Gelvenor Textiles CEO sits as panellist to discuss the Future of Manufacturing

Gelvenor Textiles
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 Gelvenor Textiles CEO sits as panellist to discuss the Future of Manufacturing

On the 23rd of May, Gelvenor Textiles CEO Dicky Coetzee was invited to participate as a panellist to discuss the future of manufacturing with a focus on disruptors, for a group of 25 GIBS Future Manufacturing Executive Development Programme participants at the Hilton Hotel in Durban. Each panellist was required to do a short presentation covering the main aspects of the programme within the context of their respective organisations.

The panel comprised three participants with Justin Barnes(Dr), Chairman of B&M Analysts, leading the Q & A sessions. The panel discussion took place on the fourth (and final) day of the four day course. The first two days were focused on exploring the range of likely technology disruptors, approaches to responding to rapid change, and a selection of case studies demonstrating both threats and opportunities.

The first panellist to take the stand was Peter DuPlessis – Former CEO of Atlantis Foundries.

Peter focused primarily on process improvement, statistical process control and AI, including how Atlantis Foundries employed each to decrease their scrap rate and more effectively manage production procedures. AI was identified as the main disruptor that could influence the foundry industry although it had resulted in substantial financial savings for the business.

The second panellist was Alex Holmes – Commercial Director of Mahle SA.

Alex spoke about disruptors facing the automotive industry in general and mentioned four possible ‘future world’ states in which various vehicle types had dominated the market – in most cases rendering parts of the current automotive industry obsolete. Presently government and its CO2 legislation is the biggest disruptor for the industry.

The third and final panelist was Dicky Coetzee –  CEO of Gelvenor Textiles. He took the programme participants through the main historical milestones of Gelvenor Textiles from 1965 to the present day, including major challenges faced and overcome.

1965 to1985: The focus within the business was building efficiency into every process. This included long production runs with a few main products, low margins and high volumes.

1985 to 2005: This time period saw a shift in focus from production efficiency to the customer due to changing market conditions. The resulted in more variation in production, more products and shorter runs. Customers expected products available in the world market to be produced by one supplier, and in order to stay competitive Gelvenor manufactured countless varieties of fabric during this period. The business faced a huge challenge, trying to fit a customer service model into an infrastructure model.

2006 to 2013: These were Gelvenor’s ‘innovation years’ and the business shifted from previously developed niche markets to innovation focused projects. This once again resulted in even shorter production runs where the target was that the market, or a specific customer, would create draw for a specialised product in high volumes.

It was during this time that Gelvenor management began to differentiate between ‘inventions’ and ‘innovations’. It was established that the company was a global leader in aeronautical parachute fabrics for both sport and military applications, and work was done with a technical raw material supplier to develop a microfibre low bulk yarn which remains unique to Gelvenor today.

Electroluminescent and thermochromic fabrics were developed but weren’t taken effectively to market. Breathable fabric was produced but only made it to market nearly ten years after the initial trials, and hot air balloon hyperlast ‘self healing’ fabric was manufactured and has been a success for nearly a decade.

Gelvenor was the first African manufacturer to produce an inherently flame retardant fabric and had great success producing ballistic fabrics from aramid fibres.

However, unfortunately none of these incredible products were commercialised between 2006 and 2013.

2014 was a turning point for the company when Dicky began to explore the option of value chain partnerships, including supplier, manufacturer and customer. A new business model took into consideration these partnership agreements which would benefit each member in the chain. These value chain partnerships have since been endorsed by the DTI and other government departments and have allowed the textile industry to regain some of the ground lost to imported commodity products.

2016: Strategic realignment was the next step for Gelvenor, where management refocused the company towards technically engineered products and how these fabrics fit into the value chain business model, including partnerships with:

  • Pertinent raw material suppliers
  • Technical institutions and universities
  • Industry players
  • Customers
  • Government
  • International suppliers

These value chains are clear disruptors within the textile industry and a future world will most certainly incorporate this concept for business development. If these disruptors can be harnessed to dominate the market, then we have the advantage of control over future industry share.

According to Justin Barnes (Dr), Chairman of B&M Analysts, Dicky’s presentation was highly valuable and thoroughly enjoyed by participants in the panel discussion, who learnt a huge amount about the importance of science and development in the creation of commercial opportunities.

In correspondence to Dicky following the discussion, Justin Barnes writes: “One participant indicated to me that you had “blown their mind” and that they needed to go back and look at the material composition of their products in an entirely different manner. This is the real value of having experts such as yourself present on these types of courses – not only do participants leave better informed, but also more inspired to engage with issues they may be struggling to grapple with.”

When it comes to textiles, the future of manufacturing lies in highly technical materials and strategic partnership agreements which allow manufacturers to become innovators instead of inventors.

Gelvenor will remain an industry leader in technically engineered manufacture of advanced materials as we move into this new era of business.

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