10 thoughts on “Yarn, Fabric, Sweatshirt”

  1. I was just discussing this with a friend from Hong Kong a few days ago. With the rise in Chinese wages, coupled with the fuel cost increases, some of these jobs are coming back.

    And this is nothing new.

    Capital flows to the most efficient place (unless government confiscates it – where it disappears into a black hole)

  2. And automation/roboticization is doing to manufacture the exact same thing as mechanization did to agriculture — took a labor force in the 80-90% employment range and dropped it to 2-5% of the population.

    I’ve been predicting this for about 20 years. America is the bleeding edge, “post-industrial” “3rd economy”. We are well into shifting to that 3rd economy, an IP & Services economy. A degree of dislocation, of difficult change as workers in the old economies (yes, even agriculture has downsized, so called “Farm Aid” was led by the last remnant of old-style farming) are shifted into the new economies is unavoidable.

    And no, that’s not just “McJobs” — McJobs are what you work at if all you have is “McSkills”.

    You need to use the “time off” to pick up new skills to make yourself more useful.

  3. Some points about the article:

    1) Although the headline emphasizes “floors largely empty of people,” the company employs 4000 people in total. Also, as the article does note, the labor-intensive part of the value chain is in the cutting and sewing of the garments (which is done not by Parkdale, but rather by its customers.) It would have been interesting for the author to make a stab at analyzing how many of these downstream jobs are enabled by the 140-employee yarn plant.

    2) The article says “Over all, the company employs 4,000 people, its biggest work force ever, but it is technology that has made it competitive.” This is the kind of superficial thinking about “technology” that we are seeing far too much of these days. Does Parkdale own the patents on its production equipment? I doubt it. What has made it possible for it to *use* this equipment in a way to make it compeititve? Clearly, its people.

    3) I claim no special expertise in the textile & apparel industry, but I’m pretty sure yarn isn’t “spun into fabric”, at Carolina Cotton Works or anywhere else.

  4. The New York Times is probably not the most knowledgeable about manufacturing of any kind. Still, the article was interesting. Just imagine if we had a business favorable administration.

  5. Note this comment from a Parkdale executive:

    “Most of our costs are power-related”

    There are many kinds of manufacturing whose economics are very sensitive to power costs, and the Democratic Party’s war on all practical forms of energy production is a threat to the renaissance of American manufacturing, as well as a threat to individual family budgets via higher electricity and fuel bills.

    “Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket”–Barack Obama, 2008.

  6. MK…”just imagine if we had a business favorable administration”

    I don’t think it’s just that they’re anti-BUSINESS, they are also anti-INDUSTRY, with the exception of certain fashionable activities such as making windmills.

    If the American textile industry were run by the All-Union People’s Social Justice Textile Collective, instead of by companies like Parkdale, the “progressive” energy policies would STILL be a threat to its productivity.

  7. Another one!

    “(The Alok Industries CEO) said Alok chose the U.S. for its access to cotton. The U.S. is the world’s third-largest cotton producer, behind China and India. More important, he said, energy costs in the U.S. are almost a fourth of what they are in India, Mr. Agarwaal said.

    “Energy is driving [the decision],” he said.”

  8. My brother is an intermediary between Asian manufacturers of clothing and US retailers. For some very long time he has been traveling to places like Vietnam, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka, to visit the manufacturers.

    I am sure that cut and sew can be automated, but the process is so low tech that it has been cheaper to find really low wage places to conduct it.

    One other factor that keeps unemployment high and wages low, and that no politician wants to discuss is US immigration policy (or the lack thereof).

  9. Just as a thought experiment: imagine that the import of apparel to the US was absolutely impossible. Doesn’t matter why. What would happen to the productivity of the (suddenly revived) US cut and sew industry?

    I suspect that while it might take a few years, we’d see absolutely amazing productivity improvements, partly based on automation and partly on process improvement.

  10. “the All-Union People’s Social Justice Textile Collective”
    :-P You’re only missing Mandatory somewhere in there.

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