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24th July 2015, Montefano, MC

WHOLEGARMENT knitting technology helps set New Esse Maglieria apart from its competitors

Billy Hunter reports from Italy

This year is the 20th anniversary of the launch of Shima Seiki’s WHOLEGARMENT knitting, a revolutionary flat knitting technology that allows the production of ‘seam-free’ knitwear. This is the third in a series of articles that sets out to investigate the impact of the technology on Italy’s knitwear industry and its leading exponents.

In May this year I visited the province of Macerata in Italy’s Marche region to meet some of the country’s leading knitwear producers who are using Shima Seiki WHOLEGARMENT knitting technology to produce top quality seam-free knitwear.

Marche’s narrow coastal strip is known for its scenic beauty and Adriatic charm.

Located in the Central area of the country and bordered by Emilia-Romagna and the republic of San Marino to the north and the Adriatic Sea to the east, Marche is one of the 20 regions of Italy. Except for river valleys and the narrow coastal strip, the land is hilly and it is in these beautiful hills that some of the finest knitwear producers in Italy can be found.

Take for example New Esse Maglieria (NSM), a family owned knitwear manufacturer based in the small town of Montefano about thirteen kilometres north of the town of Macerata, the county town of the province of Macerata.

NSM is what the Italian knitwear industry calls a ‘sub-worker’; a sub-contractor who manufactures garments for another company, usually a brand or larger manufacturer. But don’t be fooled by the rather deprecating ‘sub-worker’ tag, some of these company’s are top producers. Besides, there is a new breed of knitwear manufacturer in Italy that start off life as sub-workers that are owned by highly skilled technicians. NSM is one of those companies.

NSM works directly for some major brands but works for others indirectly but either way, garment quality is at the very top level. Owner/manager Sergio Storani won’t name names but looking around the factory the famous names of the top Italian brands and design houses are present.

Sergio Storani with wife Rosanna at New Esse Maglieria’s factory in Montefano.

Some of NSM’s customers have just one or two Shima Seiki WHOLEGARMENT machines for sampling purposes and do their own development. They then go to NSM when they need production. NSM has 20 machines all of which are WHOLEGARMENT machines, but if Sergio Storani has his way he will have 40 machines. It’s safe to say that Sergio Storani is a fan of WHOLEGARMENT knitting and he is a specialist.

The company manufactures in excess of 2000 pieces per week with just 11 employees but this is a family company run by Sergio and his wife with support from other family members.

NSM makes WHOLEGARMENT knitwear for women, men and children and at the moment about 90% of the company’s manufacturing capacity is taken up by womenswear. The company uses luxury yarns from the leading Italian spinners including wool, silk, cotton and cashmere and blends.

MACH2X high-speed WHOLEGARMENT machines

NSM’s knitting plant is made up of a range of WHOLEGARMENT machines in gauges 5, 8, 12, 15 and 18 although the biggest part of the plant covers the finer gauges. Four-needlebed knitting is the speciality of this company with both SWG-X and MACH2X models in action. NSM has no fewer than 9 of Shima’s high-speed MACH2X machines and this is where the strongest market demand is.

Shima Seiki MACH2X high-speed four needlebed WHOLEGARMENT knitting machine. © Shima Seiki

MACH2X is a recent addition to Shima Seiki’s line of WHOLEGARMENT specialty machines that features 4 needle beds and the company’s original SlideNeedle. It can knit beautifully shaped, high-quality WHOLEGARMENT products, which conform to the body for improved comfort and a more elegant silhouette.

As the ‘MACH’ name suggests, speed and productivity are dramatic. MACH2X achieves a maximum knitting speed of 1.6 meters per second. The R2CARRIAGE System additionally permits quicker carriage returns for higher efficiency per knitted course. Split Stitch technique also allows efficient knitting by eliminating empty courses.

Fairly new to the line-up is 18L gauge capability whereby a special large-hook version of the SlideNeedle is used for knitting 15-gauge fabrics at 18-gauge needle pitch for very high productivity when knitting ultrafine gauge garments.

The tighter needle pitch also allows for a tighter fabric especially for ribs, contributing to higher-quality WHOLEGARMENT items.

NSM’s knitting room is absolutely full with Shima Seiki WHOLEGARMENT knitting machines. The company is planning further expansion and will move to a larger factory.

Return on investment

This factory is busy and according to Sergio Storani it never stops working. In fact it runs 20 hours per day 6 days per week.

I asked Sergio Storani why he invested in WHOLEGARMENT knitting and whether he had achieved a good return on his investment. “We invested in order to have something different, something more diverse compared to the competition. We never used conventional machines in this company. We started with WHOLEGARMENT machines. We are 100% WHOLEGARMENT. “

In fact Sergio Storani had been a technician at a neighbouring company run by another branch of the Storani family. He was already a highly skilled man when he started up on his own his own and purchased 4 NewSES-CWG coarse gauge machines in 2002. NSM now has 4 Shima programmers including him and he claims to need 2 more saying that sometimes he could use double the number of technicians that he has.

Programmer using Shima Seiki APEX 3 design system Caption: Sergio Storani’s NSM is one of a new breed of owner/ programmer businesses which are using Shima Seiki WHOLEGARMENT technology to stay ahead of the competition.

Sergio Storani says he has to invest to grow his company and he would not have invested after buying the first 4 machines if they had not provided a good return.

The future for NSM, Sergio Storani says, is export. “We are now starting to make garments for Spain and we have the French market in our sites. Exports currently account for 5% of our sales but we want to grow that to about 30%,”he says.

Benefits of WHOLEGARMENT knitting

I asked Sergio what the benefits of investing in WHOLEGARMENT technology have been. “We can maximise our profits and achieve better profits than our competitors while selling garments at the same price," he explains.

According to Sergio Storani, costs can in fact be reduced by around 30% when using WHOLEGARMENT technology.

According to Sergio Storani, costs can in fact be reduced by around 30% when using WHOLEGARMENT technology. Garment prices vary he says but another real advantage is fit. “We can also ask for a higher price when we develop WHOLEGARMENT styles and sometimes we can make better profits. It all depends on the season and the particular sample.”

Challenges

I asked whether NSM had needed much technical support when adopting WHOLEGARMENT technology. “Yes, in the beginning when I was working for the other company. But not since I started my own company. We are quite independent.”

Sergio Storani sees the future as bright and is full of confidence saying the he wants to double the size of his business in terms of turnover. But his current factory is packed full of machines and a new building is a pressing need.

I asked what the design challenges were with WHOLEGARMENT technology and whether the company had in house design. Sergio Storani’s answer is straight forward like many of his answers. “Our customer sends a sketch with some ideas about yarns and structure and we develop the sample for them.”

Switching to WHOLEGARMENT technology has gained NSM new customers. The company gets really good interest from the market and it is Sergio Storani’s view that continual investment brings new customers.

Sergio Storani believes that what sets NSM apart from its competitors is WHOLEGARMENT technology. “The difference is that we have WHOLEGARMENT technology. We need new technology to survive in Italy today. New technology and professional technicians,” Sergio Storani explains.

Apart from trying to recruit two more highly skilled Shima programmers, Sergio Storani says he also needs to recruit more knitters. “We need employees who can grow with us. We need to feel that they can grow when we employ them. We need team players,” Sergio Storani adds.

“Today even the boss has to be a good team player. The days of old fashioned bosses are over and we have to have very good people skills.”

"People skills, motivated workers and WHOLEGARMENT technology, then, is the recipe for success at NSM," Sergio Storani concludes.

Further reading

New Twins set to become leading player in theatre of WHOLEGARMENT knitwear

MIND Srl – A WHOLEGARMENT Success Story from Italy’s Veneto Region

WHOLEGARMENT investment cuts labour costs and creates new opportunities for Sabry Maglieria

La Trama: A WHOLEGARMENT Powerhouse In Italy’s Marche Region

www.shimaseiki.com

 

 

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