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The Rupp Report: Executive Interview: Carlo Rogora, CEO, Itema Weaving

After posting the thoughts of Heinrich Trützschler, managing partner of Germany-based Trützschler GmbH & Co. KG (see " The Rupp Report: Executive Interview: Heinrich Trützschler, Managing Partner, Trützschler GmbH & Co. KG," TextileWorld.com, May 29, 2012), the Rupp Report talked to Carlo Rogora, CEO of Itema (Switzerland) Ltd., one of the leading weaving machinery manufacturers. Rogora answered the same questions asked previously.

Rupp Report : What do you expect from 2012 in general?

Carlo Rogora
: In general, we expect to be in a somewhat better situation than in 2011. The second half of 2012 is still uncertain due to the tight policies of some countries, mainly in Asia. Several projects are in the pipeline, but it seems that because of government policies and/or because of the banks' difficulties in lending money, these projects remain in the pipeline. However, we are rather optimistic that this will change in the months to come.

RR : What is the biggest change you see in the business this year for your products prior to ITMA Asia + CITME 2012?

Rogora : We see a number of changes, which are, however, different from one country to another. In China, for instance, we see more investments for air-jet weaving, even for products and applications for which this technology was not considered before. On the other hand, customers in some countries are switching the weft insertion system from air-jet to rapier.

RR : What conditions are you experiencing that are most influencing your business?

Rogora : As I mentioned before, the main problem remains the difficulties with the banks. If they lend money, the interest rates are very high. Furthermore, the economy is still uncertain in Europe and the USA. Therefore, the main market for fabrics is still not enjoying a satisfactory level. Although it has improved, it surely is not at the levels of some years ago. I must say, we doubt that level will ever come back.

Market Situation
RR : How do you see the current market situation in Asia and China?

Rogora : In some countries, like China, the cost of labor has increased and customers are either putting investments on hold or even thinking of moving plants elsewhere. The higher costs of cotton in China also have had an impact on slowing down investments.

RR : So, do you face any problems in China?

Rogora : Not really. Some areas of the business are very slow, some investments are completely on hold, but some other new areas are shifting toward new investments thanks to a higher availability of workforce.

RR : Are the mills receptive to new technology, or are they on the sidelines?

Rogora : You see, technology is always well-received wherever it gives more efficiency, lower cost of maintenance and an improved user-friendliness. The strategy we adopted to invest in new, more reliable, more efficient — in general, more "technological" — machines is still confirmed, and we will carry on this way.

However, the pressure on the Asian mills' production is still more oriented toward the final retail prices than on the quality. Of course, it is more than obvious that our customers are strongly focused on the price we offer. We offer our customers new technology and ideas to weave different styles and to improve machine efficiency combined with cost competitiveness. We do believe that this will favor industry growth in the near future, with the possibility also to offer high-quality fabrics worldwide.

Different Customer Requirements
RR : Is this different in the regions of the world?

Rogora : Well, in Europe and the Americas, customers are more interested in new solutions and new technologies; they are — and have to be — generally active in markets that require superior fabric quality. This is their reason for being. It has to be said that also some countries in Asia such as — of course — Japan, but also Taiwan and Korea, are doing the same. Some "advanced" customers in China are switching to this requirement as well.

RR : Is the green movement — sustainability — a reality for your customers?

Rogora : Frankly speaking, we do not receive particular requests from our customers, especially not from Asia. Nevertheless, Itema is very sensitive to eco-sustainability. We are actively participating in the project promoted by ACIMIT (the Association of Italian Textile Machinery Manufacturers), to be the "Supplier of Sustainable Technologies." This is focused on the improvement of an "intelligent" use of energy, chemicals and water; and the minimization of the carbon footprint of the fabric production cycle. For this, Itema received the Green Label, which attests to our efforts in this area.

RR : How are you helping your customers to address that?

Rogora : We always push on this argument, because we believe that the future of our planet is the responsibility of each one of us. We do hope and believe that eco-sustainability will become more and more a need and a request by our industry.

New Machinery On Display
RR : Will you show any true novelty for the first time in Asia?

Rogora : Yes, there will be several improvements and new developments on the machines, both those manufactured in Europe and machines assembled in China. Some of them will be very important for the customers for cost savings in maintenance, ease of operations and better fabric quality. We will show the Silver 501 rapier machine and the new air-jet, both of which were exhibited at ITMA Barcelona for the first time.

The highlight will be the direct drive motor applicable to the locally assembled R880 (rapier machine). This will now complete the wide range of applications and high profile of technology offered by the machines assembled in China.

For the first time, with the T880, we will have the locally assembled rapier weaving machine for terry in the booth of local Jacquard machinery manufacturer Song & Song. All products delivered by Itema China have a relevant percentage of parts that are imported from Europe to assure quality and high performances of each machine we deliver.

Product Piracy
RR : Did you face any problems with product piracy at the last ITMA Asia + CITME?

Rogora : The product piracy, especially on spare parts, and especially in Asia, is massive. As mentioned above, our customers are under very high pressure to cut costs in order to compete in the current marketplace. Over a period of time, this is reducing the performance, in both quality and efficiency of their machines. As the quality requirements of the fabrics produced and the manufacturing costs in these countries increases — and they will — we believe that this phenomenon will decrease. Would you use pirated spare parts on a Ferrari Formula 1 car that has to compete in a Grand Prix? We don't think so.

RR : How do you face this problem?

Rogora : ITEMA is focused on giving to the customers what they need. As their need is to reduce the cost of maintenance, we develop and deliver machines that have fewer parts and are more reliable. This is the solution that can provide our customers with top- and stable-performance machines, and reduce the spare-parts costs.

RR : Has the outcome of your action been successful?

Rogora : We are marketing this new approach along with the newly reengineered machines such as the Silver 501 and A9000/A9500. We do believe that the customers will recognize the value of the new design, and that the products will be successful.

RR : What do you do if you are faced with product piracy again in Shanghai?

Rogora : Itema thinks that nothing really can be done. As long as the customers do not perceive the value of a manufacturer's original spare parts, this market will continue. The rules are made by the market, not by the producers.

RR : The organizers of ITMA Asia + CITME 2012 declared in a recent Rupp Report that they are committed to fight against any product piracy (See " The Rupp Report: Successful ITMA Asia + CITME 2012 Anticipated," TextileWorld.com, April 17, 2012). Do you think they will be successful?

Rogora : I think that everybody should focus on the piracy of patented products or parts. This is something that the governments have to focus on. The breaching of a patent is a legal violation — which results in fines and very severe consequences everywhere in the world. Violation is not fair and should not be permitted, and I think that the organizers should concentrate on putting more and more pressure on the local governments in order to change this reality.

Itema will be exhibiting at ITMA Asia + CITME 2012 in Hall E4, Booth C10.

June 5, 2012