By  on August 8, 2006

WASHINGTON — Beyond the detrimental impact high oil prices can have on the consumer, synthetic fiber producers have to worry about them on other fronts.

Many synthetic fibers, such as spandex, nylon and polyester, have petroleum bases that are vulnerable to price changes in oil. Prices of natural gas or oil further influence production costs since they are used as fuel to melt down the hard polymer pellets that are ultimately extruded as fibers.

Transportation costs also go up.

"These impacts are not trivial, they're pretty significant," said Bob Francois, Invista Apparel's executive vice president for the Americas, of raw material and transportation costs.

Polyester staple cost 85 cents per pound last month, up 23.2 percent from a year earlier, while polyester filament went for 82 cents, a 13.9 percent rise, according to consulting firm DeWitt & Co. A Labor Department index that tracks the wholesale prices of all synthetic fibers stood at 116 in June, up from 112.8 a year earlier.

Invista has raised some of its prices over the last couple of years to cope with higher raw material costs, said Francois.

"As a business, there's nothing we can do about whatever the price of natural gas or gasoline or oil or whatever feed stocks are," he said. "We've had to work really hard and dig deep to really find innovative ways to approach the business."

That means everything from examining new products to changing business processes.

"It's just something that everybody around the industry has to deal with," he said.

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