July – The Heat is On!

“Ninety in the shade” is paradise when the heat of an old time textile plant gets cranking in the summer. Fortunately here in the US, modern plants offer some relief through proper machine ventilation and material advances in construction. Still, you hear stories today of plants that get so hot at the ceiling that the sprinkler system gets triggered and that the average daily temperature on the floor hovers between 100 – 110 degrees F.

Anecdotal tales aside, the heat of summer presents very real challenges not only to personnel but to material as well. For example, nylon by its nature will expand in the heat by sucking up humidity, thus causing the fibers to swell. One of the consequences of this action is material treated with heavy acrylic resins for stiffness will have almost a wet, slightly soft feel. The really odd thing is that this is not always apparent immediately out of production. The material may feel that it has met the required hand standard but unless it is moved to a cool, dry environment it will immediately begin to suck up moisture.

So what are the answers here? How do you prevent your QC staff from doing “high fives” on a perfect stiff finish and then have a customer call you five days later asking you if you had gloves on when you checked the hand? Incidentally, checking for hand or proper stiffness/softness is still done by subjective feel. There is no magic machine that will say, “YES, THIS IS CORRECT”. This is where we turn to our friends in the lab to work on a formulation for the ultra humid weather, and also where you make sure that your packers understand that goods must be bagged and moved out of harm’s way ASAP.  It is also a good idea – if time allows – to have QC check for finish just prior to shipment.

So, this is a small example of heat created mayhem. Not just for the materials, finishes and dyes, but for your employees as well. Care must be taken to insure hydration and cool break areas. This is not an easy business under the best of circumstances. Working to insure that quality is maintained, and most importantly that accidents and heat related injuries are avoided is everybody’s responsibility.

Have a safe and happy summer.