Denham production runs extensive
Can there be a better DBA than Denimburg for the Edinburg plant which anticipates producing 11 million yards of denim in 2017? The ultra-automated factory is on its way to becoming the largest denim manufacturer in the United States.
Claudio Motta, plant manager for the facility owned by Santana Textiles of Brazil, started a tour of the ultra-automated factory in Denimburg’s fabric showroom. “Here we try to show the effects clients can achieve using our fabric. Our task is to bring them as many possibilities as we can,” he said. In the showroom, jeans and denim apparel makers, Denimburg’s customers, view the different weight and weaves of denim and contrast the various affects the sewing factories can achieve.
Using only American cotton (primarily Texas cotton), the fabric carries Made in USA labels at a time when American-made textiles have almost disappeared. Three Carolina-based plants also make denim.
The cachet of the American label is a major asset, but changes in the fashion supply chain are also propelling Denimburg’s growth. Speeding fashion trends to market requires a short supply chain, and quality American denim, sewn into apparel in the Americas, shortens the turnaround time considerably. Rising wages in China have reduced the appeal of Asian production,
The trademarked Denimburg name (credited to CEO Roberto Cantu) is part of the package that plays on the Texas legacy. Its current 10-12 denims of varying weights and colors are named for Texas cities: Houston and Galveston, as well as Kingsville and McAllen. “All of our employees are from the Valley,” Motta said. “We feel proud to have something created here that will be marketed internationally.”
Denimburg takes orders for delivery in 30 days. Mexican apparel plants have been the primary customers for the Made in USA denim. “Mexican clients really like our denim,” Motta said. U.S. and Columbian manufacturers are expected to begin purchasing from Denimburg in 2017.
Set on 34 acres with its own $5 million waste water treatment plant in north Edinburg, Denimburg began commercial production in 2016, after several years spent constructing and installing the massive European robotic equipment with touch control screens.
Denimburg finished processing Rio Grande Valley cotton in early January and began receiving trucks filled with bales from Tulia, Texas. Each arriving cotton bale is graded on four criteria: fiber length, fiber strength, color and trash content. To achieve a uniform product, a recipe for mixing the four different grades has been established to create various weights of denim. The cotton first goes through a cleaning process, resulting in drums of coiled bright-white cotton fiber and waste plugs of leaves, dirt and cotton seeds. In Brazil, those plugs are recycled to cattle growers, but Denimburg has not yet lined up a market, said Javier Martinez, Denimburg finance manager.
The cleaned “sliver” is coiled into soft white ropes which are spun into yarn and fed onto bobbins in a building where spinning machines stretch for more than 200 feet. During the spinning process, Motta said, the sliver goes into the machine at the rate of three feet per minute but is spun onto the bobbin at 300 feet per minute. “The finished yarn is 100 times thinner” than fiber going in. The process has built-in quality control devices: if the yarn is uneven or snaps, a robot rolls to the spinning machine and restarts the process.
“The indigo machine is the heart of the operation,” said Martinez, in the dyeing building.
The bobbin yarn is warped onto a huge spool which holds approximately 4,800 thread ends. In an hour-long process, the threads are dyed before being woven in a fully automated process. The dye bath is processed at the waste water facility along with fluids from pre-shrinking to remove the chemicals.
Humidity is carefully controlled in Building 3 which holds 72 active weaving machines. Currently 36 looms are inactive as Denimburg ramps up to fully capacity, projected for later this year. The looms shuttle thread 850 times per minute, creating a cacophony of clicking that requires hearing protection. Within four to five days, the dyed thread, combined with white thread, emerges from the loom as denim fabric.
The denim goes through numerous finishing steps including washing to pre-shrink the fabric. (One thousand yard emerges as 850 yards.) Quality control includes skew correction and flaw identification.
When Denimburg reaches full production capacity in the late spring, it will be producing 1.2 million yards of denim per month and have 160 employees. Then it will be time to prepare for the next expansion phase, and time also to claim its place as the leader of the American denim manufacturing, according to Motta.
For more information, see Denimburg.com.
This story by Eileen Mattei appears in the February 2017 print edition of Valley Business Report.