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The Rupp Report: Itema - Mission Accomplished

Jürg Rupp, Executive Editor

Everybody remembers only too well when the global financial system collapsed in 2008. The textile industry, and especially the textile machinery industry, was severely hit by these problems. Most of the machinery suppliers had deep troubles. So it was for the Italian/Swiss weaving machinery manufacturer Itema Weaving, holder of the famous brand names Sultex, Vamatex and Somet. These troubles, together with various questionable management decisions, led to some irritation about Itema in the global weaving industry.

Homework Done
Since ITMA 2011 in Barcelona, Spain, itema — which is now written with an "i" — enjoyed some recovery in the markets. Under the motto "Because we believe," Italy-based itema Group, along with its subsidiaries in Switzerland, China, the United States, Japan and India, organized a series of customer days as well as a press conference, to present its new R9500 rapier weaving machine.

Some months ago, itema introduced its A9500 air-jet weaving machine. For this machine, the new CEO, Carlo Rogora, mentioned: "I am convinced that the air-jet technology will enhance its importance in the near future. Today, this technology is mature," he said. "The A9500 is the sum of Sulzer, Vamatex and Somet. Those companies are now in the past and we are itema today." (See " The Rupp Report: ITMA Asia + CITME 2012: The Important Weaving Machinery Sector, TextileWorld.com, July 10, 2012.)

One Name, One Brand
Rogora started his presentations at the press meeting by saying: "Today, itema is one brand and one name. In the past two years, we did our homework. All the labels are now under one umbrella: 'itema.' After the crisis, we've restructured the company and reduced costs significantly." The workforce in Italy and Switzerland was reduced from 1,200 people in 2009 down to 825 this year. R&D is in the center of attention for itema: "Without innovation, there is no future," Rogora said. And he mentioned that itema today is absolutely free of debt, a quite remarkable fact for a textile machinery company. "The success of our customers is our own success," he added. He also mentioned that the developing countries require best quality products too. China, India and Turkey are the biggest markets for itema at the moment. "However," he said, "we are convinced that there is a future in some countries in Africa."

The New Machine
The event was also the signal to introduce the R9500 rapier weaving machine. Responding to the ITMA Barcelona debut and immediate market success of the air-jet A9500 weaving machine, the concept of the R9500 was born. The company is utilizing the advantages of a Common Base Platform (CBP) along with integrating the successful elements of its rapier machines. It is based on the same footprint and mechanical concept as the A9500, along with the efficient use of comparable parts and solutions. "And," Rogora said, "the R9500 is a solid, robust machine, capable of weaving the heaviest fabrics but flexible and precise enough to weave fine, fancy and technical yarns."

The SK Transfer System is designed to provide high speed and versatility, while the newly developed Free Positive Approach (FPA) weft transfer offers a race board without guiding elements for use with man-made or delicate yarns. The New Common Electronic Platform features a simple but comprehensive design and allows easy control of all technical parameters. All key components — more than 75 percent of all the components - are said to be Italian-made. More than 90 percent of all parts - including motors, electric devices and interface — are used on both the rapier and the air-jet machine, reducing costs for customers having both technologies.

The R9500 utilizes a completely redesigned version of itema's propeller drive system. The Turbo Prop drive is compact and has minimal moving parts, "ensuring high reliability and reduced maintenance." With reliable, economical, consistent performance, the new drive embodies the true essence of the R9500, said the itema engineers, providing low power consumption and a minimal noise profile.

Different Markets
The versatile R9500 should enable the weavers to penetrate new markets. Different options and features can be selected, providing flexibility and a broad application range. "May I emphasize the fact that we are still the only supplier to provide all weft insertion systems — air-jet, rapier and projectile technology," Rogora mentioned with some obvious pride.

He is looking quite positively into the future: "The A9500 is a success. After its introduction in Barcelona, the weaving machine is producing already in 15 different countries. Funny enough," he said, "Chinese customers are either buying rapier or air-jet, but never both. On the other hand, Indian customers have no hesitation to buy both technologies to have the highest flexibility."

The R9500 is already having some success after an industrial trial period of some months. Sales started in Brazil, Japan, India, Taiwan and Turkey, as well as Italy and Switzerland. However, first priority for itema is still China, followed by India. Rogora is convinced that India is now ready to begin new weaving projects. Meanwhile, China has become an air-jet market, too.

The Vision
Today, quality is not a bonus, but a prerequisite for success. According to Rogora, the company is committed to QRP — quality, reliability and top performance of its products. The itema vision, he said, is quite clear: "We want to produce and deliver products of superior quality with the best performance ever. We want to provide services that ensure added value to our customer's bottom line, and we want to gain a leading role in the supply of weaving machines. Every single QRP certified machine will be guaranteed for two years."

All in all, the event was presented in a new spirit, which was tangible in the company's new showroom after the press gathering — smiling itema people with a lot of hopes and expectations in their faces. And last, but not least, many customers were already waiting outside the premises to come and see the new machine. It seems: mission accomplished for itema. Time will tell.

November 13, 2012

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