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April 08, 2014

Winners Donít Race to the Bottom

Racing to the bottom by simply offering the lowest price is the race for losers. Winners in today’s textile market are the ones who race up hill and use every advantage to pull ahead of the pack of competitors. Today’s textile manufacturers are challenged to prove their advantages by meeting globally accepted standards and offering the highest quality product to the end customer. Through the ability to prove that their product has the best competitive advantage, a winning company uses trusted and globally accepted methods of quality control measurement.

Dating back to at least Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations”, economists have written  about advantages that a country (or company) needs to have over it competitors—comparative – absolute, but today it’s widely agreed that in order to leap frog competitors, you need a Competitive advantage.

Economist Michael Porter proposed a theory of Competitive Advantage that emphasizes productivity growth as the focus of national strategies. Competitive advantage rests on the notion that cheap labor is ubiquitous and natural resources are not necessary for a good economy. When we narrow our thinking down from the nation to the individual companies we focus and balance four key areas, Cost Leadership Strategy, Operational Effectiveness Strategy, Differentiation Strategy, and Innovation Strategy.

While Cost Leadership Strategy and Operational Effectiveness are useful strategies to pursue in setting profit margins and cutting internal costs, perhaps the two key strategies for textile manufactures to follow are Differentiation Strategy and Innovation Strategy.

The goal of Differentiation Strategy is to provide a variety of products, services, or features to consumers that competitors are not yet offering or are unable to offer. This gives a direct advantage to the company which is able to provide unique products or services that none of its competitors are able to offer. An example is Dell, which launched mass-customizations on computers to fit consumers' needs. This allows the company to make its product the star of its sales.

Companies that engage in Innovation Strategy set out to leapfrog other market players via the introduction of completely new or notably better products or services. This strategy is typical of technology start-up companies which often intend to disrupt the existing marketplace by making the current market entries obsolete with a breakthrough product offering. It is harder for more established companies to pursue this strategy because their product offering has achieved market acceptance. Apple has been a notable example of using this strategy with its introduction of iPod personal music players, and iPad tablets. Many companies invest heavily in their research and development department to achieve such statuses with their innovations.

The main challenges faced by pursuing these two strategies, Differentiation and Innovation, are the ability to demonstrate quality and the ability meet the customers’ expectations in a manner that is well understood and is believed. This is due to the differences that arise through subjective testing and objective testing.

Subjective or personal tests are done whenever the end customer touches or uses a textile product. Some of the questions under consideration include: How does it look and feel in the store before I buy it?  Is it durable when my children wear and play in the clothing?  Do the colors remain bright and vibrant after my laundering? If it is active sportswear, how do I feel or how does the clothing make me feel when I perspire?

The problem with answering the subjective questions is that, because each person has their own personal opinions, there is a wide variability in “results” and poor repeatability. Subjective testing does little to help the innovative firm prove their advantages to the customer.

Only through globally accepted objective measuring techniques can these firms reliably demonstrate that their products are superior to the competitors. Through quality control testing to accepted standards, companies are able to measure a textile’s properties, such as colorfastness to laundering, strength, hand, crocking and many others, in objective terms, though using globally recognized instruments such as SDL Atlas testing instruments.

By measuring and evaluating the textile’s properties throughout the production cycle, companies can improve the strength and durability of products. If you develop an innovative fabric that has moisture management properties including quick drying and moisture transport properties, the Moisture Management Tester (MMT), as described in AATCC Method 195, can objectively measure the 3-dimensional moisture movement behaviors of the clothing you produce.

If comfort in terms of softness, warmth, touch and feel properties (Fabric Hand) is important to the buyer of your clothing, then using the FTT Fabric Touch Tester that was developed by SDL Atlas can communicate the elusive and hard to measure hand properties in a scientific, objective and reliable manner. These objective data can be read by the customer and included in purchase contracts. Something that is difficult if not impossible when hand must be “measured” by a subjective panel of testers.

These are examples of just a few of the innovative instruments that available that allow companies to effectively and objectively demonstrate their distinct advantages to their customers.

If you want to be a winner, then you need a competitive advantage-- one that cannot easily be copied or bought. Be innovative, and let innovative instrument manufacturers such as SDL Atlas help you measure and prove your advantages.

With offices in the United States, Hong Kong and China, plus agents in over 100 countries, SDL Atlas is the world leader in textile testing equipment. SDL Atlas provides customers with confidence in standards based testing through expertise and global partnering.

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