The textile industry: technologically and methodologically dynamic
Berkstresser describes the textile industry's diversity and adaptability both in technology and in an increasing embrace of marketing.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Gordon Berkstresser III, April 29, 1986. Interview H-0263. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
- PATRICIA RAUB:
I've read that one of the major trends in the last 30 or 40
years in the textile industry has been a much more integration of
marketing into the whole factory process and that that has helped the
industry to survive and to do better, that there aren't as
many overruns as there used to be.
- GORDON BERKSTRESSER, III:
It's continuing to happen. If you pick up any of the
standard marketing textbooks, particularly Phil
Copper, () who's the
best—and always has been—you see that that was
about the time too of the generalized change from the sales ethic to the
marketing ethic. Prior to WWII a mill made what it could make because of
its equipment and then somebody in New York that had a market for it
sold it—New York, Philadelphia, Boston.
Now, of course, it's moved to the point where basically you
have a market-driven industry. One of the big problems for people trying
to understand the industry is when you talk about the textile, or the
apparel and textile and fiber industry, as one unit, you're
talking about something that even the federal government divides into
about 68 different SIC codes. Right off the bat, it's not an
industry, it's a convenient thing to call this agglomeration.
But the differences between the various segments of the industry are
really quite large.
For many, many years, even the educational institutions—for
many years, our school here—talked about fiber and textiles.
That's where we stopped. In my lifetime we have
added—during the past decade—a real, ongoing
program in apparel. Cut and sew. Take it one step closer to the
consumer. Right now we're trying to add more, through the
distribution, we're adding marketing courses, marketing
research courses, getting even into the retailing. We're
going to have to get into the consumer behavior end of it. There is no
question. Because that's part of our business.
But, the industry has been in a revolution of not only new
technology—and the new technologies are what Drucker called
the discontinuities—you go from two thousand years of
throwing a shuttle across a loom with the yarn inside of the shuttle,
reeling off, either by hand or by water power, by belt power or by
electric power, you go from that to no shuttle but either a projectile
like a bullet or a drop of water—a spit—or just
blowing the yarn across today. That's a complete
discontinuity in technology. And all of a sudden you're
talking about speeds of a magnitude four, five, six times of what was
achieved before. You're talking then about needing a labor
force of one quarter of the number of people that you used to use. This
type of thing. But also of having to have more highly-trained
technicians to fix the bloody machines. Tremendous change that way.
Coupled with a tremendous change from a sales outlook to a marketing