SPESA 2015 Executive Conference

December 11, 2015

SPESA’s 2015 Executive Conference was held November 4-5 at The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables (Miami), Florida.

Age of Disruption
In his conference-opening remarks about the “Age of Disruption”, SPESA Board of Directors member and moderator, Mike Fralix of [TC]2 set the stage for a lively two days at The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida.

Speed, Security, Sustainability
SPESA Board of Directors member and Ed Gribbin of Alvanon, Inc. laid out the top four concerns of – and his solutions for – the retail industry in 2015: (1) Growth opportunities, modest to weak demand in key markets; (2) Shifts in Consumer Behavior, Speed to market, impact on supply chains; (3) Cyberthreats, Security, and impacts on consumer confidence; (4) Corporate Social Responsibility Issues: transparency, traceability, accountability.

On the Economic, Political, and Business Climate
Letting his graphs and charts illustrate six major questions, Roger C. Tutterow, Ph.D. Professor of Economics & Director of Econometric Center at Kennesaw State University posed and discussed: (1) Finishing the 6th year of the recovery – has “normal” finally arrived? (2) If the economy is truly growing, why is job growth so low? (3) Oil prices have pulled back again. Is there still a risk to growth? … and, are the inflation worries on or off the table? (4) “Operation Twist” finished at the end of 2012. So now, the question shifts to exit strategy? “Taper” done, when rate hikes? And what about financial institutions balance sheets? And are we still “deleveraging”? (5) Historically, residential and commercial real estate have been important parts of the economy, is the ongoing recovery sustainable? (6) “Fiscal cliffs” have faded (or not)? If so, where do we head politically? What will “shared governance” look it? Is another DC showdown ahead?

SPESA Speaks
Fashioned after “TED Talks” conferences – a global set of conferences run under the slogan “Ideas Worth Spreading” – this “SPESA Speaks” fast-paced session was designed and moderated by SPESA Board of Directors member Ed Gribbin of Alvanon.
Why? Because SPESA members bring expertise, technology, creativity, innovation, and ingenuity to the challenges their customers face every day. SPESA members help create great outcomes and bottom-line results.

The session consisted of six presenters, six minutes each (three-minute story plus three minutes of Q&A), six customer challenges, six journeys, six solutions, and six happy, satisfied, customers with great results.

The presenters were: Frank Henderson (Henderson Sewing Machine Co.) and his “Cold Beer Challenge”, Michael Rabin (Morgan Tecnica) and his “Furniture Fabric Mystery”, Yoram Berg (OptiTex USA) and his “Coach Odyssey”, Al Irvine (A&E) and his “Down Dilemma”, Mel Berzack (Sewn Products Equipment Co.) and his “Door to Disaster”, and Sam Simpson (Gerber Technology) and his “X-Ray Apron Conundrum”.

Cuba at the Crossroads
Lenny Feldman of the Miami-based law firm Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg brought conference participants up-to-date on new policies, laws, and potential business opportunities as they relate to Cuba. According to President Obama, “The United States is taking historic steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba and to further engage and empower the Cuban people.”
Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction engaging in the following activities are now allowed to establish and maintain a physical presence in Cuba which includes entities organizing or conducting educational activities.

However, it could still be months before Cuba even considers allowing any U.S. companies to take advantage of the changes as the Cuban government might not decide to announce any major economic or political reforms until its seventh annual Communist Party congress scheduled for April 2016.

U.S. Free Trade Agreements: An Inside Look
Originally an eight-country agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has expanded to twelve countries and if passed by all signatories will represent over 40% of the world’s GDP upon implementation. What does it mean for the U.S. textile and sewn products industries; who likes it, who doesn’t; what does it mean for American jobs?

Auggie Tantillo, President & CEO of NCTO (National Council of Textile Organizations) updated the Conference on the details of the TPP which began in March 2009 and has undergone dozens of rounds of negotiations. On October 5, 2015 the negotiations were successfully concluded and on the last day of the Conference – November 5 – the full text of the TPP which runs 5,554 printed pages was released.

So where Does TPP Go From Here? There will be technical work, legal reviews, translations, drafting, verification, and a Congressional review.

Reshoring is for Real: Bringing Apparel Production Jobs Back to the U.S.
Dean Wegner, President & CEO of Smithville, Tennessee–based Omega Apparel Incorporated described his story as a “20-year old startup” who has changed its strategy and business model just to survive. After two decades of supplying dress clothes to the U.S. Military, Omega is repositioning itself to meet growing demand for American-made clothing.

Omega, which occupies 100,000 square feet in Smithville about 65 miles east of Nashville, has recently opened a new 10,000-square-foot facility. The expansion comes as Wegner diversifies Omega Apparel’s business beyond its military contract, which was slashed in half in recent years because of military spending cuts. The apparel company — which contracted from 220 jobs at its peak to 128 — has since added 36 clients and is making significant up-front investments to gain new business.

Wegner and Omega are passionate about creating jobs, building a great place to work, looking out for fellow teammates, and living each day by the set of values they hold dear. Their vision is to be a catalyst and to lead the rebuilding of the U.S. apparel industry. They plan to be “the last man standing.”

Today, Omega Apparel employs 170 and plans to hire 100 people over the next six months. The company’s military contract still accounts for about 90 percent of its business, but Wegner hopes to reduce that to 50 percent as Omega’s clients grow.

Industrie 4.0 in the Apparel Industry
The German VDMA Garment & Leather Technology Association Managing Director Elgar Straub updated the Conference on exports of German garment equipment and technology while Board Member Tilo Ullmer and President of both PMF GmbH and Fortuna Spezialmaschinen GmbH introduced the concept of “Industrie 4.0”.

The term Industrie 4.0 represents the fourth industrial revolution. It is a new level of organization and control of the entire value-added chain over the life cycle of products. This cycle is based on the increasingly individualized customer requirements. It ranges from the idea and order over the development and production, and on to delivery of a product to the end customer and recycling, including related services. Connecting people, objects, and systems will result in dynamic, real-time optimized and self-organizing cross company value networks.

Preview of Texprocess Americas and Techtextil North America 2016
Michael Jänecke, Texprocess & Techtextil Brand Manager for Messe Frankfurt and Dave Gardner, Managing Director of SPESA presented overviews of Messe Frankfurt, results from Texprocess and Techtextil 2015 (Frankfurt, Germany) and a preview of the upcoming Texprocess Americas and Techtextil North America 2016 (Atlanta – May 3-5). Gardner also introduced SPESA’s Opening Night Networking Event which will be held on May 3 at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.

Wearable Technologies and e-Textiles: Connecting the Dots
Despina Papadopoulos, Wearable Technology Director of WWA Advisors instantly became our “go to” expert on wearables and e-textiles as she quantified the new market opportunities and revenue streams for multiple players, including apparel manufacturers, IT and telecom companies, brands, content providers, advertisers, and OEMs. Bright markets are active sportswear and specialty shoes; military and uniforms; health care services; and industrial applications.

However, Despina did alert the Conference participants about potential market barriers such as electronics versus textiles, supply chain issues, along with standards and regulations.

How the New Economy Impacts Global Sourcing for Lifestyle Brands and Retailers

Courtney OKeefe of Courtney OKeefe Consulting, Inc. provided many of the answers to the questions: How will the integration of digital, mobile, big data, cloud, technology, robotics, IoT (internet of things), and Millennial shopper expectations impact the future of manufacturing? What impact will the future hyper connected environment have on the supply chain? How can sewn products manufacturers position themselves to seize opportunities and increase their competitive advantage as the industry evolves in this new era?