UCMTF President – from aeronautics to textile machinery
Bruno Ameline, President of UCMTF, the umbrella organisation of French Textile Machinery manufacturers has made a remarkable career. He comments his career development and evaluates the situation of the French textile machinery manufacturers on the world market and talks on the prospects of coming-up ITMA, the International Textile Machinery Exhibition 2015 in Milan (November 12 – 19, 2015). This feature is based upon an interview conducted by Evelyn Cholet, Secretary General of UCMTF
Bruno Ameline’s career
He graduated with a master degree from a renowned engineering school in France, École Centrale and started his professional career in aeronautics. I had no prior connections with the textile industry when I joined the NSC group, a family controlled company listed on the Paris stock exchange in 1999 to become its Chairman and CEO. In 2004, he was elected President of UCMTF.
The view on the sector and textiles
During these years, he discovered the fascinating world of textiles. Textile is a technology almost as old as mankind, but still today, it reinvents regularly itself and stands at the spearhead of many high-tech developments. When he thinks of apparel, he is fascinated by the creativity of designers, by the high quality standards requested by the end-markets, by the fast and flexible logistics achieved by producers and distributors. When thinking of home textiles or carpet manufacturing, he declares himself fascinated by the inventiveness of some carpet clusters.
Technical textiles which pave the way to so many new applications and growing at a fast rate are also an impressive sector. Needless to say, that he is also fascinated by the textile machinery sector, by the ever-increasing productivity of the machines, their reliability, the level of safety now achieved for their users, the automation devices (which can be equally compared to those in aeronautics, he can tell!), and more recently the energy consumption concerns which trigger the latest innovations. He is enthused also by key industry events like the ITMAs, which attract the whole textile planet for eight days on the same spot!
He forecasts a great future for the industries
He conceals that in Europe the textile industry has shrunk, but he sees a future for the industry. It all started with apparel manufacturing, which developed into a large intensive textile industry in Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries. Textile production then moved to lower labour cost areas and closer to the mass user markets – meaning Asia – although it had become more capital intensive with automation.
But many innovations and creativity still originate from Europe. Look at the most prestigious brands in apparel, the designers are based in such places as Paris, London or Milano. Look at technical textiles. In this sector European and American firms are still the most innovative ones and the production is still mostly on their shores. Look at the textile machinery, the most innovative companies – and many of the largest – are from Europe and ITMA Europe the largest textile equipment event worldwide.
Some companies do relocate in Europe or America to improve their customer’s service and take advantage there of some cost differentials like the low cost of energy and the quality of manpower. He adds: I do not think that relocation will be a major trend but I believe that the downsizing of the textile industry in Europe has come to an end and that the European textile machinery will continue to play the leading role.
The role of French textile machinery manufacturers
In 2015, in most application sectors French textile machinery manufacturers are back to the best levels achieved before the 2008-2010 crisis, many of the member companies have achieved record sales, and order intakes, but there is a lack of visibility in some major markets
The economic uncertainty and financial turmoil which we are currently observing in China may lead to a real slowdown. It is hard to tell whether the slowdown will accelerate, if it will be a soft landing or whether growth and investments will rebound.
He states: “I am more positive about India, the modernization of the textile industry is crucial for its future but investments decisions are slower than we did imagine.”
Other Asian markets stay active and the investment mood is still positive in many markets like Indonesia, Thailand, or South Korea. However, the competitive devaluation of the Yuan, if amplified, may create a big challenge to these economies.
The Turkish market has been very active so far, thanks to the long term managerial strategies of our Turkish customers but the 2015 economic slowdown, the current political uncertainty with the upcoming elections in November and the sharp decrease of the Turkish currency create some clear signs of a waiting-game.
Iran is the real short term opportunity for the European textile equipment. Modernisation is urgent, the entrepreneurs are in the starting blocks, and projects are well advanced, since the Geneva agreement on the upcoming raising of international sanctions. But financial circuits will take time to regularize. Soon, we will probably have more visibility on this promising market.
The US economy is clearly growing, the shale gas and oil resources have created a real gain on American production costs, financing is abundant, resulting in the fact that the USA should be a positive market for French machines. It is actually the case for some of our members active in specific applications like technical textiles, carpet manufacturing or recycling, and he specifies: “but, as I already said, I do not think relocation will be a major trend in apparel textiles.”
Key markets in South America like Brazil or Argentina are globally severely hurt by their lingering economies and political instability. He comments: We are particularly disappointed by the Brazilian market.
Markets like Western Europe, Eastern Europe or Central Asia are doing quite well but are not large enough to compensate for a sluggish China, should the market there decline significantly.
He states: “All in all, I am positive for 2015 as we currently enjoy buoyant order backlogs, but I feel concerned about a possibly stagnant 2016.”
ITMA 2015 is clearly a must-attend event, particularly in the context of slowing markets. Technical innovation – a genetic attribute of ITMAs in Europe – is a strong lever to activate sales.
Up to now, nearly 104 000 square meters of exhibiting space have been booked; this is already 20% more than for the last ITMA in Barcelona. During the last four years, the number of equipment manufacturers may have shrunk because of consolidation, but they are all stronger and willing to exhibit their knowhow with increasing presence and larger booths… There will certainly be many innovations unveiled and an emphasis on energy, water and raw materials savings. ITMA’s 2015 motto is “master the art of sustainable innovation”, sustainability is certainly a major decision parameter for investing. The French machinery manufacturers have already made inventive inroads into sustainability and we include this ingredient into all our new projects and R&D programs.
In Milano, a record number of visitors are expected from all over the world, they will represent an astonishing number of companies with investments projects.
The look into the crystal ball
Worldwide, textiles manufacturers face an array of challenges: open new markets, design new products, produce them in a reliable, cost effective and sustainable way. In order to sail in today’s fast changing environment, they need reliable partners such as providers of innovative industrial solutions and cutting-edge technologies.
The French equipment manufacturers are well positioned to be such partners, they have a recognized expertise in finding solutions for critical projects, whatever their scope, whatever their geographic localization. The quality of our client relationships stems also from the high stability of our teams, allowing them to go well beyond the purely technical.
He adds: “I believe that the choice of the city where ITMA takes place is of essence for the success of the show. The venue is chosen among European cities which offer the best expo centre, travelling and hosting facilities and, it is very important, the greatest attraction power. Milano certainly meets all these qualifications.”
What to expect from French ITMA exhibitors
Primarily visitors will discover each individual company’s innovations. Innovation is in our DNA. Remember Joseph Marie Jacquard, the most well-known textile machinery inventor, he was French! Frenchmen also invented the steam-powered automobile, vaccines, the high-speed train, the supersonic commercial airplane, computer chips on payment cards and much more! France sometimes has a reputation of great new ideas, but these are poorly marketed. This has largely changed, as our textile equipment companies are SME’s run by entrepreneurs, not by engineers. Innovation is now derived mainly from down-to-earth partnerships with our clients.
Even being SME’s, the French equipment manufacturers have set up very effective networks to offer the best service to most remote customers’ locations. These support its clients wherever they operate. They do it through our own local service teams, warehouses, agents or distributors.
For the spare parts, our members have been pro-active in opening local warehouses in important markets to deliver the much awaited parts without transportation or customs delays, hence offering a high level of service.
These member companies work with their clients to help them to introduce new products on their markets, to have reliable and cost efficient production processes. This gives the French textile machinery a real competitive advantage.
The danger of being copied
He is very clear: “We absolutely need to protect our intellectual property; it may be our most important asset.” Within our association, we have established an active working group on this strategic topic. We will sue the counterfeiters very aggressively. We have strong arguments: our patents, our brands. Most of our customers understand that the “real machine” and original parts is in their long term best interest. We have become very strict concerning the use of counterfeited parts as we cannot guarantee a machine which uses counterfeited parts.
Each company, national associations, the Cematex and the machinery show organisers have to work together on this sensitive issue. In this war against copycats we receive more and more support from the governments, the international bodies and the judiciary systems.
The role of UCMTF
Bruno Ameline: We meet very regularly and speak very openly about our strategies, projects and concerns. As we offer equipment for complementary processes, we can team up to offer complete lines when our customers want to have one company responsible for its project.
UCMTF Promotion Committee under the chairmanship of our Vice-President International, Christian Guinet, is very active to promote our offer worldwide. Every year UCMTF organizes customer seminars in two countries.
In June 2015, we organized four conferences in Iran, in Tehran, Kashan, Ispahan and Yazd. In order to describe and present more precisely our offer, and for us to understand better the Iranian customers’ needs and, to really have direct contacts with them, we decided not to make a big event in one place but four regional ones.
Our Promotion Committee also initiated in 2014, during one of such seminars, cooperation with the Russian textile industry. M. Serguei RASBRODIN, President of Soyuzlegprom, M. Christian GUINET and Mrs. Evelyne CHOLET, Vice-President International and Secretary General of UCMTF, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on April 21, 2015 in Moscow.
UCMTF groups 30 specialty textile machinery manufacturers, often world leaders on their specific markets. Their total annual consolidated turnover of 1 billion Euros (1.1 billion US dollars) makes France the sixth textile machinery exporter. They are particularly strong in long fibre spinning, yarn twisting, heat setting, Jacquard and dobbies, carpet systems, dyeing and finishing, felts and belts for finishing processes, nonwovens, air and recycling processes.