紡織矽谷在台灣

多重利基打造隱形冠軍
:::

2019 / 9月

文‧蘇俐穎 圖‧林旻萱


你能否想像,一條纖維的細度,可達頭髮的百分之一,長度可綿延十萬公里不斷裂?

當多數人對於紡織產業的印象,仍停留在3K、夕陽產業的層次,台灣業者已將這一項古老的民生工藝結合了尖端科技,發展成堅強的國家實力。


 

稱台灣是世界的紡織廠,一點兒也不為過。去(2018)年才落幕的世足賽,雖不見台灣隊伍參賽,但放眼望去,包含德國、日本、摩洛哥、埃及等16支隊伍,竟都穿上了由台灣布料製成的運動服裝。

不僅如此,大型賽事刺激消費,球迷爭相購買的結果,該屆世足賽總計銷售超過800萬件球衣,再度印證台灣「隱形冠軍」的美名。

機能布料,七成來自台灣

這已非第一遭。當2002年世足賽首次移師亞洲舉辦,彼時聲名大噪、首度踢入前四強的南韓隊,就以一身鮮紅戰袍在觀眾心裡烙下深深的印象。這件球衣的布料供應商,就是台灣的宏遠興業。

職業運動服飾的講究不需贅言,輕便、透氣、耐磨、高韌性是基本,最好還得兼有吸濕、排汗、消臭、防水、抗菌、抗UV、抗靜電等功能,同時還得經得起多次水洗,也不會消退。

台灣約從千禧年之際開始投入發展機能性紡織品,如今在全球的運動、戶外市場,能奪下高達七成市佔率,成績斐然的背後,也是歷經多次重大蛻變。

從戰後隨著國民政府撤退來台,紡織產業開始被帶進台灣,但因本地缺乏棉、毛等天然原物料,轉而將主力放在化學纖維上,甚至在1990年代,向日本人學習超細纖維的技術,開啟機能布料的濫觴。

然而,伴隨著經濟起飛,人力成本的提升,產業鏈開始外移,國際品牌採購據點轉往中國大陸,總產值的下滑,為業者敲醒警鐘。

「要是還回去做過去的市場,一定會面臨紅海的競爭,」中華民國紡織業拓展會秘書長黃偉基為我們回顧了那一段歲月,「那時的業者與經濟部工業局、技術處等政府部門就有了共識,一定要做出不一樣的產品,開創出藍海市場。」

傳統產業步步蛻變

而台灣人也確實爭氣,從2001年開始,梭織廠也好、針織廠也好,彼時的龍頭企業如中興、東帝士、力霸等,連同大小業者,開始有意識地積極轉型,而發展機能布料當中尤其關鍵的化學助劑,令人意外地,竟由國人所創辦的福盈科技後來居上,超越外商大廠,在台灣一支獨大。就此展開從原料、紡紗、織布、染整的全面性重新布局,成功轉型,確立下機能性紡織品產業聚落的根深蒂固。

同時,延續發展機能性紡織品的路線,除了既有的衣著家飾市場,業者積極發展需要高技術含量的產業用紡織品,好比醫療口罩、空氣濾網、無塵衣、晶圓擦拭布等,在作出區隔性之餘,也將市場作大。

「目前台灣大概有4,300多家紡織工廠,絕大多數是中小型企業,但還能生產、持續營運的,手上都有自己一套的技術。」談起現況,黃偉基頗為肯定。

近年更喜聞國際知名品牌商在台灣挹資加碼不斷,甚至不少廠商從大陸地區回流,Nike、Adidas、Under Armour等知名品牌甚至與業者合作,設立研發中心,台灣產業的堅強實力不言可喻。

紡織所:紡織產業萬能屋

說到台灣紡織,另外不可不提的是紡織產業綜合研究所(簡稱紡織所)。

踏入在土城的總部,接待我們的協理陳宏恩笑稱這裡「麻雀雖小,但五臟俱全」。外人難料想得到,這三棟大樓裡擁有從上游到下游一條龍的微型生產鏈,各種儀器與實驗室也一應俱全,除了供內部人員使用,廠商也可在此打樣,作試量化生產,以及進行檢驗測試與標章認證。

更重要的是,擁有超過300位專業人才的紡織所,三分之二均有碩博士學歷,除了從事學術研究,也是重要的幕僚、智庫,同時還得肩負人才培育之職責,到大專院校擔任業師,或者為廠商開班授課。簡直能說,舉凡紡織相關的疑難雜症在此都可獲得答案,像極了一所「萬能屋」。

當台灣紡織揚名國際,紡織所絕對稱得上是幕後功臣。「尤其台灣紡織業98.5%都屬於中小企業,沒有知名國際品牌的雄厚資本。」陳宏恩指出。

積極投入核心技術開發的紡織所,在此便發揮了重要作用,好比各種專利纖維,如具螢光效果的LumiLong、涼感吸濕的Aquatimo、抗菌消臭的Protimo,均已技術移轉給多家業者。雖然研發成本耗資甚鉅,但卻可供業界共享,而非由一家所壟斷,「擴散力強,C/P值特別高。」陳宏恩這樣說。

綠領經濟以降

紡織品的不斷升級,從早年的一般性紡織品到機能性紡織品,而伴隨科技的進步與環保意識的抬頭,若想在下一世代仍屹立不敗,能否通過數位轉型與循環經濟兩大趨勢的考驗,是重要關鍵。

全面利用感測器、大數據的輔助進行智慧決策,提升產品的品質並精簡人力,已是基本。陳宏恩以紡織產業耗能最高的染整階段進一步說明,由於染整加工時會造成大量的廢水與汙染物,紡織所的專家試圖提出兩種解決方案。

其一,是藉由重新設計生產流程,在纖維、紗線的階段即先進行染色,其二,運用數位轉型的方法,改以數位染整、數位印花,先在電腦上進行配色,再將布料視為紙張,可在面料上直接進行精準的噴染;兩者都不再需要用到大量的水。

事實上,環保命題所帶來的並不只是為了達到節能減碳的各種限制,美國知名的環保運動家、同時也是前歐巴馬政府的特別顧問范‧瓊恩便指出,以環境保護及永續發展為訴求的綠領政策,可以是啟動經濟再次成長的動能。

讓我們走一趟位在台南山上區的宏遠興業就知道。

是工廠,也是生態園區

踏入宏遠的偌大廠區,只見中央的迢迢大路望不見底,廣達23甲的規模,首先印入眼簾的是一汪生態池,四周還長滿了風箱樹、水社柳、齒葉夜睡蓮、台灣萍蓬草等植物,池旁小徑還有鴨子大搖大擺,竟然完全不怕人,在建築周邊的,則是無所不在的高大綠樹與爬藤植物,儼然顛覆了工廠的既定印象。

全球氣候變異的現在,夏季屢屢逼近40℃的高溫,沒有冷氣空調的辦公室,卻沒有想像中的燠熱。迎接我們的是宏遠興業總經理室協理曾一正,他一把推開玻璃窗,一片蒼鬱的遮蔭襲來,這才讓人意會過來,「這是我們的綠色窗簾。」曾一正說。

宏遠的環保永續推動得早,2007年就開始力行,當年總經理葉清來的一聲號令,讓各部門如火如荼地動員,曾一正回憶著當時,負責生態池工程的他,甚至跑到屏科大、洲仔濕地、荒野保護協會,向生態專家請益,也為工廠帶回了不少稀有種。

作環保,並不需要高深的學問,這是宏遠得到的經驗。

「簡單、便利、低成本」是奉行的原則,從最簡單的綠化,積極種樹、種爬藤類植物開始,也大興土木在園區內建了四個生態池,建築周邊加裝水霧機,地面上捨傳統的柏油路改用自行製造、透氣透水的環保磚,室內改用節能電扇等,短短一年,全廠區就宣布全面停開冷氣。

成立了31年的工廠,經過循環經濟的洗禮,就如同陳宏恩的一段話:「在數位轉型、循環經濟的趨勢下,所有的紡織品都得經過這一段。通過的,就像電玩遊戲裡的角色裝備,擁有的裝備越多,角色越強,競爭力也越高。」

當我們踏入獲得鑽石級綠建築標章的紡織廠,這幢經過大改造的老廠房,過去為了降溫、全日運轉的冷凍機已經停機封存,被取代的,是一整面的水簾牆與巨大的排風扇,站在室內,竟能感覺到流動的徐徐微風。

提升綠實力的方案實在很多,小到重複利用出貨用的紙箱,或者運用保溫棉為機台保溫,避免熱能逸散,也可以加裝節能的廢熱回收機等。甚至在過去,染整階段所產生的煤渣,一天就超過十噸,原本需要動用卡車來清運,現在自行加工成可對外銷售的磚材,不僅省下大筆開銷,竟還能從中獲利。

工業耗能的尺度規模對一般人來說著實難以想像,尤其對於宏遠這種經過垂直整合,涵蓋紡紗、織布、染整、成衣各個環節的大型工廠,總的下來每年省下的費用竟高達2億元之譜。

紡織王國的下一步

近年紡織業者無不屏息以待的,是下一波即將來到的智慧衣風潮。

業界約從2010年開始投入,紡織所洞見先機,2005年即開始投入研發,目前已搶先開發出LED紗線,或者結合導電紗線的電熱織物等產品,前景可期。

台灣在3C產業的傲人實力,也為未來智慧衣的發展提供相當好的利基點,供應鏈的夥伴都留在自己家,不需特地到國外尋找,「不只紡織業強,資訊業、電子業也都很強,三種合在一起就成了超強組合。」陳宏恩相當樂觀。

至於談到循環經濟,不可不提業者積極研發,將各種將垃圾、廢料大翻身的環保紗線,好比興采實業的咖啡紗、遠東新世紀以海洋廢棄物製成的寶特紗、博祥國際的魚鱗紗等。

台灣的另一項罕為人知的世界奇蹟,是名列世界前三、超過50%的垃圾回收率,也是發展綠色經濟的助力,現今近100%回收來的寶特瓶,通通都送到紡織廠當作原料。

擁有多方優勢的台灣紡織產業,如日中天,誰說傳統產業注定窮途末路?「沒有所謂夕陽不夕陽,只有要不要努力。」陳宏恩說。

相關文章

近期文章

EN

A “Silicon Valley” for Textiles

Taiwan’s Hidden Champions

Lynn Su /photos courtesy of Lin Min-hsuan /tr. by Scott Williams

Can you imagine a continuous, unbroken fiber that’s just one hundredth the width of a human hair, yet 10,000 kilometers long?

Ask most people what they know about the textiles sector and you’re likely to hear that it’s a dirty, dangerous “sunset industry.” But the fact is that Taiwanese businesses are integrating cutting-­edge technology into this age-old craft, and turning it into a new source of national strength.

 


Taiwan is in some ways the world’s textile mill. While we didn’t have a team in the 2018 soccer World Cup, 16 of those that played, including the German, Japanese, Moroc­can, and Egyptian teams, wore athletic clothing made from fabrics produced in Taiwan.

Such achievements have solidified Taiwan’s standing as a “hidden champion” in textiles.

70% of performance fabrics

This isn’t the first time Taiwanese textiles have appeared at the World Cup. When Asia hosted the com­peti­tion for the first time in 2002, the South Korean team impressed viewers not just with its first appearance in the final four, but with its bright red uniforms. Taiwan’s Everest Textile provided the fabric for those uniforms.

That professional athletic wear is lightweight, breathable, long-lasting and tough is a given. Ideally, it also wicks away sweat, neutralizes odors, blocks UV radiation, is water-resistant, antibacterial and antistatic, and is able to retain all of these properties through numerous washings.

Taiwan began developing performance textiles sometime around the millennium, and now holds about 70% of the global market for performance fabrics used in sports and outdoor wear.

Achieving this level of success required several transformations. It began with the retreat of mainland Chinese textile companies to Taiwan with the Nationalist government, and their establishment here. But Taiwan’s lack of natural materials like cotton and wool caused the industry to refocus on chemical fibers.

Later, when our economy took flight and the cost of labor rose, the production chain began moving offshore. International brands relocated their purchasing to mainland China and the local industry’s output fell, setting off alarm bells in Taiwan’s business community.

Reflecting on that period, Taiwan Textile Federation secretary-general Justin ­Huang says, “The industry, and government agencies such as the Industrial Development Bureau and Department of Industrial Technology of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, were in agreement: Taiwan needed to develop new products that could open up ‘blue ocean’ markets.”

An industrial makeover

Determined not to fail, businesses large and small began truly transforming themselves in 2001. The de­velop­ment of chemical catalysts was crucial to the de­velop­ment of performance fabrics. To the surprise of many, Jintex, a Taiwanese firm, played a key role in creating these catalysts. It became the market leader in Taiwan when its efforts outstripped those of many major foreign firms. Local firms then took advantage of these new catalysts to revamp their raw materials, yarn spinning, fabric-making, dyeing and finishing operations, laying the foundations for the development of the performance fabrics industry.

The ratcheting up of international brands’ investments in Taiwan has enticed many local companies to bring their operations back from mainland China in recent years. In a further demonstration of the strength of the Taiwanese industry, household names like Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour have even been partnering with Taiwanese companies to establish R&D centers.

TTRI: Textile’s one-stop shop

The Taiwan Textile Research Institute (TTRI) looms large in discussions about Taiwan’s textile industry.

TTRI vice president Chen Hung-en greets us on our arrival at the organization’s headquarters in Tu­cheng, a southwestern suburb of Tai­pei. Few people outside the industry know that TTRI’s three buildings contain an entire production chain in miniature. As Chen jokes, the insti­tute is like a sparrow, small but perfectly formed. The labs are fully equipped and available not just to TTRI personnel, but also to textiles makers, who can use them to produce prototypes and do trial production runs, as well as to carry out inspection, testing, and certification.

More importantly, TTRI employs more than 300 professionals, two-thirds of whom hold advanced degrees. In addition to pursing academic research, the institute is a valuable partner and source of expertise that also trains industry personnel by providing classes to industry parti­ci­pants and lending out instructors to colleges and universities. In short, it’s a one-stop shop for answers to all of the most vexing textile-related problems the industry faces.

The green-collar economy

The textiles industry has steadily advanced over the years, with technological progress and the rise of en­vironment­al­ism supporting its transition from con­ventional fabrics to performance fabrics. Moving forward, its ability to navigate the digital transformation and the emergence of the circular economy will be crucial to determining whether it is able to continue that growth into the next era.

Chen cites the energy-intensive dyeing and finishing processes as an example, explaining that TTRI experts have proposed two solutions to the large amounts of wastewater and pollution that they create.

The institute’s first proposal involves reordering the production process to perform dyeing at the fiber and yarn stages rather than the fabric stage. The second involves taking advantage of the digital age by using computers to match colors, and then precisely spraying those colors directly onto the surface of a fabric as if it were paper. Neither solution requires the use of large quantities of water.

Environmentalism isn’t just about the imposition of constraints on things like energy consumption and carbon emissions. It can also be an impetus for economic growth, as we learn when we visit Everest Textile in Tai­nan’s Shan­shang District.

A factory and an eco-park

The first thing you see on entering Everest’s 22-hectare compound is an eco-pond. Ducks swagger along the path beside the pond, completely unafraid of people. The buildings themselves are surrounded by tall trees and climbing vines, not at all what you would expect of a factory.

Everest has learned that environmental action doesn’t require deep knowledge.

The company runs its green initiatives on the principles of “simplicity, convenience, and low cost.” It began with the simplest of green measures, planting trees and vines. It also built four eco-ponds and installed large misters next to each building. Instead of paving its ­facility’s roads with asphalt, the company used water- and air-­permeable eco-bricks that it manufactured itself. Inside, it replaced air conditioners with energy-saving fans. Just one year after starting the green initiative, the company turned off all its air conditioners.

We enter the factory, which holds a diamond-level EEWH green building certification. The company used to run the factory’s chillers 24 hours a day to keep the temperature down, but since the renovations has shut them off and mothballed them. Now, it uses a water curtain and giant fans to cool the building. When you stand inside, you can feel the air moving gently.

It’s hard for people outside of the manufacturing sector to grasp the scale of a factory’s power consumption. That of a vertically integrated facility like Everest’s, which spins yarn, weaves fabric, dyes cloth, and assembles garments, is even higher, which makes its green initiatives all the more important, both for the environment and for the company’s bottom line. In fact, the renovations have saved it some NT$200 million per year.

The next step

In recent years, the industry has been anxiously antici­pating the rise of “smart” clothing.

Taiwan’s strength in the 3C industries provides it with an outstanding foundation for the development of such clothing. With supply chain partners already in place here at home, manufacturers needn’t seek them abroad. “It isn’t just that we have a robust textiles industry. Our information technology and electronics industries are also strong. The three together make for a superpowered combination,” says an optimistic Chen.

When the conversation turns to the circular economy, we discuss efforts to turn trash and waste into environmentally friendly yarns, as with Singtex’s coffee yarn (S. Café), Far Eastern New Century’s use of marine debris to produce PET yarn (TOPGREEN), and Camangi’s fish-scale yarn (UMORFIL).

Taiwan’s still largely unrecognized “other miracle” is that it recycles more than 50% of its trash. Not only does this figure rank third in the world, it is also aiding the development of our green economy. In fact, nearly 100% of Taiwan’s recycled PET bottles end up as raw materials at textile factories.

With Taiwan’s textile industry having leveraged its many strengths to enjoy a new heyday, who can say that traditional industries have no future? “There’s no such thing as a ‘sunset industry.’ It’s all a matter of how hard you’re willing to work,” observes Chen.

X 使用【台灣光華雜誌】APP!
更快速更方便!