STOLL Knit & Wear®
The Stoll seamless knitwear machine range is known as Knit and Wear® machines. The largest users of Knit and Wear® machines are in Italy, followed by Spain and France. Stoll decided to direct the research and development focus on the traditional flat bed machines whilst maintaining a small proportion for Knit and Wear®.
On display at ITMA 2012 there were numerous flat bed knitting machines similar Shima Seiki and Stoll. These machines do not offer the same quality or efficiency and do not have the same life expectancy as the Shima Seiki or Stoll Machines, however they do sell at a remarkably lower price.
Stoll decided to invest their research and development budget into producing more versatile and cost effective machines to retain a good market share in flat bed knitting machine segment of the market. Shima Seiki’s WHOLEGARMENT® machines are particularly expensive therefore China, the largest consumers of knitting machines, weren’t taking up the WHOLEGARMENT® technology. The elimination of labour costs made by adopting these machines and processes was not seen as a major benefit. It is economically more beneficial for Chinese manufacturers to pay the costs involved with additional garment assembly rather than the large outlay of a WHOLEGARMENT® machine. With so many new flat bed machine companies coming on the market producing cheap machines, Stoll decided to direct the majority of their research and development resources to develop low-price high-quality machines. Stoll continue to develop Knit and Wear® machines; however, the priority is to maintain the market share they already have with flat bed machines and expand on it.
The fact that Stoll don’t offer a large range of Knit and Wear® machines is purely an economic business decision, as opposed to being behind in the technology. Stoll representatives believe that the lack of highly experienced programmers in the industry is limiting the uptake of the technology. Italian educational institutions support the fashion industry by offering many specialised knitwear-training qualifications. As a result, the best programmers are in Italy, the largest consumer of seamless technology of any country and enjoys a lucrative knitwear industry.
However, when the fellow was attempting to organise courses at Stoll to learn the Knit and Wear® program, this wasn’t possible until six places could be filled. A course did become available whilst the fellow was studying at Stoll but with such late notice they were unable to amend their travel plans. Shima Seiki, on the other hand, will run the courses at any time, as long as somebody is willing to learn – the fellow was the only person undertaking the WHOLEGARMENT® course at that time.
Currently the geographical distance between designers and factories is inhibiting the growth of seamless technology, as everything is done offshore, and certain countries are not taking up the technology. If designers are dealing with new technology, they may require numerous samples to get the garment right. The large distance between the two can prolong the sampling time. The ideal situation would be to have the machine, programmers and designer in the one place, though the price of the machine often inhibits this. Italy has the entire necessary infrastructure required to produce knitwear locally, as it is one of the few developed countries that has retained on-shore manufacturing. Unlike most other countries, such as Australia, where the factories and skills necessary to complete any garment within the local vicinity are diffuclt to find at a reasonable price.
When automatic linking machines are widely available, the necessity of the Knit and Wear® market may diminish. Consumers generally don’t know the difference between a seamless garment and a regular garment. The majority of medical garments are made using Knit and Wear® technology. Knit and Wear® technology has been taken up by some German doctors who have a direct link to a knitwear factory and who are then given the patients specifications to manufacture the product.
Stoll have a range of support options available for customers including a helpline that can assist with resolving technical issues. They have also developed a pattern database where designs can be downloaded for free, providing the customer own a machine.