Sewing Success: the Importance of ThreadFri, 09/01/2017 - 15:29
A vehicle’s performance is based on the sum of its parts and many of those parts are held together by thread. In the automotive industry, thread used in everything from car seats to airbags must be manufactured to withstand challenging conditions of abrasion, wear, sun exposure, flexing and heat for an average car lifetime of 14 years, says Roberto Cánovas, Director General Mexico and CA of Coats México.
Coats, one of the founding members of the London Stock Exchange and a leading global industrial threads and consumer textiles company, has developed specific technologies for the automotive market, where weight and resistance are fundamental for product success. Innovation and new technologies have helped add new glues and epoxy resins to the company’s traditional portfolio of industrial threads and textiles. The company, founded in Scotland in the 1750s, manages different brands in its automotive portfolio including its flagship product Neophil, a range of industrial threads that include nylon and polyester and is ideal for the automotive industry, particularly for airbags.
As a safety component, airbags must be sewn with excellent quality thread to withstand the explosive speed of their deployment, which means that the thread must keep its integrity while the bag inflates and after a person collides with it. Coats’ Neophil solution provides a three-ply twisted bonded thread made up of three nylon filaments that are “precision twisted and bonded to create a circular crosssection that is consistently uniform throughout its length,” according to the company’s website. Compared to a singleply monochord thread, Neophil distributes the load among three independent plies, which means that if one breaks, the stitch is not compromised. Its broad portfolio allows the company to participate in the production of door panels, spare wheel covers, steering-wheel covers, carpets, floormats, car headliners, convertible tops, gear stick covers, seat belts, seat covers and seat trims. “The automotive sector represents roughly 25 percent of our global operations,” says Cánovas.
In Mexico, Coats has the advantage of being the sole thread manufacturer focused on the automotive industry. Coupled with its manufacturing flexibility and production quality, this proves an attractive sourcing alternative for Tier 1s and Tier 2s looking to optimize their production costs and lower their logistics overhead, he says. The company is optimistic about its business opportunities in Mexico and Cánovas expects to capitalize on the growth of the automotive market. Cánovas says the company has now located its entire production of airbag thread for the US market in Mexico. “We have a plant in Tlaxcala solely dedicated to airbag thread manufacturing,” he says. “The plant transforms polyester, nylon and cotton into the final product, while our factory in Orizaba focuses on color and finishing.”
Coats originally had three plants in Mexico — Tlaxcala and Orizaba plus a third in Xochimilco. When the company implemented its environmental strategy Azteca in 2016, the Xochimilco plant was shut down due to lack of compliance with the ecological standards of the region where it was located. Sustainability has now become a priority for Coats and it has put in motion two projects to modernize its operations. In Orizaba, the company plans to build a new water-treatment plant that will be ready no later than May 2018. Paint and metal-finishing operations are among the most water-consuming operations in automotive production and Cánovas says thread-dyeing is heavily water-dependent.
The company’s second project is oriented to power consumption in its Tlaxcala operations. “The plan is to create a joint-venture that will allow us to source green energy,” he says. “Modernization is a slow process that can take many months and even years but we hope to reduce our energy consumption and be connected to green energy generation by 2018.”
Cánovas says Coats has only been in the Mexican automotive industry for five years but the company is ready to grow its footprint. “We trust in the quality of our products and we are looking for clients that demand technology that only Coats can offer,” he says. “We expect to keep expanding in Mexico, probably reaching double-digit growth thanks to the automotive market.”