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9th April 2015, Conover, NC

Lonati showcases latest technology in North Carolina

Lonati, the world’s leading hosiery equipment manufacturer returned to the US this week when it hosted an in-house exhibition at the Manufacturing Solutions Center (MSC) in Conover, North Carolina, USA.

Local newspaper Hickoryrecord.com reported yesterday that according to MSC Executive Director Dan St. Louis it’s the first time the Italian machine manufacturer has hosted an exhibition in the U.S. since 2001.

Lonati's factory in Brescia, Italy. © Lonati

“We haven’t had this kind of show for 15 years because things really had moved off,” St. Louis told the newspaper. “Now it really is coming back.”

The report enthuses about the new age hosiery industry that Lonati is helping create in the USA, that many people just would not recognise.

“These days, people in manufacturing are more likely to wear lab coats than hard hats. They’re more likely to be punching in computer code than sewing seams. And manufacturing facilities are no longer the dusty, dirty sweatshops that people envision. Like the MSC, they’re more like laboratories – bright, clean spaces filled with high-tech machinery.”

“As a live feed played on a TV screen outside the showcase, people gathered around the Lonati equipment churning out socks and tights at an alarming rate.

The star of the show was the modestly named GL523 – a lean, clean, thrumming machine that looks more like something physicists might use to smash atoms than an apparatus that knits the humble sock,” the report went on.

Lonati showed its GL 523F two feed sock-knitting machine with 3 colours per course. Also on show from Lonati was the LB OP one-piece pantyhose machine and Santoni OP SMART for automatic sewing of the waistband. 

Lonati's headquarters. © Lonati

“This is what the industry is now,” St. Louis said. “You have to understand electronics, the pneumatics, the patterns used. It used to be mechanical, now it’s all programming.”

Chad Burgess, a manufacturing and design specialist at Slane Hosiery in High Point, examined the prototype with interest and told Hickoryrecord.com:

“We make 18,000 to 20,000 socks a day.” Virtually all of them – for brands like Nike and Kirkland – are produced on Lonati machines, the report said.  Burgess said the GL523, which makes two socks at a time rather than one, could speed up production dramatically.

It's hard to overestimate the importance of Lonati S.p.A. to the hosiery and sock industry, the report said. St. Louis estimated Lonati knitting machines make up 95 per cent of the market.

Lonati S.p.A. president Ettore Lonati who attended the event, said he hoped the expo would kick off “a lot of success for American manufacturing.”

He’s been coming to North Carolina for years due to the region's role as the centre of hosiery manufacturing. Mr Lonati told the newspaper he had also witnessed the steady outflow of manufacturing jobs to Chinese, Turkish and Pakistani competitors. 

“Also there was a slowdown in manufacturing in Europe,” Lonati said. “There, it’s still down. But here, it’s picking up.”

To compete with the cheap labour, the report went on, Lonati S.p.A. had to innovate. “Out with the old, in with the new: high-tech machines that combine the best of the old mechanical systems with new computer technology to produce hosiery faster, cheaper and better than ever before.”

“They are completely automated,” Lonati said. “The socks come out of the machine finished.”

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EDITOR'S VIEWPOINT

Editors ViewPoint
Yet more good news from USA. If Lonati are back exhibiting in NC, then there's business to be done. Good news all round.

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