A textile manufacturer supervises workers who make products that contain fibers, such as clothing, tires, yarn, and insulation. Whatever the industry, the task of a textiles manufacturer is the same: To oversee the conversion of a raw product (either natural or man-made fibers) into usable goods. Successful textile manufacturers plan multistage projects, work with widely varying batches of raw material, maintain high quality levels, and get optimal output from workers. One textile manufacturer described himself as “one-third scientist, one-third problem-solver, and one-third quarterback.” Another described how he found this career: “I was looking for a job that would push me on a lot of levels-intellectually, physically, emotionally-and I’ve found it.” Those who can juggle the innumerable duties this job entails will find a comfortable home in textile manufacturing.
Some fibers are manufactured or milled from plants, spun into yarn and then, depending on the end product, further altered through tufting, weaving, or knitting. Others have to be pulped, washed, and spun-dry. Fibers must also be blended, wound, and stored before the dyeing, matching, or finishing takes place. At each stage in the process, textile manufacturers have to oversee a group of workers who specialize in that area of production. “Each section thinks they’re the most important to the process, and if you try to tell them otherwise, you’ve got trouble,” said one New Jersey manufacturer. A number of respondents noted that the people skills they use on the job every day are their most critical asset. “I thought I was a manufacturer, not a babysitter,” quipped one executive. Still, only those who can manage people effectively make it in this field.
Many respondents said the best part of the job is the challenge; they cited dealing with uneven lots of raw materials and final products, meeting tight deadlines, coordinating production (sometimes a twenty-four-hour-a-day staff), and shipping final goods. Others said they liked having a tangible product of their labor. “I drive down a stretch of road I supplied with threaded tarbase,” said one happy executive, “and I point it out to my kid.” This satisfaction is common among those who thrive amid the multiple-task demands of this profession.
Textiles manufacturers don’t need any specific academic degree, but many employers value a college education that emphasizes a facility with numbers and an ability to plan. Experience that demonstrates an ability to lead production teams is also highly valued. The scientific aspects of the job-understanding the nuances of creating a finished textile product from raw, unpredictable materials-are nearly always learned on the job. Textile manufacturers have to know their machines, which are fast-moving, dangerous, and subject to frequent breakdown. Those who wish to have job mobility should gain broad experience; exposure to different methods of production increases a person’s chances of being able to jump into a new job.
Few textile manufacturers find satisfaction outside of their profession. Some work in non-textile production manufacturing, such as finished products or crafted woods. Others become salespeople, representatives, or managers in the textile industry. Their knowledge of the production process helps them understand pricing and the pace of production in the industry. Fewer than four percent of textile manufacturers return to school.