By Andrew Macdonald
ITMF Board Member
Meeting Customer Demands
What do customers want?
The fast evolution of the textile industry is moving toward a more demanding customer. It places product performance initially on the basic raw material, but performance also is being expressed in the form of fashion that is comfortable, protective and lasting.
That is why cotton today has to be fully analyzed and tested before entering the process. In the past, the appreciation of cotton quality was based on a visual perception. This might have been an excellent base for evaluation, but it was restricted to a visual examination that included color, staple length and an estimate of trash content. There was also “preparation,” a favorite catch-all trade phrase that added a vague richness to the description rather like the comments used in wine tasting, but adding nothing to the flavor.
Such visual appreciation failed to provide the spinner with the more important internal details. These are called the intrinsic characteristics and include such items as fiber strength, micronaire (fineness of the individual fibers), maturity of the cotton (on which depends the dye takeup of the material) and elongation (elasticity of the fibers). Without this information, it would be impossible to meet the customer demands.
Impact Of Technology
Thanks to technology that can measure these intrinsic characteristic properties at high speed (known as High Volume Instrument or HVI), the spinner is able to select the raw material to meet the performance demands. These instruments can also accurately measure the standard visual characteristics.
In the United States, all cotton is measured and marketed using these highly efficient instruments, giving the producer an advantage in terms of quality recognition. For U.S. growers to remain competitive in a global marketplace, they must continue producing high-quality cotton that meets the specifications of spinning mills. Consumer preferences and spinning technologies will continue to increase demand for high-quality cotton, and growers who produce high-quality cotton will have better market access for their fiber.