The resurgence of the American textile industry in recent years is thanks in part to the ingenuity of female engineers. As machines and operators become more efficient, the viability of producing textiles in the U.S. increases. Standard Textile is creating a model for the future of textile manufacturing in the U.S. by utilizing the Internet of Things (IoT) to move data from headquarters to our manufacturing facilities. Investments in automation, robotics, and vision control systems to deploy smart technology allows us to respond to changing customer needs faster, helping customers stay more competitive today and ready for tomorrow. The female engineers at Standard Textile continue to drive capital projects here in the U.S., focused on improving efficiency and throughput.
Key roles women fulfill are no different than men’s and include supporting manufacturing and distribution facilities. However, as female engineers, our contributions to the company and to the textile industry are significant, because we provide expertise and a unique point of view in a traditionally male-dominated field.
The recent launch and subsequent expansion of a new distribution center in South Carolina required engineering innovation in devising more efficient ways to store raw and finished sheeting and terry goods. Projects included everything from developing new racking layouts and creating improved roll storage, to implementing a new sprinkler system within the building itself.
In manufacturing products for healthcare- and hospitality-related interior design, highly custom projects and variances in the types of fabrics used (color, thickness, weight, application, etc.) requires specialized knowledge of equipment capabilities.
Not only are we evaluating machinery, recommending new purchases and upgrades, and creating product specifications, we are charged with looking at the big picture and devising process improvement strategies. All while ensuring the highest levels of environmental health and safety compliance.
The engineers at Standard Textile are accountable for timelines, working closely with the planning team, and for setting the standard for production rates to meet or exceed customer expectations. From documenting processes to conducting time studies, our team analyzes staffing and incentives; develops floor layout for maximum efficiency; and focuses on optimizing work flow.
Involving our operators in the brainstorming process is very important. Listening to feedback about what’s happening on the floor or in the office, observing behaviors, making expert recommendations, and getting others on board with those changes is all part of the job. Finding new ways to make people’s jobs easier is something we love to do. Sometimes it’s simple to do; sometimes it’s complex, but we enjoy helping in either case.
In a collaborative manufacturing environment, a range of effective communication skills is essential to achieving success. As today’s textile engineering is a mix of people skills and technical knowledge, females can shape decisions and manufacturing operations by presenting a fresh perspective.
But while the opportunity to positively impact operations is great, for many women considering entering the manufacturing arena, the path can come with challenges.
One of the biggest challenges women have to overcome is doubting—or even worse, not believing—in their abilities. Men can be confident, even if they have no experience with the task at hand. Many women have a hard time gaining the respect of others because we refrain from exposing that same level of confidence. But the truth is, we must exhibit self-assurance in order to be successful. Being assertive, and straightforward is crucial. Women engineers need to demonstrate that they have the ability to handle anything thrown their way. By projecting confidence, co-workers will trust and believe in your capabilities.
We’d like to emphasize to other women who are interested in engineering that it’s not a career choice to fear. We encourage them not to be intimidated because they are female. There is nothing wrong with being the only female in your college class or your company’s department if you are pursuing something that interests you.
About the Authors
Kristin Kentie is the Director of Supply Chain Operations for the Interiors division at Standard Textile. She graduated from Lehigh University with a B.S. in Industrial Engineering. Lauren Stewart, Engineering Supervisor, graduated from the University of Louisville with a Master of Engineering degree in Industrial Engineering and a B.S. in Industrial Engineering. Rebecca Herrmann, Industrial Engineer, graduated from the University of Dayton with a B.S. in Industrial Engineering.