SIC 3552

This industry deals with establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing machinery for the textile industries, including parts, attachments, and accessories. Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing industrial sewing machines are classified in SIC 3559: Special Industry Machinery, Not Elsewhere Classified, and those manufacturing household sewing machines are classified in SIC 3639: Household Appliances, Not Elsewhere Classified.

NAICS Code(s)

333292 (Textile Machinery Manufacturing)

Industry Snapshot

The textile machinery industry is closely tied with American consumer demand for textile products, including clothing and home furnishing fabrics. With the steady growth of the economy during the late 1990s, the textile machinery industry remained healthy, driven by consumer spending and a booming market for higher quality products.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 477 establishments made products in this classification in the late 1990s. They shipped $1.8 billion worth of merchandise in 2000, compared to $1.71 billion in 1999 and $1.5 billion in 1990. These businesses spent $728 million on materials in 2000. The largest concentrations of facilities in this industry were in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. About two-thirds of the establishments in this category had fewer than 20 employees.

Organization and Structure

The textile machinery industry encompasses all machinery used from the start of the yarn-making process through weaving the cloth, final treatments, and dyeing. Most fabrics produced by weaving or knitting must undergo a number of further processing treatments before they are ready for sale. In the finishing operations the fabric is subjected to mechanical and chemical treatment, whereby its appearance and quality are improved and its commercial value is enhanced. Each of these processes requires different machinery, thus the scope of textile machinery is very broad.

The term "finishing" or "dressing" is collectively applied to the various finishing treatments required for each type of fabric. For example, textiles produced from vegetable fibers require different treatment—raising, singeing, dyeing, printing—than those produced from animal or synthetic fibers. These procedures require mechanical treatment and processing by chemicals to improve the glaze, shape-retaining properties, crease resistance, smoothness, and drape of the material. Additionally, depending on the kind of material and the purpose for which it is to be used, a textile can be made shrink-proof, water-repellent, supple, soft, or heavy. Mechanical finishing treatments may consist of mangling, pressing, rolling, milling, shearing, calendering, raising, and singeing. Before undergoing these treatments, the material is passed through liquid baths or steam baths in which various substances, such as starch, vegetable gums, glues, gelatins, and mucilages are added to the fabric.

Of the 500 U.S. textile machinery establishments operating in the mid-1990s, fewer than 200 made complete machines. Although a number of textile machinery manufacturers made assorted products, original-equipment manufacturers tended to concentrate production on one or two types of machines.

Revenues derived from the sale of parts and accessories accounted for approximately 36 percent of the industry's annual sales in the mid-1990s. Fiber-to-fabric textile machinery accounted for 9 percent of the product share. Fabric machinery for weaving, knitting, embroidering, braiding, tufting, and lace making accounted for 6 percent. Finishing machinery accounted for 5 percent. Machines used for bleaching, mercerizing, and dyeing accounted for 5.5 percent. Machinery for drying stocks, yarns, cloth, carpet, and other non-woven materials accounted for 4.2 percent. Non-specific machinery and machinery not elsewhere classified accounted for the remaining 34.3 percent.

Background and Development

The first hand weaving looms are thought to date back to 4000 B.C. Although the East is credited with the first horizontally arranged weaving plane, its date of origin is unknown. A shedding mechanism, which originated in China, was not introduced in Europe until the third or fourth century A.D. Only minor advances were made with the hand loom over the next millennium. The first major development occurred in 1733, when the flying shuttle was introduced. Designed by an Englishman, the shuttle came equipped with wheels, which reduced resistance as the shuttle passed through the fibers. This considerably decreased the time constraints of producing woven fabrics and expanded the capabilities of the hand loom.

Several blueprints for power looms were developed during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. Circa 1500, Leonardo da Vinci sketched a hydraulic-driven power loom. This idea was repeated in 1678 and later in 1745; however, none of these were built. It was not until 1784 that an English parson designed the first manufacturable and functional power loom, which was able to produce a limited number of fabrics. In 1796 an automatic loom stopping system, called the "shuttle stop motion," was developed. In 1822 an English engineer made further improvements to the power loom, which prompted the manufacture of the first large series of power looms.

The oldest known patterning device is drawn in a Chinese book dating back to the twelfth century A.D. In 1725 a punched cardboard card served as the first dobby, a device used for creating unusual weaves. J. M. Jacquard created the first patterning machine in 1805, and variations of this machine still bear his name. Another significant advance occurred in 1835, when a shuttle was developed that enabled different thread colors to be inserted into the fabric weave.

Textile manufacturers of the early-to mid-1990s were secure in a potentially growing market. The development of machinery to support this industry mirrors the outlook of the entire retail industry. Likewise, technological developments in machinery that offer textile manufacturers a competitive edge in terms of cost savings, increased productivity, and better quality, also stimulate the machinery side of the textile industry.

Due to higher sales volumes and increased efficiencies from capital investment in machinery, profits in the textiles industry exploded in the early 1990s. Record profits of $1.9 billion were reported in 1992, rising from $882 million in 1991 and $433 million in 1990. However, industry profits had dropped to $832 million by the end of 1996, despite predictions that the industry's explosive growth would continue.

Continued investment in textile machinery climbed in the mid-1990s, reflecting textile manufacturers' optimism toward the industry's future. Buyer demands for higher quality apparel and home furnishings at lower prices encouraged capital investment. Manufacturers also shifted to automated processes in lieu of labor intensive operations that could increase costs.

Inventories grew significantly between 1985 and 1993, rising from a value of nearly $4.5 billion to $6.0 billion. During the mid-1990s, most companies in the machinery industry reduced costs to compete more effectively in the global marketplace. They upgraded plants and equipment, reduced employment, increased inventory turnover, and sold marginal businesses. Many also acquired other firms, consolidating operations to further reduce costs.

Current Conditions

According to the Census Bureau, textile machinery represented nearly two-thirds of the sales in this classification in the late 1990s. This was primarily from sales of cleaning and opening fiber-to-fabric machinery, carding and combing fiber-to-fabric frames, and other fiber-to-fabric yarn preparing machines, which accounted for about 30 percent of the industry's shipments. By far the largest value of product shipments in this segment originated in North Carolina and South Carolina, trailed by Georgia, Illinois, and New York. The 157 establishments whose primary products fell within this segment shipped $1.2 billion worth of merchandise and spent $523 million on materials in the late 1990s.

Parts and attachments for textile machinery made up the remaining one-third of the industry's sales. This was primarily from parts and attachments for weaving machines (about 6 percent of sales) and fiber-to-fabric card clothing machinery (also 6 percent). By far the largest value of product shipments in this segment originated in North Carolina and South Carolina, with Connecticut and Georgia a distant third and fourth. The 91 establishments whose primary products fell within this segment shipped $473 million worth of merchandise and spent $174 million on materials in the late 1990s.

Total industry shipments reached $1.8 billion in 2000 and the cost of materials totaled $728 million. The number of industry employees fell from 13,511 in 1997 to 12,409 in 2000.

Industry Leaders

Among companies whose primary products fell within this classification, Hirsch International Corp. (Hauppauge, New York) was the largest with 365 employees and sales of $127 million in 1998. Speizman Industries Inc. (Charlotte, North Carolina) had 231 employees and sales of $90.9 million. Saco Lowell Inc. (a subsidiary of CT Enterprises based in Easly, South Carolina) had 200 employees and estimated sales of $30 million. Morrison Textile Machinery Co. (Fort Lawn, South Carolina) had 200 employees and estimated sales of $29 million, and Eastman Machine Co. (Buffalo, New York) had 210 employees and estimated sales of $25.7 million.


Employment in the textile machinery industry dropped from 17,500 people in 1983 to 15,600 in 1987, then rose to 17,400 in 1990. Employment dropped again to 16,700 in 1994, and dropped further to 12,409 in 2000. The industry's 7,896 production workers earned an average hourly wage of $13.77 in 2000. At plants that made primarily textile machinery but not parts, attachments, and accessories, the average hourly wage for production workers was $14.40. At plants that made primarily parts and attachments for those machines, the average hourly wage for production workers was $13.13.

Certain occupations in this industry were expected to be cut back significantly by the year 2005, including secretaries; drafters; engineering, mathematical, and science managers; bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks; welding machine setters and operators; machine tool cutting operators (except in North Carolina); general office clerks; and stock clerks. However, job opportunities for machine builders and North Carolina machine tool operators were expected to increase by at least 10 percent. Industrial machinery mechanics positions were expected to increase by about 8 percent.

America and the World

The textile machinery industry is ultimately driven by the retail buying habits of American shoppers. In 1992 sales profits hit a record high of $1.9 billion, but by 1994, those profits had plunged 55 percent to $832 million. Lagging consumer confidence was cited as the main reason for this trend. However, such factors as decreasing leisure time and increased bargain shopping also contributed to the decline in retail sales. Consequently, the industry suffered from decreasing domestic demand through the mid-1990s.

Ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) opened new markets, expanded sales, and increased production for the textile industry. In the mid-1990s Canada and Mexico were the two largest export markets for U.S. textile and apparel products. U.S. exports to Canada had grown an average of 19 percent per year since 1986, reaching $2.5 billion in 1994 and resulting in a trade surplus in the sector of $892 million. U.S. exports to Mexico had increased by 25 percent on average each year since 1986, reaching $2.3 billion in 1994. U.S. imports from Mexico exceeded sector exports by $7 million in 1994, largely reflecting the increased use of offshore production, where cut fabric parts were exported to Mexico for assembly into apparel and then re-exported to the United States. NAFTA contains a "rule of origin" clause that will gradually enable Canada, Mexico, and the United States to waive duties and quotas on products made from raw materials that were produced in one of the three nations. Tariffs will be phased out in a maximum of ten years for products manufactured in North America that meet NAFTA rules of origin. In time, this will give U.S., Mexican, and Canadian manufacturers a competitive advantage over textile producers in other countries.

The dramatic political and economic changes in Europe and the former Soviet Union have also created new markets for textile machinery. While many machinery suppliers exist within Europe, their technology is inferior to that of the West and Japan. Consequently, textile producers in these European countries may look to U.S. manufacturers to help modernize their facilities.

With nearly half of its production exported, the U.S. textile machinery industry markets its equipment aggressively in many foreign markets. The major markets are China, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Germany, Thailand, and Italy.

Research and Technology

One industry leader in technical innovation, Muratech Textile Machinery, has developed an automatic transportation system for synthetic fibers. This system can automate every aspect of a synthetic textile plant, from package transportation to package inspection. The company also developed an automatic transportation system for spun yarn, which does everything from transporting bobbins to inspecting packages. These automation systems enhance quality and production control, improve working environments, and save labor.

Hollingsworth Saco Lowell Corporation has developed an automatic bale opening system, the Rotomix. Its counter-rotating heads blend the top, middle, and bottom of the bales to achieve a superior blend over other bale mixing equipment. The Rotomix can open three different bale sizes and boasts a maximum production speed of 1,500 kilograms per hour.

In the early 1990s another innovative company, Marshall & Williams, developed a dye pen that operates in a vertical orientation. The pen offers the control and accuracy normally reserved for horizontally orientated pens, while achieving efficiency characteristic of vertically oriented pens. Made of heat-treated, powdered steel alloy components, the pen is durable and stable, and it provides a superior pen line. Its close-return design features an offset for the return track and reduces nozzle-to-cloth distance. The company also developed an internal incineration system in which small incinerators are placed in several oven zones. Oven exhaust air is drawn into the incinerators, where it is heated to between 1,000 and 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit until all volatile organic compounds in the exhaust have been destroyed. The clean exhaust is passed through a heat exchanger before it is released from the oven. Demand for this system is expected to grow dramatically as manufacturers strive to meet increasingly strict regulations imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Further Reading

Darnay, Arsen J., ed. Manufacturing USA. 5th ed. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 1996.

Dun's Business Rankings, 1996. Bethlehem, PA: Dun & Bradstreet, Inc., 1996.

"The Industry." American Textile Machinery Association, 1997. Available from .

International Trade Administration. Executive Summary. U.S. Department of Commerce, 1997. Available from .

Standard & Poor's Industry Surveys. New York: Standard & Poor's Corporation, 1997.

Troester, David. "Eastman on Cutting Edge as Machine Sales Expand." Business First of Buffalo , 28 December 1998.

United States Census Bureau. 1997 Economic Census. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1999. Available from .

United States Census Bureau. "Statistics for Industries and Industry Groups: 2000." Annual Survey of Manufacturers. February 2002. Available from .

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