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Vision Innovation Are Keys To Viability

American Savio/Somet CEO predicts prosperity for strategically inventive manufacturers.

Supplier PerspectiveBy Jim Phillips, Executive Editor Vision, Innovation Are Keys To Viability American Savio/Somet CEO predicts prosperity for strategically inventive manufacturers.Those pundits ready to sound the death knell for the American textile industry would be well-advised to speak to Harold Hoke before making any final proclamations.Hoke, the new chief executive officer of American Savio Corp. and Somet of America Inc., both located in Spartanburg, S.C., shared his thoughts about the U.S. textile and machinery markets with ATI during an exclusive interview several weeks before the June open house for Savio and Somet (See related sidebar, page 100. He is anything but pessimistic about the future of the industry.This is an exciting time to be associated with this industry, he said. Is employment in the industry going to continue to decline Very likely. Are the numbers of companies and plants going to decrease Almost certainly. Is the U.S. textile industry in the sunset of its existence Not a chance.The U.S. textile industry is going to continue to grow, he said, but differently than in the past. Mergers, partnerships, acquisitions and closings will continue, and those companies with dedication to vision and innovation will continue to prosper.I see companies looking intently toward new product ideas, innovative manufacturing alliances and new technology that is different than the current easy decisions sometimes made, he said.Ive been fortunate in my association with this industry that Ive been able to watch a number of companies some of them very old and traditional make the transition from product-oriented companies to marketing-oriented companies. These leaders are the first to embrace new technology and the first to realize the cost savings and productivity enhancements that this technology entails. These are the companies that are truly competitive in the global market.Hoke issued a wry smile and declined to name specific companies not, he said, for fear of offending those laggards that havent quite caught on to what its going to take to prosper, but, instead, from reluctance to omit a truly outstanding company. 

Dott. Fabio Mazzucchetti, president, Somet (left),and Harold Hoke, CEO, American Savio andSomet of America, pose with the Mythos, Sometsrecent entry into high-speed air-jet weaving. His resume indicates he has the credentials to both recognize and evaluate what it takes to compete successfully in a worldwide textile market. Hoke holds a degree in textile technology from Clemson University. Immediately upon graduation, he took a job with Burlington Industries. For much of the past 20 years, he directed sales, marketing and service efforts for Zellweger Uster, both in the Western hemisphere and worldwide, including sister companies in China, Thailand, India, Germany, England and Brazil. He knows what it takes to establish a presence in these countries and penetrate markets. As a result, he doesnt share the concern many American textile leaders have expressed over the granting of permanent Normal Trade Relations (Ntr) with China.Is this a potential problem for the U.S. industry he asks. Sure it is. But more than that, it represents a real opportunity. China is, of course, a huge market, and not all of it is captured by low-end products. There is demand in China an increasing demand for high-fashion products of world-class quality. So in many ways, this could be a very good thing for those American companies that will take advantage of it.I certainly would not be afraid of it, unless I didnt really understand it and didnt have a plan to capitalize on it.Hoke continued: We hear so much about the effects of the imbalance in world trade within the textile industry. But I think innovation comes into play also. You dont see too many innovative third world countries when it comes to textiles. They just produce cheap and sell cheap.On the other hand, every leading Italian and American manufacturer is continually trying something new. I surely hope innovation wins this battle. If not, the Paris, New York, and Milan fashion industry will surely suffer.As far as the textile machinery industry is concerned, those companies that focus their resources and change the rules of the game will thrive. The others, well, they can always just produce cheap and sell cheap. Its a strategy, I guess, although not a very exciting one. As the captain of two major players in the machinery market, Hoke is understandably more optimistic about the ramifications of Ntr status than those mill owners who seem to be hammered year in and year out by trade imbalance and import dumping. But his message is nonetheless clear. For the American industry to prosper to its potential, more and more companies must make the transition to thinking in terms of global marketing strategies. It is in hopes of capitalizing on such strategies that Hoke left his comfortable position with Zellweger Uster after so many years to take the helm of American Savio and Somet of America Inc. Both companies are owned by the Radici Group of Italy, with Savio being the most recent acquisition. Savio manufactures yarn preparation/finishing machinery, while Somet is a leading producer of weaving machinery.Both companies have been viable competitors throughout the world virtually since their respective foundings, Hoke said. I think the answer to longevity and tradition is innovation. Savio and Somet have truly presented, over many years, innovative products and innovative, dynamic business strategies. For example, concerning marketing and manufacturing leadership, Savio has developed strategic marketing and manufacturing partnerships in India and China and, consequently, is a leader in both markets.Both companies have invested in new product development and are now delivering the latest in winding and air-jet weaving technology.In many ways, Hokes vision for the two companies parallels his assessment of the opportunities before the American textile industry. His goal is to incorporate vision and innovation to maximize any competitive advantage.Textile machinery companies, like our customers, have suffered financially in the developed countries over the last few years, he said. You have already seen consolidations, mergers, and, quite frankly, closings. This is where the financial strength and global marketing strategy of the Radici Group has helped tremendously. The worldwide markets and successes of Somet and Savio in developing markets have helped these companies maintain profitability even in these past difficult several years.It is essential that we combine the technical strengths and application knowledge of both companies in order to truly be capable of helping our customers solve their business problems, he said. We are quickly moving to combine our sales, technical support and service organization. Our company, with this broad knowledge base, will be the only one of its kind in our industry. Our task is to clearly present the strong advantages of our equipment, especially now that both Savio and Somet have unveiled technologically advanced new products (See related sidebar below). Focus is critical, he said, for both Savio/Somet and the textile industry in general. One of the most important aspects of success is listening to customers and then acting. Research and development focus is critical. We must concentrate on fewer projects those that yield the greatest return. If we cant do something as well asit needs to be done, we will focus on what we do build better than anyone.My CEO at Zellweger Uster in Switzerland, Eddie Bradley, practiced and implemented that, and it is easy to see the success Zellweger Uster had because of such a philosophy. We at Somet and Savio understand where those areas of innovation should be, we will invest heavily, and I am certain, if focused, we will be even more successful. To be prosperous, innovation, risk, and dedication must not be strategic ideas only, but implemented actions. Savio And Somet Showcase U.S. OperationsThe move of American Savio Corp. to the location of its sister company, Somet of America Inc., has created new potential for the U.S.-based subsidiaries of the Radici Group, according to Harold Hoke, CEO, American Savio and Somet.The two companies are now combined in an expansive facility in Spartanburg, S.C., and are merging sales, marketing and support staffs to capitalize on opportunities for new lines of winding and weaving machinery.It is essential that we combine the technical strengths and application knowledge of both companies in order to truly be capable of helping our customers solve their business problems, said Hoke. Our task is to clearly present the strong advantages of our equipment, especially now that both Savio and Somet have unveiled technologically advanced new products.Those new products, the Savio Orion winder and the Somet Mythos air-jet weaving machine, were on display at the companys open house and product demonstration in June.We are extremely proud of these new products and fully expect the U.S. market to welcome such innovations in its search for continued competitive advantages in its fight to battle the cheaper and increasing amount of imported textile goods, said Hoke. If we do our job and can clearly present to the textile spinning and weaving industries these advantages, Savio and Somet have a wonderful future. And there is much more to come.Quite frankly, I couldnt be more excited about the future of both these Radici companies.The Savio Orion winder, first introduced at the 1999 ITMA in Paris, is an innovation that Hoke claims will change the rules of the game.The production and quality capabilities, if you study the differences, are clearly superior to anything on the market at this point, he said. The motivation behind development of the Orion series, Hoke said, was based on a thorough analysis of customer needs. As a result, the company introduced a machine that would improve total quality of the wound package, reduce overall process costs and increase manufacturing flexibility.The Orion is available in two models, the Orion E, which is an independent winding machine, and the Orion I, which can be linked to spinning frames. The frame for both is available in six- or eight-head sections. The number of heads per machine ranges from a minimum of six to a maximum of 64 in steps of two. Take-up speed ranges from 400 to 2,000 meters per minute.Somet is committed to developing new technology in air-jet weaving. The Mythos, Hoke said, was tested for two years, 24 hours per day, at 1,200 picks per minute.Somet conducted in-depth dynamic/behavioral studies to produce a structurally strong loom that would be reliable at any speed. As a result, the Mythos requires no anchoring, either mechanically or chemically. In addition, the Mythos can weave widths from 190 to 400 centimeters, and can accommodate up to six filling colors. The loom features automatic harness leveling, a positive cam motion up to 10 harnesses and positive electronic dobbies up to 16 harnesses.In addition to the Orion and Mythos, the company displayed the Savio Geminis twister and FRS open-end spinning machine and the Somet Super Excel HTP weaving machine.The Radici Group worldwide forecasts sales in 2000 to top $1.5 billion. Combined revenues of American Savio Corp. and Somet of America Inc. approach $25 million.Currently, Somet and Savio employ 33 people in the 46,000-square-foot facility.Savio moved from Charlotte, N.C., to the current location in January of this year. Below: Dott. Rino Morani, president, Savio, stands before the Orion, Savios latest-generation winder.
August 2000