Interview with Christian Guinet, Secretary General, French Textile Equipment Manufacturers’ Association (UCMTF)
We have many customers, particularly in Gaziantep and Aleppo, they are not only customers but partners and friends. No word as any significance.
From the information we receive, may I only say that we admire the resilience of the Turkish and Syrian people. Many factories have been back to work incredibly fast. That may be the best homage to the victims!
Kohan Textile Journal: Let us know about UCMTF member’s participation at ITMA Milano 2023. How many French companies will be there, Do you have any new technology to exhibit in ITMA for first time from French manufacturers?
Christian Guinet: Let me remind you that we are particularly strong in long fibre spinning (wool, acrylic …), yarn twisting and control (including technical yarns), space-dyeing, heat setting for carpet yarns, carpet systems, bleaching and hydro-extractor equipment, dyeing and finishing, felts and belts for finishing processes, precision machining and textile ERP.
Offering off-shelve equipment for mass market productions is not our strategy. We are focused on smaller or even niche markets, then we have to be prepared to adapt our equipment to our customer’s specific needs and have design and production capacities to do this at industrial prices. This has been our strategy for many years, and this is why most of our customers are long-time partners.
They need flexible equipment and many services from us. Our members have to be agile to design, produce and service the equipments which are needed even for small orders. As they are mostly SME’s, run by real entrepreneurs, they can sustain this strategy. R&D and service are in their DNA.
ITMA 2023 will take place next June in Milano. I cannot speak specifically of the new features our members will introduce. It is not the responsibility of our association to do so. Each equipment manufacturer has his own strategy to present its innovations to his own partners and to the general market.
Kohan Textile Journal: Please explain more about UCMTF Participants at ITMA 2023, range of products and machinery in textile industry. Share with us the most important products and properties of French exhibitors in different categories.
Christian Guinet: In 2022, our sales were back to a “normal pre-pandemic” 1 billion euros annual turnover.
At the beginning of 2023, our orders books are quite good. Most of our members have a backlog of orders of about 5 to 6 months, and new orders are coming in.
For the long run, we believe that apparel, home textiles, and carpets productions will at least, increase with the world population and economic growth and that many new applications will fuel the technical textile sector. Then, new investments in equipments will be needed both to keep up with the growth of our customers and to modernize their factories. To be sustainable, this growth will need much more recycling but recycling is also a new sector by itself which needs as much equipments and workforce as the more traditional sectors.
Right now, we face two problems: inflation and shortages of some components. The rising prices of raw materials is not specific to the textile industry. After an unusually long period of worldwide low inflation, the geopolitical tensions, the war in Ukraine, the availability and prices of energy have set a return to a new wave of inflation, rising interest rates and social disruptions. In the equipment business, our companies have faced shortages and incredible price increases in electronic devices and transportation.
But, it is when everything looks complicated and difficult that good news may come in. Logistical disruptions seem to ease substantially, transportation prices are going back to pre-crisis levels, the inflation peak seems behind us and interest rates are increasing at a lower speed. Then, it may be time to be positive!
Kohan Textile Journal: Sustainability and recycling is an important subject for textile manufacturers all around the world, what is UCMTF and French textile machinery manufacturers’ sustainability policy?
Christian Guinet: New trends are of course related to sustainable developments and Artificial Intelligence.
Concerning sustainable developments, the demand comes from the end consumers themselves. The well-known global brands as the smaller ones cannot just follow this trend but have to be leaders. Then their own suppliers, the textile (fabrics and carpets) manufacturers have to adapt their own production processes. This is where, we, as equipment manufacturers, have our own responsibilities. Offer energy, water, chemical, raw materials savings thanks to new design of our equipments.
For the long term, I think it will have a positive effect on our companies. Just one example: one of our members, a few days ago, showed me the energy savings from the replacement of equipment he had computed with a customer. The pay back of the equipment he was offering was less than a year compared to the machine which was installed in the customer’s factory!
The equipment we sell may run for many years but the old equipments are not energy efficient, new investments have very quick paybacks, I believe that this is a real argument to invest and then an additional chance for us to sell new equipments.
Artificial intelligence may help as it helps to focus on zero defects and traceability. Industry 4.0, is already a reality in the factories of our customers. Artificial intelligence is no more a dream but a tool to maximize cost reductions and the metaverse is already developed, even by us as an association, to design virtual presentations. In our R&D departments, we see the developments of digitalization and Artificial Intelligence.
For example, to design new equipments we have incredible tools like CATIA which has been developed by a French software company. It is sure that digitalization within a factory or between customers and suppliers will continue to take a bigger and bigger role.
Kohan Textile Journal: How UCMTF help to members to promote their machines and services around the world? What is your most important activities in last year?
Christian Guinet: As the trade association grouping the French textile equipment manufacturers, we are a member of Cematex and therefore have an important role in the decision-making process of this European association which owns the ITMA brands including ITMA ASIA.
We provide our members with economic information and represent them at the European and French levels.
We organize road shows in the textile areas. For example, in the countries your journal is the most active:
– In Turkey, our second most important market, we have organized road shows in Gaziantep (and the next day in close by Aleppo), in Bursa and we have been active at all the ITM expos
– In Africa, we have participated in the African Sourcing expo in Addis-Abeba
– In Egypt we have organized a seminar in Cairo and participated in Stitch-Tex just before the pandemic broke
– In Iran, our conferences took place in the main textile production centers including Kashan, Ispahan and Yazd
– Our latest conference took place in Morocco in November 2022. We organized it in Fès
I certainly forget some. But I do not forget our goal which is to do all this even better and closer and closer to our customers.
We have also redesigned our website www.ucmtf.com which is a very convenient hub to visit our members own websites. We have helped our members design new marketing tools incorporating virtual presentations.
Our sales teams can travel again. As they have established personal relationships with their counterparts, I strongly believe they can go beyond usual business relationships and see how our companies can help their customers develop new markets and products. These partnerships are really important. Our strategy has always been to have very stable collaborators, continuing education and internal promotion, this is very positive to establish a mutual understanding relationship with our customers and go beyond the day-to-day business.
Kohan Textile Journal: At the end you can add any other information that you think is interesting for readers in the EMEA region and a better interview.
Christian Guinet: The French textile equipments manufacturers are the 5th exporters worldwide. ITMAs are important to meet our customers at the highest level. At ITMA we show our latest innovations but we also discuss with our customers-partners about the future. We tell them on which technologies we are working, they tell us what their markets are asking and we try to find how these could fit.
ITMA 2023 will be a great edition. I just received some statistics from the ITMA organizers. Already 120 000 square meters are booked which is about 10% more than the final figures for ITMA 2019 in Barcelona (before the pandemic).
I would like to end this interview with a very proud moment for us. Kristian Blummenfelt, the Norwegian athlete won the Men’s Triathlon Olympic Gold Medal. At that time, I did not know that the Trimtex Skinsuit he was wearing for swimming, cycling and running was made of a fabric designed and produced by the French company Payen. Even more: to dye and finish the fabric, Payen is using a machine from one of our members, Alliance. It dyes and finishes the fabric which incorporates an unusually high percentage of elastane-covered polymer.
Highly technical finishing equipment for a highly technical fabric and, at the end of the story, a Gold Medal!
I trust that many customers will award us “gold medals” during the next ITMA. It will be an honor and a pleasure to welcome them on our booths.