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Fast Transit Automation

Harriet & Henderson's Cedartown Plant benefits from UTIT yarn handling system.

Alfred Dockery

H eadquartered in Henderson, N.C., Harriet & Henderson Yarns Inc. is a privately held sales yarn company formed in 1895. Harriet & Henderson services both domestic and international apparel and industrial markets with ring-spun (RS) and open-end (OE) yarns. Its primary end-use markets include sports socks, knitted outerwear and underwear, as well as various woven applications.

The company manufactures yarn using ring and OE spinning systems with slub capacities on both.

Harriet & Henderson operates four yarn manufacturing plants, which produce roughly 150 million pounds annually. These include: the Harriet #2 Plant in Henderson, N.C.; Bladen and Clarkton Plants in Bladen County, N.C.; and the Cedartown Plant in Georgia.

In addition, the company has distribution centers in Hickory, N.C., and Fort Payne, Ala. Harriet & Henderson produces a wide range of spun yarn products that vary according to yarn count (from Ne 5/1 to Ne 30/1), manufacturing process and fiber content.

The company manufactures 100-percent cotton and some 100-percent polyester yarn, as well as various cotton/polyester and cotton/acrylic blends. These include heather blends of cotton/black polyester and cotton/black stock-dyed cotton. The company is also developing other colored and surface-effect yarns in an effort to bring value-added products and ideas to the market and its customers.

Yarn packages spiral down from overhead storage on the way to an automated packing line at Harriet & Henderson’s Cedartown Plant. The U.T.I.T. system transports, inspects, stores and packs the yarn.


The Cedartown Plant is a state-of-the-art, OE spinning facility. It began as a greenfield plant and started continuous operation in December 1998. The plant is in an industrial park located just outside of Cedartown, a hamlet of about 10,000 residents in northwest Georgia approximately 20 miles south of Rome.

The plant produces approximately 1 million pounds of 100-percent cotton yarn per week for weaving, hosiery and knit outerwear applications. This means that the Cedartown Plant's 100 associates, roughly one-sixth of Harriet & Henderson's workforce, produce nearly one-third of the company's total yarn output. Yarn counts ranging from Ne 5/1 to Ne 22/1 are used domestically and exported to the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) region.

All of the production machinery from opening through spinning is Switzerland-based Rieter Textile Systems' equipment, including C 51 Hi•Per•Cards, RSB-D 30 drawframes and R 20 rotor spinning machines. The plant has enjoyed a strong running schedule and has increased its production capacity twice.

An associate at Harriet & Henderson’s Cedartown Plant tends to a Rieter R 20 open-end spinning machine.

Expanded And Improved

"Our business has been strong," said Gregg Webb, Cedartown plant manager. "We've been fortunate in that we've had some kind of major addition every year."

The plant started out with 14 spinning machines, 25 cards and 10 draw frames. In 1999, two OE spinning machines and one draw frame were added. In 2000, the plant gained an additional five spinning machines, nine cards and three draw frames. In 2001, an automated yarn transport, inspection and packing system from Italy-based U.T.I.T. Wagner Automation S.p.A. was added. The system is the first of its kind to be installed in the United States.

"We became interested in the U.T.I.T. system for labor savings, package quality improvement and reduced ergonomic risk," said Webb. "We had 16 people manually removing and inspecting packages, and the potential risk of carpal tunnel syndrome was becoming a concern.

"With the addition of the U.T.I.T. system, there has been a tremendous reduction in product handling. Now no one touches the yarn from the time it leaves the spinning machine until a forklift places it on a truck. As a result, Cedartown has realized a decline in Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) recordable injuries. Its most recent safety milestone is reaching the two-year mark without a lost-time accident.

Installation of the U.T.I.T. system went relatively smoothly. There was some concern about language difficulties between the Italian erectors and the plant's English- and Spanish-speaking associates. These concerns proved to be groundless. "I was amazed at how quickly our associates picked the system up," Webb said. "I was very pleased with the training that U.T.I.T. offered the associates, helping them get the system up and running."

Left to right: Giovanni Vaccari, U.T.I.T.; Mike Daniels, M&M Machinery Sales LLC; Gregg Webb, Harriet & Henderson; and Scott Wilfong, M&M Machinery Sales. Harriet & Henderson purchased the U.T.I.T. equipment through M&M Machinery Sales, U.T.I.T.’s US sales representative.

The U.T.I.T. System

In the U.T.I.T. system, first, a pneumatic elevator lifts packages from each spinning machine up to the transport system or collecting circuit.

Next, packages are loaded onto a "train" or "chain" equipped with plastic trays that hold each package. U.T.I.T. calls the system the "Snake Cone." It uses the same components the company has been employing for several years on bobbin transport systems. It was shown for the first time at the American Textile Machinery Exhibition-International (ATME-I) 2001 in Greenville.

This train-with-trays approach offers several advantages over older systems such as conveyor belts. Packages are less likely to be damaged. The risk of mixing yarn counts also is eliminated because all of the packages in a train come from the same spinning machine, so each chain or train has its own identity."

Each package rides on a single plastic tray," said Giovanni Vaccari, sales engineer and US sales area manager, U.T.I.T. "The system is modular and adaptable to existing buildings and existing machinery layouts. Another advantage is speed. It is much faster than a conveyor."

The Cedartown Plant's spinning machines are arranged in three bays. Two have eight machines each, and the third has five. The package transport system can handle a single doff from each of these bays simultaneously and is guaranteed to handle a package flow of up to 1,000 packages per hour.

Transportation, Inspection And Storage

From the spinning room, the packages are conveyed out to the warehouse. Once there, they go through two inspection stations and are automatically checked for proper diameter, weight, conicity and transfer tail. Any packages not within tolerance are automatically rejected.

After the packages are inspected, they are transferred to buffer trains that contain exactly enough packages to complete a pallet or several cardboard cases. These buffer trains are stored above the packing area. This overhead storage system can hold up to 21 different yarn counts - one per spinning machine. While the plant can produce up to 21 different yarn counts at a time, that can translate into as many as 50 SKUs, depending on factors such as yarn package size and the type of packaging required by the customer.

"Domestically, more and more customers prefer the returnable tray pack and the largest package size available," Webb said. "Export customers prefer cardboard cases, but there too, they are looking for larger-diameter packages."With the exception of the packing and wrapping stations in the warehouse, the system is installed overhead. From the overhead storage area, the trains carry the packages to one of two automated packing stations via one of two spirals.

Packing It Out

The plant is equipped with two packing stations. One is a palletizer with a multiple head gripper, pallet separator and cover pick-up device. It is designed to pack the yarn into tray packs. The other unit is a boxing machine that can pack different package diameters following different patterns into cardboard cases. These cases are automatically folded and formed by the machine.

Both lines are capable of wrapping and strapping prior to shipping. The ability to seamlessly switch back and forth between the two packing lines is essential at Cedartown because it is a sales yarn plant. Here, constant product mix changes are the norm.

The automated yarn transport and inspection system has been in place for more than a year now. Plant management is pleased with the system and reports that it has a short payback period. Webb declined to go into specifics, other than to say there were tremendous labor savings and to mention a 0.5-percent efficiency gain at the spinning machines due to optimization of doffing time.

Editor's Note: Alfred Dockery is editor of The HunTex Report, a newsletter for industrial textiles. A graduate of North Carolina State University’s College of Textiles, he has been writing about the textile industry for 15 years. Dockery is based in Clemmons, N.C.

April 2003