15th March 2011, Winterthur
The words ‘Swiss Made’ are a highly regarded mark of origin, not only for watches, chocolate and precision tools, but also for textile industry products. A fine example in textiles is Hermann Bühler AG, which produces top-quality, super-fine yarns in Supima cotton and Micro Modal on 48,000 spindles at its site in Winterthur, Switzerland and a further 32,000 spindles at a subsidiary factory in Jefferson, Georgia, USA.
Many of the Bühler yarn brands, supplied to numerous international circular knitting and weaving plants, are the starting materials for a wide range of ‘Swiss cotton’ textiles.
Being a typically exemplary Swiss company, the traditional business also boasts two more coveted certifications. Ever since 1993, Hermann Bühler has been working to the OEKO-TEX Standard 100 in its operational quality control, which means having Bühler yarns continuously monitored and certified by the Swiss testing institute TESTEX to prove that they are free of harmful substances. In addition, in June 2004 the company also achieved certification under the OEKO-TEX Standard 1000, which confirms that the entire yarn plant and its production processes are sustainable and environmentally friendly.
The Swiss company has for some years specialised in processing American extra long staple Supima cotton, one of the best quality cottons in the world. 3300 tonnes of yarn of a range of different types are produced by the 130 employees in the Swiss canton of Zurich; while a further 3900 tonnes are spun by 147 employees at the Bühler plant in the US state of Georgia.
However, it is not only in relation to excellent quality yarns that Hermann Bühler AG, which will be celebrating its 200th anniversary next year, sets high standards, but also in terms of its use of eco-friendly production methods. The company says it takes everything into account, from the cotton fields to the spinning plant.
Martin Kägi, CEO and member of the board at Hermann Bühler AG, is quite sure that the future lies in ecologically sound textile products:
"Nowadays, products simply have to be entirely safe from the human ecology point of view. Both retailers and the manufacturers of branded products are looking for security. They demand that textiles are tested and certified by an independent body as being free of any trace of harmful substances. That is why almost all customers in Europe now expect you to have OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certification. Even overseas, in countries like the USA, we can see growing recognition of the OEKO-TEX Standard."
So, for Bühler AG, protecting the environment and taking an ecological approach are an essential part of their philosophy. Spurred on by the OEKOTEX Standard 1000, which certifies the entire yarn plant as an environmentally friendly production site, the company is constantly planning and implementing new measures to improve its environmental sustainability. That may mean installing new air jet spinning machines which use 30% less energy, or the new locally supplied woodchip heating system which uses local resources to heat offices and auxiliary rooms, or the three small in-house hydroelectric power plants which generate about 10% of the electricity from renewable sources.
Of course the admirable commitment and the OEKO-TEX Standard 1000 certification are also of great benefit for marketing purposes. According to Bühler For major clients like Eterna, Cilander or Jenny Fabrics, it is precisely this reliability and tested safety that form the basis for their many years of partnership with Hermann Bühler.
Nevertheless, when it comes to sustainability, Bühler still has a great deal planned for the future. As Martin Kägi explains: "It begins with our range of yarns and how we select our fibres. Our Organic range consists of organically grown extra long staple cotton, while our Rainbow yarns set new ecological standards, as they are dyed entirely without salt or soda and use far less dye.”
“Then, we also spin Lenzing Micro Modal fibres made from renewable beech wood. 85% of the energy needed to produce the fibres comes from the waste wood from the cellulose production."
In its ecological approach and sustainable production methods, Bühler AG is sending a clear signal. Martin Kägi believes that the long-standing cooperation with OEKO-TEX confirms what has always been the main stated aim of the company: "Having our yarns tested under the OEKOTEX Standard 100 gives us the certainty that no harmful substances which may be in the raw material get passed on to our customers."
Author: Innovation in Textiles