Tradition meets digitalisation

The phenomenon of digitalisation and networking of the entire value chain ? Industry 4.0 ? is also gaining importance in the textile industry. H. Stoll AG & Co. KG, a long-established manufacturer of flat knitting machines based in Reutlingen, Germany, will present an innovative software tool for networking of machine parks with up to a thousand machines at the ITMA textile machinery show in mid-November.

The phenomenon of digitalisation and networking of the entire value chain ? Industry 4.0 ? is also gaining importance in the textile industry. H. Stoll AG & Co. KG, a long-established manufacturer of flat knitting machines based in Reutlingen, Germany, will present an innovative software tool for networking of machine parks with up to a thousand machines at the ITMA textile machinery show in mid-November. CEO Andreas Schellhammer talks about digitalisation as a challenge and opportunity for the long-established float knitting machine manufacturer, whose machines are increasingly being used for the production of technical textiles. In an interview with Andreas Schellhammer.

Your company, which is an active member of the VDMA Textile Machinery Association, is currently drawing attention with an innovative software tool for networking of flat knitting machines. This is in response to the trend of Industry 4.0. Why?

Our multi-functional control center, the ?Production Planning System? (PPS), is the answer to the question of how we can offer our customers added value within the framework of Industry 4.0. The fact is: Networking of the individual machines in a machine park and digitalisation of the production chain is advancing rapidly and is offering significant potential. We, as a long-established machine builder, are taking these topics very seriously and have therefore increased the number of IT and software specialists.

What is the main business activity of the Stoll company?

Our core business is the manufacture of flat knitting machines, which meanwhile are delivered to more than 70 countries around the world. Knitting mills ? from large-scale factories in Asia to premium manufacturers in Europe ? use them to produce pullovers, vests, skirts and dresses, as well as seat covers, bandages for medical use and even filters for industrial applications. In addition to the manufacture and sale of flat knitting machines, we also offer a diverse range of services, including application development, in order to assist and support the customer making best use of his machines.

You mention seat covers, medical bandages and industrial filters, which are considered technical textiles. Is this a trend in flat knitting?

The field of technical textiles is gaining importance in flat knitting. For example, the integration of extremely thin metallic threads in lighting or heating functions is becoming more widespread. Since the Stoll company as a competent solution provider is growing in this area, this segment offers extraordinary potential.

When Stoll was established in 1873, Bismarck was still the Chancellor of Germany. Is it even possible to adapt knitting, as one of the basic textile technologies, to the requirements of the 21st century?

We developed the world?s first ?Links-Links?- flat knitting machine in 1893, which revolutionised the textile machinery market at that time. Trends and requirements related to the production of our customers have always been reflected in the different generations of flat knitting machines – which has not changed until today. Nowadays knitting mills have to become much more responsive, because the fashion companies have shortened the collection cycles enormously. While stores in the past presented two collections per year, today it is not unusual to have ten or more. Consequently knitting mills also have to adapt their production infrastructure very quickly to new collections. This also means a challenge for us as machine manufacturer: we have to make sure that the flat knitting technology keeps up with those new requirements, providing state-of-the-art industrial structures to allow our customers to manufacture competitively.

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