Knitting Trade Journal: As we emerge from an unpredictable 2017, many suppliers to the global knitting industry are cautiously optimistic over order books for 2018. Is this the case for Kern Liebers?
Johan Steeghs: Kern-Liebers is optimistic regarding the outlook for 2018. We see a growing demand for our high quality sinkers and needles and are confident that in the coming years we will realise a steady growth of our turnover. Especially we are expecting a further increase of our turnover with our OEM customers because high-end solutions are always requested.
KTJ: How have your customers responded to the relatively recent Kern Liebers re-branding?
JS: Customers overall have been very positive. Our umbrella brand Kern-Liebers-Textile is world-wide regarded as a strong and famous brand in all areas of the knitting industry. Kern-Liebers Textile is umbrella brand for the three companies Saxonia, Kern-Liebers Knitting Parts as well as for Leistner.
KTJ: Which sectors (hosiery, circular, flat knitting) are providing the strongest demand for Kern Liebers and are there any particular speciality products that are in strong demand?
JS: At this moment we see a very strong demand for our sinkers and guide needles for the warp knit market as well as a continuously high demand in the flat knitting sector. The strongest growth we are expecting for elements and needles for large diameter machines.
KTJ: Can you outline any significant advantages of your products?
JS: Kern-Liebers is the market leader in flat parts for knitting machines and produces in close cooperation with machine builders worldwide sinkers and needles that meet the highest demands in terms of product quality, evenness, and rounding.
Kern-Liebers sinkers have a perfect stamped quality with extremely close tolerances in terms of evenness and length of tip. Moreover with our perfect edge rounding right into the finest sinker throat, we produce optimally rounded sinkers with repetitive accuracy and thus guaranteed replacement reliability. This enables our customers to produce knitted fabrics with a constant high quality and productivity. If you purchase Kern-Liebers Textile elements you get OEM original parts.
KTJ: Does Kern Liebers receive specific demands from its customers and if so, how are you able to respond to these requests?
JS: Kern-Liebers is actively working with customers worldwide to meet specific demands. We have a flexible and open approach to develop together with our customers’ new products and applications using our strong technical expertise and modern production facilities. Together with our customer we develop new technical solutions in a close partnership.
KTJ: Which will be your most active markets by region in 2017? Are there any new emerging markets which Kern Liebers is very confident about?
JS: As expected, for Kern-Liebers the Asian market will be the most active market. Also in the coming years Asia will be the largest market for Kern-Liebers.
KTJ: How do you see your products competing with emerging Chinese technology?
JS: Kern-Liebers will have to compete on the strength of our R&D, technology, and ability to bring its customers new products. High quality products at acceptable prices paired with manufacturing excellence will enable us to stay ahead of the competition. Because of our permanent availability through our network of offices we are always aware of the latest and most important developments. You have to be prepared for developments in good time in order to always have the right answers and solutions available.
KTJ: What, in your view, are the real challenges facing the high quality suppliers to the knitting industry in 2018 and beyond?
JS: The real challenge will be in being able to have a highly productive and cost efficient lean manufacturing in order to face the growing low cost competition from Asian producers. A very flexible and responsive customer service is absolutely necessary to meet customer demand. The markets are developing faster and faster. New trends come up in ever shorter intervals.