What do car seats and evening dresses, awnings and moccasins, firefighters uniforms and parachutes have in common? Without the right thread, they fall apart. But many of the highly specialized threads from Amann GmbH in Bönnigheim are in a different league to everyday sewing thread. Special threads have to withstand a lot and have become genuine high-tech products.
With its global operations, the company from the Stuttgart Region is one of the worlds largest manufacturers of sewing and embroidery threads. The company was founded by Alois Amann and Imanuel Böhringer in 1854 and is steeped in tradition. It produces more than one million kilometres of thread every day. At state-of-the-art production sites, special custom-built machinery allows for fully automated production processes - from doubling to dyeing, treatment and making-up.
Synthetic fibres plan the main role in making seams resilient. Amann purchases the raw materials from other manufacturers and refines and processes them for integration in its own products. Several work steps are then performed, during which the filaments are doubled, dyed and treated as required. The range is very broad, as the properties that the thread needs to have depend on what the product is used for.
From the automotive industry to decorative embroidery
Special threads for heat and fire protection clothing for a steelworker, firefighter or Formula 1 driver are real miracles. They are made from special fibres that are fireproof or fire-resistant and can withstand temperatures of up to 370 degrees Celsius. Industrial sewing threads on the other hand have to withstand UV radiation or be resistant to certain chemicals or extremely hardwearing for example. Threads for cleanroom or protective clothing in the field of microelectronics have to conduct electrical charges or prevent static charge from accumulating in the first place. By contrast, seams on tarpaulin, tents and upholstered furniture have to be water-resistant and hardwearing. The same applies to trekking and sports shoes, parachutes, filters or technical articles. But jersey goods, knitwear and swimwear need to have soft, textured threads.
Many textile brandname products use embroidered logos. These require the finest of threads that make it possible to produce details and small scripts, can be processed easily and offer a broad range of colours. "A large number of the major branded clothing manufacturers are long-term customers of ours", explains the companys CEO Bodo Th. Bölzle. "For example, we have been working with Hugo Boss for 60 years now".
System applications in the automotive sector place particularly high demands on materials and processes. "We work in close cooperation with our customers in the automotive industry to develop and produce high-tech industrial sewing threads for a huge variety of applications", says Bölzle. Thanks to the exceptionally high quality of its products, Amann has an excellent reputation in the automotive industry and is well respected by automobile manufacturers such as Porsche, BMW and Mercedes.
The company is also at the forefront of research and development and has its own laboratories for textile and sewing technology. In the sewing technology department, for example, production batches are tested for the requisite properties and customized sewing tests are carried out. "This gives us a decisive competitive edge", explains Bölzle, "and sets Amann apart from its competitors. Our employees examine in advance how well new threads and materials work together when they are combined, or provide support to companies experiencing sewing-related problems."
The finished threads are available in a wide variety of spool sizes and thicknesses. These range from thread lengths of 40 metres for household use up to 50,000 metres for industrial thread. It is hard to imagine, but it takes up to 350 metres of thread to make a pair of trousers. Even a shoe needs 20 metres of thread.
Economic and ecological sustainability
1,350 employees work for the Amann Group, which sells its products in more than 100 countries and has subsidiaries and shareholdings in regions including Europe, the USA, China and India. Bölzle sums up the strategy of the successful company with its roots in tradition as follows: "Our success stems from decades of experience coupled with the cooperation of our customers, but also from focusing on our core competency, which is producing thread. This is the only way that we can remain on top". In order to safeguard long-term corporate succession for the Amann Group, since 2005 the company has had a foundation as its shareholder. The foundation also promotes art and culture, science and research as well as education and training.
Growing environmental awareness also has a role to play at Amann. For example, the past year saw the market launch of the "Lifecycle Threads" brand, which is sewing thread made from recycled polyester and organic cotton. In addition, other naturally renewable raw materials and the biopolymers extracted from such materials are being tested for their potential uses. It is possible that anyone who drinks mineral water from PET bottles might soon be carrying the container with them once again in another form, because Amann also uses shredded PET bottles to make new thread.