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NAFTA By Design

A Mexican apparel manufacturer thrives under NAFTA rules.

By Michelle M. Havich, Associate Editor

A TI recently had the opportunity to see first hand the benefits of NAFTA at Qualytel de Puebla SA de CV, an apparel manufacturing plant in Puebla.

knittingmachine_632According to company officials, they consider themselves a NAFTA company, rather than a Mexican company. This is a fully integrated operation that starts with the fiber and sends out the finished product to customers.

The company makes private label T-shirts, pants and sweatshirts, exporting 100 percent of its products. Qualytel produces between 800,000 and 1 million products each month, and reports annual sales at approximately $50 million.

In order to maintain the high level of quality at the plant, it is frequently visited by U.S. customs inspectors. The company consistently maintains a clean, safe work environment.

Qualytel began in 1979 as TAURO, a yarn spinning operation. In 1989 came the incorporation of Qualytel. Today, Qualytel is comprised of 2 fabric plants that house knitting and dyeing and finishing; and 3 garment areas that house cutting, screen printing, packing and shipping. The total space of Qualytel’s fabric and garment areas is 211,600 square feet. The company added its own 97,900-square-foot sewing facilities in 1994.

In 1997, Qualytel opened ExporMex in Laredo, Texas, for its U.S. distribution needs.

Qualytel employs 1,080 people, working a continuous four-shift system. According to Vincenzo Petrozzino, vice president of technical services, the company is going to a shift system where each shift works a 12-hour day, four days a week. A manager is on duty at all times.

From The Start

Qualytel manufactures 70 percent of its own yarn. The remaining 30 percent is imported from Parkdale Mills Inc., Gastonia, N.C.; Avondale Mills Inc., Sylacauga, Ala.; and Mayo Yarns Inc., Mayodan, N.C.

For its yarn, Qualytel imports cotton from Memphis, Tenn. The bales are opened in the company's spinning facility, 30 miles away from the main manufacturing plant. Schlafhorst equipment is used in the opening area. The yarn in spun on machines from Marzoli and Rieter.

On The Floor

dyehouse_630The first stop on the tour was the company’s offices. Here is where the company goes through pre-production and design. All of the design specs are sent from customers, which include Tommy Hilfiger, The Limited, The Gap and Old Navy. Customer service is also handled through the offices.

Walking into Qualytel’s large knitting area was quite impressive. Vice President of Textiles David Stuart pointed out the 14 circular knitting machines by Mayer, Vanguard and Orizio Paolo running down both sides of the large, open room, all of them fully operational.

Directly through the knitting room is the dyeing and finishing facility. The company offers a seven-day turn around for colormatching using Datacolor International equipment.

Part of Qualytel’s state-of-the-art facility includes a complete Scholl dyehouse. They do some roll printing in this part of the plant as well, printing fabrics for turtlenecks and other knit shirts. Plans are also in the works for the company to add a garment dyeing facility within the next year.

The company treats all of the water used in the dyehouse before it is released back into the environment.

The Cutting Room Floor

spreadingmachine_633Across the parking lot is Qualytel’s cutting area. Lectra Systems dominates this area. Its equipment is used in pattern making, digitizing, marker making, automatic cutting and spreading.

Bierrebi machines are used for die cutting.

After the apparel pieces are cut, they are shipped to Qualytel’s sewing facility. The finished products are then returned to the main manufacturing area for screen printing. Sometimes the pieces are screen printed before they are sewn together.

The company has four screen printing machines, all by MHM. They burn their own screens, based on design patterns sent to them by their customers, ranging from a small Tommy Hilfiger red, white and blue logo on the back of a T-shirt to "Old Navy" spelled out in big bold letters across the front of a shirt.

To The Finish

After the printed products are dry, they either go to be sewn or go to be inspected. Qualytel does a hands-on inspection of all products that it ships out.

Products that pass inspection go to be packaged for shipping. Each product is packaged exactly by the customer’s specifications, including the position of price tags and size stickers.

Products are then shipped out to ExporMex, where they are picked up by customers and taken to their retail distribution centers.

Q1+1 2000 Plan

inspection_631To prepare for the next millennium, Qualytel has developed a plan they call Q1+1 2000. The objectives of this plan is to support consolidation and growth throughout the company with focus on quick response and quality.

According to the company, Qualytel has many strengths including a high-quality product and the right niche market. They also have a sound textile tradition and state-of-the-art machinery. Being a NAFTA company is also an advantage, because it gives them access to commercial channels in the NAFTA marketplace.

The company hopes to be three times as big as they are now in five years time, and will approach European and Mexican markets.

Qualytel currently trains workers for advancement in the company. They have on-the-floor training in a variety of jobs, including a program where a worker "shadows" a manager.

According to Javier Elenes, executive general director: "Education is an investment towards quality.

January 2000