Alfred Dockery, Technical Editor
All of the spinners reported some type of capital program completed in the past 12 months. These ranged from multimillion-dollar expenditures to minor tweaking of operations.
“The only capital spending we’ve done has been to get the flexibility to run a multitude of products and keep from being so dependent on the commodity business,” said a ring spinner.
This included adding blend lines and additional ductwork to run polyester blends. The company also made some changes necessary to get into some military business.
A specialty spinner reported completing a major capital project that included a new accounting software system, additional Toyoda spinning machinery and the newest of the new Murata winding equipment.
“We have just gone through an extensive machinery installation in our ring operations,” said a multisystem spinner. “We’ve spent $2 million, and we plan to add more.”
“We have increased our production through small capital expenditures in order to maximize our production capacity,” said a specialty ring spinner. “We continue to see yarn counts go finer and finer. The opportunities have generally been in the finer-count yarns.”
Spinners spoke enthusiastically about timekeeping and accounting software packages. Two vendors were mentioned by name: Kronos Inc., Chelmsford, Mass., and Datatex AG, Switzerland. In fact, two spinners mentioned new software systems before they spoke about production equipment. The times and the mills are definitely changing.
“We were concerned that we were going to outrun our old system,” said one spinner. “The new system is browser based. We went from the bottom to the top as far as technology.”
Investing In The Future
As far as future reinvestment programs go, the spinners contacted for this column appeared to sort into two groups: those that plan to minimize their capital spending in the near term and those that feel upgrading equipment and capabilities must be a continuous process. The two primary determinants of these philosophies are most likely the current state of a company’s technology and the amount of capital it can spend. Some things don’t change.
“We’ve looked at new machinery such as cards, roving and drawing; but not spinning and winding — they are just too darned expensive,” said a ring spinner. “If we were going to make some capital expenditures, it would be on the back end of our plants.”
“We currently don’t have any specific plans for significant capital expenditures,” said a specialty ring spinner. “We have talked a bit about some internal expansions to better balance our production capacity.”
Interestingly enough, both of the mill managers who described their capital programs as a constant worked for multisystem spinners.
“We continue to replace older open-end equipment and also look at additional ring spinning,” said one multi-system spinner. “We are spending $3 million or $4 million a year, year after year. I don’t see any slowdown.”
“We figure that the only way we are going to survive in this market is to continue to reinvest money into our plants and equipment to remain competitive,” said a second multisystem spinner.
Cotton Crop Projections Down 200K Bales
The US cotton crop for the 2006-07 season was reduced 200,000 bales to 20.5 million, 14 percent below the 2005-06 record, according to the latest US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Cotton and Wool outlook.
The lower forecast resulted from the continuation of drought conditions in the Southwest - and the expected reduction this season in harvestable acres - which more than offset higher area planted to cotton, as reported in the June Acreage report. In that report, US producers indicated they had planted nearly 15.3 million acres of cotton in 2006, 4 percent above the March prospective plantings. In addition, the 2006 area is 7 percent higher than plantings in 2005 and the highest in five years. However, US harvested area is forecast to fall below the last two seasons, as the forecast abandonment rate of 16 percent rises to its highest level since 1998.
The USDA further noted that on a regional basis, the Southwest has seen the largest increase in cotton area for 2006, expanding nearly 600,000 acres or 9 percent above a year ago. Meanwhile, the Southeast and Delta plantings each rose about 300,000 acres, 11 percent and 6 percent, respectively. In the West, upland cotton area has been reduced by 19 percent to only 580,000 acres - less than half the level grown a decade ago. However, more extra-long-staple cotton is being grown in the West, pushing the total U.S. area to a record 336,000 acres in 2006.