting offers another opportunity for the production of the future.
In terms of the division of labour, the textile value chain is more globalised than many. As an association, how do you view the current trends towards a new kind of protectionism?
E.S.: We take a fundamentally critical view of these current trends. The specialised, globalised world brings progress and prosperity for everyone. But irrespective of protectionist tendencies, there is currently a trend in our industry towards shifting production facilities back to where they used to be. Shorter collection cycles, increasing wage and logistics costs, the demand for personalised products and the increasing awareness of sustainable clothing production are demanding that production facilities are located closer to the consumers again.
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Markets, machines, microfactories
Market of the future? Africa. New developments? Individualisation. Growth market? Digital printing. Elgar Straub, Managing Director of the German Federal Mechanical Engineering Association (VDMA), Europe’s largest industrial association headquartered in Frankfurt am Main, gave us some insights into future of the textile processing industry.