From conventional textiles to technical textiles – the urgent need of the time

July 11, 2006 at 1:06 pm | Posted in Arsalan's Dawn Article | 2 Comments

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Nowadays conventional textile has entered into a highly competitive market where high capital is required and returns are very less. Various factors are related to this issue. In conventional textile, the power in the value chain is shifted to buyer leaving the supplier with no or less powers. The supply market has become saturated. In this scenario, analyst Michael Porter assumes that such kind of business is not profitable and there should be a radical change in the technology (breakthrough technology).

Opportunity and bright prospects spawned to shift the technology of textiles from conventional to technical in the developed countries. Technical textile globally is $60 billion market. It is in its growth stage but the results are high profitability and high return on investment.


The term ‘Technical Textiles’ emerged in early 90’s when industrial experts segregated textiles on the basis of their end applications. Technical textiles refer to the application of textiles in relevance to their technical properties and performance rather than appearance or other aesthetic characteristics. Following are some of the examples of technical textiles and their area of applications (Source: Technitex 2006):
Agrotech — agriculture, horticulture, forestry and aquaculture textiles
Defencetech — Weaponry, ballistic protections, projectile engineering.
Spacetech — Astronaut gears, Shuttle components, satellite components.
Buildtech — building and construction textiles
Clothtech — technical components of shoes and clothing e.g. linings
Geotech — geotextiles and civil engineering materials
Hometech — technical components of furniture, household textiles & floor coverings
Indutech — textiles for industrial applications – filtration, conveying, cleaning etc
Medtech — hygiene and medical products
Biomeditech — textile materials artificial implants
Mobiltech— automobiles, shipping, railways and aerospace
Packtech — packaging materials
Protech — personal and property protection
Sporttech— sport and leisure
Within these categories there are hundreds of highly specialized products. In early years, traditional methods and materials are used to build products under these categories. Nowadays new high performance materials are introduced to make such products. In present scenario, when the conventional textile (fashion textiles) is no longer a profitable business, the developed countries shifted their focus on technical textiles. Technical textile required high level of research expertise and it is a purely knowledge based business. The return on investment in technical textiles is hundred to thousand times higher than conventional textiles and it comprises high value added products.Developing countries like India and China has already aligned their future targets in the footsteps of developed countries in this field of textiles. India has introduced a comprehensive plan of promoting ‘Technical Textiles’ in their latest textile vision. China is also in the process of entering into this market.

Unfortunately Pakistan lack potential in this field of textiles. Pakistani textile industry, financial institutions and government bodies are constantly putting their 100% focus on upgrading conventional textiles. This is done by giving huge subsidies to industries in terms of tax cuts, easy financing and different attractive packages. Though it is done on the expense of tax payers but the end result is not fruitful. Numerous reasons are given to the government and financial institutions for the poor performance. The main reason is that conventional textile is no longer a profitable business. It is saturated and highly competitive. Sooner or later Pakistani textile industry has to shift to high value addition and undergo radical change in technology to be more profitable.

Following are the main issues related to technical textiles in Pakistan:
1. Technical textile contains products that are highly flexible and customized. That’s why in the developed countries majority of these products are manufactured in SME sector. SME sector has the ability and flexibility to respond to quick technology changes. Unfortunately, Pakistani SMEs have no resources to initiate building of such products by themselves. Moreover, nothing fruitful is ever done in past to improve SMEs of Pakistan.

2. Government bodies and regulatory authorities are highly under pressure from big industrial units. At the end all the monetary policies favored these big industrial setups.  These industrial setups lack flexibility in their manufacturing, technology and processes. They could never think to change their processes and introduce new products especially technical textiles due to high complexities in corporate practices.

3. Banks and financial institutions of Pakistan turned a blind eye on technical and innovative aspects of the industry. They fear new experimentation of markets and associate high risk with it, so they keep revolving their capital in existing markets. Conventional textile is considered as one of the established and revenue generating market in Pakistan. Consequently, it is easy for the banks and financial institutions to expect return from this industry, no matter how less the return is. So, they keep on pumping money into this market which is at its peak of saturation (again meaning less return on investment ROI).

4. There is a huge gap between academia and industry. With the new higher education policies favoring the high production of PhD researchers, there is greater need of establishing strong link with the industry. Otherwise the research done in institutions would never benefit the industry. In case of technical textile, it is important to introduce new high-tech materials and processing techniques in the industry to develop high quality textile products. For instance, on a conventional socks knitting machine, an idea can be propagated through research to knit a mesh for developing cardiovascular implant using specific bio-resistant material with certain mechanical machine adjustments. The result will be thousand time increase in the profit margin as compared to the business of knitted socks.
5. The government is doing the maximum possible effort to boost exports. But exporting low value products would not give better results. Government is considering the exports of garments, the most valuable business. It is true if one compared this with the export of yarn or grey cloth. However, due to supply chain constrains, it is near to impossible for Pakistan to make hi-fashion products for developed countries (Europe and USA). Inshort, Pakistani Garments industry could not meet the lead times demand of western fashion market resulting in continuously making and exporting low value and non seasonal products with extremely less margins. In case of technical textile products, this is not the case. Technical textile products are not seasonal and have no supply chain constrains. Usually the buyers have fixed term contracts with suppliers for a particular product and the product rarely change unless there is a new raw material introduced in the market. The supplier has the power in the value chain, so the government should observe the latest and emerging technologies going around the globe and should build adaptive and prioritizing strategies accordingly.

6. There is no research culture in the field of textiles in Pakistan. With only limited textile institutes in the country which are producing only production managers for the industry, less focus is given on analytical approaches and research. Despite of the fact that textile is a major revenue earning source of the country, the research budget allocated to this sector is nothing. Even the R&D subsidy given to the garment industry results in a total wastage of money without any promising outcome. There should be a central regulatory authority which should manage research and development in this area and try to provide resources to the research institutes to trigger research in the area of technical textiles and other value adding areas.

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2 Comments »

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  1. Nice to read your article sir….we are also dealing in technical textile yarn and fabric….can you help us in identifying some production sources?
    http://www.shanassociates.com


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