IN­NO­VA­TIONS IN BA­SIC CUT­TING MA­CHINES IS WHAT KEEPS EAST­MAN MA­CHINE COM­PANY ON ‘PRE­FERRED’ LIST

KEEP IT SIM­PLE’ SAYS WADE STEVEN­SON, EX­PORT PRES­I­DENT, EAST­MAN MA­CHINE COM­PANY

Stitch World - - NEWS -

Be­ing one of the pi­o­neers in the in­dus­try for over 12 decades, East­man Ma­chine Com­pany is a name to reckon with for its man­ual and hand­held cut­ting ma­chines. The com­pany’s so­lu­tions can be seen in the cut­ting room of fac­to­ries around the world and the credit of this suc­cess goes to East­man’s en­tire team. To be more spe­cific, Wade Steven­son, Ex­port Pres­i­dent, East­man Ma­chine Com­pany, is the man re­spon­si­ble for all the stu­pen­dous in­no­va­tions and the sys­tem­at­i­cally ex­e­cuted in­ter­na­tional oper­a­tions of the com­pany since many years. In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­ac­tion with Team StitchWorld, Wade shares his com­pany’s goal of value cre­ation for its cus­tomers and his vi­sion of nur­tur­ing busi­ness growth on a world­wide ba­sis.

SW: East­man has a his­tory of 128 years. How has the busi­ness changed over the years? What has helped East­man re­main con­sis­tent in busi­ness for so long?

Wade: When I started work­ing for East­man, we had other domestic com­peti­tors, such as Maimin and Wolf. These two com­pa­nies failed to see the pos­si­bil­i­ties of sell­ing their ma­chines and their tech­ni­cal know- how on a global ba­sis. To­day they no longer ex­ist. En­cour­aged by my fa­ther, Mr. Charles P. Steven­son, I was quick to re­al­ize that if we are to sur­vive and grow with­out meet­ing the same fate as oth­ers, we have to de­velop our busi­ness in Asia in gen­eral and in China in par­tic­u­lar.

The East­man Blue Streak II straight knife cut­ter is world fa­mous now in the gar­ment in­dus­try. Tens of thousands of com­pa­nies, both large and small, are us­ing the East­man Blue Streak cut­ting ma­chine ev­ery day to en­hance their cut­ting room pro­duc­tiv­ity.

As a re­sult, I am proud of the fact that to­gether with Mr. Aibe, for­merly from Juki Cor­po­ra­tion, we opened our sales of­fice East­man- CRA ( Hong Kong) Ltd. in Hong Kong in 1982. Some twenty years later, we opened a man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity in Ningbo, China. As a re­sult, with the help of our sales and man­u­fac­tur­ing, we be­came ge­o­graph­i­cally close to our cus­tomers and are able to of­fer them value, ef­fi­ciency, and the high­est level of per­for­mance.

SW: East­man Blue Streak is syn­ony­mous with straight knife cut­ting ma­chine in the gar­ment in­dus­try for al­most half a cen­tury now. Still the ma­chine is equally rel­e­vant and im­por­tant in man­u­fac­tur­ing oper­a­tions to­day. Does this mean that tech­nol­ogy has not ad­vanced in so many years?

Wade: The East­man Blue Streak II straight knife cut­ter is world fa­mous now in the gar­ment in­dus­try. Tens of thousands of com­pa­nies, both large and small, are us­ing the East­man Blue Streak cut­ting ma­chine ev­ery day to en­hance their cut­ting room pro­duc­tiv­ity. Over the pass­ing of time, we have added new fea­tures to this leg­endary ma­chine, such as vari­able speed cut­ting and its abil­ity to ad­just the bevel an­gle of blade sharp­ness. So, value ad­di­tions have def­i­nitely been done to the pre­vi­ously ex­ist­ing tech­nol­ogy. Vari­able speed cut­ting is one such fea­ture which al­lows the user to ad­just the speed of the knife in re­la­tion to the type of fab­ric he is cut­ting. For ex­am­ple, while cut­ting syn­thetic fab­ric, the user may wish to slow down the speed of the knife in or­der to elim­i­nate the fus­ing prob­lem. A dual speed op­tion is also avail­able and in many cases, works just as well. Very few cus­tomers to­day ask for a dif­fer­ent type of bevel an­gle. A sharper bevel an­gle might be use­ful for cut­ting heav­ier fab­ric, such as denim. In re­al­ity, we have very lit­tle de­mand for a dif­fer­ent bevel an­gle.

SW: Why East­man dis­con­tin­ued vari­able speed cut­ting fea­ture from its range in the Asian mar­ket (which are ap­par­ently sold in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries)?

Wade: We con­tinue to of­fer these op­tions, though many cus­tomers are ac­tu­ally not aware that we of­fer them. Also, the mar­ket to­day is more com­pet­i­tive than ever, and some of our cus­tomers are un­will­ing to pay for these ad­di­tional op­tions. But the truth re­mains that we have a wide range of op­tions avail­able for ev­ery cut­ting need. Our busi­ness is to meet our cus­tomer’s re­quire­ments and to main­tain the high­est level of cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion.

SW: To­day, there are three types of cut­tings that are most pop­u­lar: straight knife, band knife and com­put­er­ized cut­ting. Ear­lier fac­tory com­bi­na­tions were straight knife and band knife; now com­put­er­ized cut­ting is hav­ing more de­mand. Do you feel a com­pany can op­er­ate with only com­put­er­ized cut­ting ma­chine and not a sin­gle straight knife in the fac­tory?

Wade: Thousands of cus­tomers world­wide cut with our East­man ma­chines. There is no need for them to in­vest so much money in an au­to­mated ma­chine when in

East­man's sin­gle-ply cut­ters are fit­ted with a blue belt, a cut­ting sur­face made of polyurethane, a strong and durable belt. This smooth cut­ting area is per­fo­rated with mil­lions of holes to en­sure that vac­uum air­flow is evenly dis­persed and tex­tiles are se­cured for best cut­ting re­sults. It is an ideal so­lu­tion for tra­di­tional tex­tiles, syn­thetic fi­bres and del­i­cate silks be­cause the ma­te­ri­als will not stick or snag.

many cases, a man­ual cut­ting ma­chine can per­form just as well, and at a far cheaper rate. How­ever, for those cus­tomers who can af­ford au­to­mated ma­chines, we have many op­tions avail­able, in­clud­ing laser cut­ting.

SW: Ev­ery prod­uct has two mar­ket seg­ments – mass and niche. Where do you think has East­man po­si­tioned it­self ?

Wade: East­man tar­gets both the mass and the niche mar­kets. The mass mar­ket, for ex­am­ple, are the well known in­ter­na­tional brands man­u­fac­tur­ing jeans or polo shirts and out­er­wear, in­ti­mate ap­parel, etc. Niche mar­kets would in­clude the cus­tomers mak­ing tech­ni­cal tex­tiles, such as fi­bre­glass or Kevlar and so on. The amaz­ing suc­cess of East­man Ma­chine Com­pany in both the mar­kets does not go un­no­ticed.

SW: Com­put­er­ized cut­ting or CNC cut­ting used to cost around US $ 0.15 mil­lion two decades ago and the same is con­tin­u­ing even now! Why do you think the cost of equip­ment did not come down over the years? Why are there no low-end (ba­sic) ma­chines avail­able at sub­stan­tially lesser price in com­put­er­ized cut­ting?

Wade: We have de­vel­oped our own East­man com­put­er­ized cut­ting ma­chines, both sin­gle- ply and multi- ply, such as our fa­mous Eagle con­veyor cut­ter and Rap­tor au­to­mated cut­ter. These ma­chines ad­dress spe­cial­ized needs in the field of tech­ni­cal tex­tiles and gar­ment man­u­fac­tur­ing. We pro­vide value to cus­tomers in a wide va­ri­ety of in­dus­tries. It is no longer just ap­parel. Re­cently we had ex­pe­ri­enced strong de­mand from the

avi­a­tion and green en­ergy busi­ness. When cus­tomers are of­fered a choice, the vast ma­jor­ity of them pre­fer to do their cut­ting with an East­man ma­chine. It’s be­cause we align our­selves with our cus­tomers’ in­ter­ests and re­quire­ments so that they can be suc­cess­ful wher­ever their fac­tory or fac­to­ries are lo­cated.

SW: Sin­gle-ply CNC cut­ting was started with drag knife & te­flon por­ous sur­face. But nowa­days even sin­gle-ply CNC cut­ters are fit­ted with re­cip­ro­cat­ing knife & bris­tle bed? Why?

Wade: Although many sin­gle­ply cut­ters to­day are fit­ted with re­cip­ro­cat­ing knife and bris­tle bed nowa­days, ac­tu­ally in gar­ment man­u­fac­tur­ing, our sin­gle- ply cut­ters are fit­ted with a blue belt, a cut­ting sur­face made of polyurethane, a strong and durable belt. This smooth cut­ting area is per­fo­rated with mil­lions of holes to en­sure that vac­uum air­flow is evenly dis­persed and tex­tiles are se­cured for best cut­ting re­sults. It is an ideal so­lu­tion for tra­di­tional tex­tiles, syn­thetic fi­bres and del­i­cate silks be­cause the ma­te­ri­als will not stick or snag. Heavy­ounce in­dus­trial fabrics, foams and com­pos­ites are of­ten cut on por­ous plas­tic with East­man’s sin­gle- ply ma­chines. Por­ous plas­tic can with­stand higher cut­ting pres­sures typ­i­cally re­quired for rigid or thicker fabrics.

East­man’s sin­gle- ply cut­ters fea­ture drag and round knife blades. This type of cut­ting sys­tem is typ­i­cally used in set­tings where greater cut­ting ac­cu­racy is re­quired for high value goods ( or sam­ple cut­ting) com­pared to mul­ti­ply cut­ting for high vol­umes and lower cost goods.

Bris­tle block cut­ting sur­faces are typ­i­cal with re­cip­ro­cat­ing knife cut­ters, like East­man’s Talon and Rap­tor mod­els for multi-layer oper­a­tions. The bris­tle block al­lows the knife to plunge into the cut­ting sur­face as well as many lay­ers of fab­ric with­out los­ing ac­cu­racy from top to bot­tom ply.

SW: Cur­rently, die cut­ting caters to mi­nus­cule per­cent­age of to­tal cut­ting in sewn prod­ucts in­dus­try. Do you feel con­tin­u­ous die cut­ting will in­crease their per­cent­age and re­cip­ro­cat­ing knife cut­ting will re­duce?

Wade: We do not be­lieve that die cut­ting ma­chines have an in­ter­est­ing fu­ture. Our East­man man­ual cut­ters, band knife ma­chines, and sin­gle- ply and multi- ply cut­ters re­main highly pop­u­lar and their mar­ket share will con­tinue to in­crease in the fu­ture. We are clearly liv­ing in a dig­i­tal world, and the pop­u­lar­ity of au­to­mated cut­ters is def­i­nitely on the in­crease. The growth is rapid and we are par­tic­i­pat­ing in that growth. We are con­stantly up­dat­ing our tech­nol­ogy and at the same time seek­ing to re­duce the cost for our cus­tomers. We pro­vide a high level of tech­nol­ogy and a su­perb ser­vice. When a cus­tomer de­cides to work with us, they are not just buy­ing a ma­chine, be it a man­ual cut­ter or an au­to­mated one. They are get­ting an ex­pe­ri­ence — the fa­mous East­man ex­pe­ri­ence. No other com­pany of­fers that. And that is why we con­tinue to win.

"We are proud to of­fer ‘ sud­den ser­vice’; we re­spond to our cus­tomers’ needs and en­quiries the same day they are re­ceived. Again, we have been suc­cess­ful be­cause we know how to cre­ate value for our cus­tomers." – Wade Steven­son

SW: What is the value propo­si­tion of East­man in terms of ser­vice? How does it stand dif­fer­ent from the com­peti­tors present in the mar­ket of­fer­ing cut­ting ma­chines at a much cheaper price?

Wade: Many com­peti­tors in low- cost coun­tries have sprung up, mak­ing copy ma­chines, more or less in­fe­rior im­i­ta­tions. Of course, they are able to sell these ma­chines at a cheaper price. Why? They use cheaper parts that are not made for our specifications, their after-sales ser­vice is also of­ten poor to non- ex­is­tent. In a word, they fail to pro­vide any value. All they can do is to pro­vide price. At best, they are copy­cats. At worse, they are thieves of our cut­ting ma­chine de­signs and in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights.

We are proud to of­fer ‘sud­den ser­vice’; we re­spond to our cus­tomers’ needs and en­quiries the same day they are re­ceived. Again, we have been suc­cess­ful be­cause we know how to cre­ate value for our cus­tomers.

SW: Bring­ing back pro­duc­tion is a drive which both US and EU are ag­gres­sively pur­su­ing. We even have ex­am­ples of Chi­nese com­pa­nies set­ting up fac­to­ries in the US with the State help. Is East­man now look­ing more to­wards these hith­erto re­tail mar­kets, as fresh pro­duc­tion bases for sales, com­pared to the ex­ist­ing pro­duc­tion bases?

Wade: It is true that we are a US com­pany, and which some­times works to our ad­van­tage, es­pe­cially to­day, when there is a cer­tain push to bring back man­u­fac­tur­ing, but we also have a big global foot­print.

Wade Steven­son, Ex­port Pres­i­dent, East­man Ma­chine Com­pany

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