Byline: Georgia Lee

ATLANTA--Globalization and Quick Response were the hallmarks of the Bobbin Show here last week, as American manufacturers, struggling with a shrinking domestic industry, shopped the show for international sourcing contacts, as well as technology to speed up the process from design to selling floor.
"The trend to offshore manufacturing is so entrenched that people think they have to do it, even if they can produce domestically at the same cost," said Manuel Gaetan, president and chief executive officer of Bobbin Blenheim, sponsor of the show. "International sourcing has become one of the fastest- growing areas of the show."
Total attendance at the four-day show, which ran through Friday at the Georgia World Congress Center, was approximately 27,000, about equal with last year. Over 3,000 registered buyers were from outside the U.S. That number was similar to a year ago as well, but a spokeswoman pointed out that last year a simultaneous conference in conjunction with Bobbin sponsored by the Textile Institute beefed up last year's tally by several hundred people. The Textile Institute, based in Manchester, England, has a membership drawn from 100 countries.
Meanwhile, exhibitors at Bobbin totaled 970, compared with 918 last year. While 50 percent of the show is devoted to machinery, including hardware and software, a new section for transportation, distribution and logistics was added this year, as manufacturers look to make offshore sourcing more efficient.
Maritza Kaestner, marketing, textiles and manufacturing director for Proexport, a Colombian government trade organization, has exhibited at the show for eight years. "People used to see us last, if at all," she said. "Now they come to us first, then they go look at machinery."
Kaestner added that 50 percent of Proexport's total 807 business was generated at the show.
"In the past two years, more large retailers have approached us here looking to do private label programs, particularly full-package programs," she said. "Everybody wants a piece of the pie in the Western Hemisphere."
Machinery exhibitors reported a decline in traffic, based on a difficult domestic climate, as well as the changing focus of the show.
"The state of the industry in the U.S. is not good," said Mike Ferris, vice president, general manager, North American products for Singer. "Our domestic customers aren't looking for sewing equipment. They're looking for spreading, embroidery and pressing equipment, and other avenues for quick response and ergonomics. We've changed our philosophy to broaden our portfolio as manufacturing moves offshore."
Steve Kaufman, executive vice president, Juki America, agreed that apparel manufacturer traffic was down, particularly evident in the decreased number of people sent by domestic manufacturers. He added that other industries, such as home furnishings and air bags, had picked up the slack by declining apparel attendance.
David Siegelman, president, Lectra Systems Inc., said that the majority of attendees were looking for technology to serve both U.S. and offshore operations, as well as to connect the two.
"People with a design system in New York want ways to electronically send information to remote operations," he said. "Customers have automated gradually, and they want to be sure everything can be linked together."
He added that U.S. buyers had shown the most interest in computer-aided design, such as Graphic Instinct, a CAD system that uses an electronic pen rather than a mouse or keyboard, which allows the user to make changes as if on a sketchboard.
"Manufacturers want anything to shorten product development time," he said. "With a high-quality photo printout that can be e-mailed to other design systems, this eliminates the need for samples."
Women's apparel manufacturers reporting an increase in global sourcing shopped the Bobbin Show for Quick Response technology to speed up the process from product research to floor-ready merchandise. As sourcing becomes more global, transportation, distribution and logistics concerns have become more important, they said.
Among the prominent manufacturers on hand, John Adams, president and chief executive office of Russell Corp., attended the show primarily as a networking opportunity. "In addition to technology, the show offers an international network with our sourcing and contracting partners," he said.
In addition to sourcing, global marketing is a primary goal for Russell. "The growth rate in the U.S. is not continuing as it was in the Seventies and Eighties," he said. "We have to go after a worldwide population." Adams said that Russell would intensify its sourcing and marketing programs in Central and South America, as well as Hong Kong.
Forty people from Russell attended the show, more to research technology rather than actually purchase it, said Adams.
David Masket, president of Maidenform, looked for shop-floor technology for the company's sewing plants in the Caribbean, which account for between 75 and 80 percent of Maidenform's production.
"Intimate apparel people were the pioneers in offshore production 40 years ago," he said. "We were in Mexico long before [the North American Free Trade Agreement]. Now, there's a renewed interest in all these areas." He added that the company would expand its Western Hemisphere presence by sourcing in Chile, as well as broadening marketing efforts in Europe and Asia.
Peter Gabbe, executive vice president, Carole Hochman Designs Inc., New York, sleepwear manufacturer, said that the company's needs had changed dramatically in the past three years.
"We're no longer a manufacturer, but a worldwide sourcer," he said. "We want technology, particularly communications technology, with the ability to process and distribute information quickly worldwide.
"Fifteen years ago this show was machinery-driven, 10 years ago, it was technology-driven," he said. "Now we're looking to absorb all the changes in technology to determine what best suits our company. It's no longer technology for technology's sake."

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