“Not all customers from Asia are able to make it to ITMA,” says Ikuto Umeda, Executive Director, Shima Seiki Mfg. Ltd., as one of the major reasons that the company is organizing a private show in Hong Kong in January. However, the show is not just for those who missed out on the ITMA, it is much more. Focused for the Asian customers looking to produce designed products for the international market, as also the Asian domestic market, the upcoming show will bring together various stakeholders in the value chain. Conceived as a showcase of the possibilities in product differentiation using the unique technologies from Shima Seiki, the first ever attempt at directly targeting needs of a particular market is gearing up as a ‘must visit’ show for the knitting industry.
At the recently concluded ITMA, Shima Seiki displayed a wide variety of knitting technologies including some new innovations, but the company understands that not all technologies are suitable to every market. “At Hong Kong we will not be showcasing the same collection and though some of the machines will be on display, most of them will be different and more apt at adapting to conditions in Asia,” says Umeda. While acknowledging that Asia is a huge and important market for the company, Umeda does not disregard the importance of the European market, particularly Italy. “While the market in Italy is very small and quantities too are little when compared to markets like Bangladesh and China, it is an important market as designs are created here and these designs percolate down to the Asian manufacturing destinations as trends. So it is important for us that they use our technologies to create the designs as a prototype for other countries to follow,” reasons Umeda.
Expanding on other important markets, Umeda points out that Bangladesh is currently the fastest moving market for them as the industry is rapidly converting its handflats into automated flats and with economic models to suit the entry point needs, the company is gaining ground. Another market the company is very upbeat about is Vietnam, more so after the recently concluded TPP agreement which makes the country a hot manufacturing base for exports into the US and Canada. “Many Hong Kongbased companies are already looking at the option of setting up units in Vietnam, even Chinese companies are exploring the options, so a whole new market is laid open for us to penetrate,” avers Umeda.
What excites Shima Seiki about the potential of the Indian market, are the latent opportunities in the domestic segment.
“We already have a good presence with manufacturers working in the export market, but with the local brands now becoming much more quality-and design-oriented, as the Indian consumer looks for product differentiation, a whole new market segment has emerged for us to explore,” says Umeda.
Not only the brand owners, but even spinning mills are the target customers for the company as they believe the time is ripe for the mills to move up the value chain. “India is a huge source for cotton, and spinning mills are today only getting the basic price for a commodity product. From the feelers we are getting, mills are now looking at how to convert this basic commodity into a high value offering, and flat knitting is a direct link between the yarn and final product,” argues Umeda.
In fact, the event is also aimed at educating customers on the fact that flat knitting is no longer associated with woollen sweaters and many different yarns can be used to make varied product categories using the technologies available with Shima Seiki. The show will also have yarn manufacturers displaying speciality yarns and young new age vendors will demonstrate how to convert these yarns into interesting and better value products. Dresses, tops, jackets, are only a few of the fashion options available. “We want to show the prospective clients what all they can do with our machines,” says Umeda.
Then there is the WholeGarment technology, which is celebrating 20 years of excellence. Umeda, feels that the Asian market is now ready for the technology as they understand that being only OEM producers is not enough to survive in the competitive retail market and even countries like China, which never thought about design are now looking at the ODM production model, wherein designing and product differentiation is a must. While Europe and Japan are already using the WholeGarment technology extensively, the potential is yet to be explored in Asia.
Besides showcasing the knitting technology, which is popular in Asia, the event will also be an opportunity for Shima Seiki to present afresh its cutting and new design solutions – P-CAM series and the new SDS-ONE APEX3. Though this kind of equipment is popular in Japan, with the cutting solution being used for cutting car seat covers by companies like Toyota, it has not yet found takers in Asia. “We were not pushing this solution because our technical after-sales support team was not in place to handle a wide market base and we did not want to present the solution without adequate backend support to address any problem or queries that customers may have. But now the team is in place and we are ready to take on the market, so both P-CAM and new SDS solutions will be demonstrated at the show,” avers Umeda.
The event is expected to attract not only the potential customers of Shima Seiki, but also buyers from around the world. The idea is to have the buyers see the potential and get fresh inspirations. An effort is being made to synergise the value chain in flat-knits from yarn to product with both the manufacturer and the buyer partnering for the development of the segment in the fashion arena. However, the show is not only about product differentiation, it is also about saving wastages, increasing productivity and getting better price from better technology. “The commercial aspect of a machine is equally important to the final product and we will be demonstrating how companies can save on cost to optimise the machines. Our technicians will be available for discussions, and various seminars will address needs of customers from different regions,” says Umeda. Very upbeat of the possible outcome of the show, Umeda signs off with an assurance that the private show, once proving its usefulness to the knitwear industry, will become a regular feature held in different parts of the world for addressing specific regional needs.