Yarn for further processing into fabric and for hand-knitting, sewing and reinforced threads were extended from the Belarusian manufacturer Gronitex JSC to domestic and foreign partners. So the catchphrase about the threads that bind destinies is used at the factory not only in a figurative, but in the most direct sense. One of the country’s leading textile enterprises has long been an import-substituting one, and under the current conditions, it is also export-oriented. We talk about work under the economic pressure of the collective West and plans for the future of the main supplier of yarn for all kinds of fabrics.
Take yarn as a basis
A cotton box is the trademark of Gronitex JSC, because the history of the company began with a cotton spinning factory. Now Gronitex JSC is one of the leading manufacturers of combed and carded, cotton and mixed yarns, as well as cotton sewing threads reinforced with a wide range of linear densities.
Director of Gronitex JSC Svetlana Smirnova lists the most popular products, “Our products have industrial and technical purposes and are raw materials for many industries. Yarn is in the first place among the commodity items. It occupies about 70 percent of the total production, then comes cottonised flax fibre — 20-25 percent, and finally sewing thread. Cottonised flax fibre has several areas of use. VIP-quality ‘premium’ fibre is necessary for the production of mixed linen-containing yarns. We use it in our production, and also sell it to domestic partner enterprises. Fibres of ‘standard’ and ‘extra’ classes can be used as a filler for stuffed toys, blankets or thermal insulation in attic construction of the private sector, sound insulation in the automotive industry and much more.”
However, cottonised flax fibre was in good demand in the European Union. Recently, for obvious reasons, products are shipped there not in such volumes as before, but deliveries continue, which is another confirmation of the entrepreneurial spirit of the business, whose interests do not always coincide with political declarations.
“About half of the manufactured products are exported today. There is a very high demand for our special purpose yarns and threads in Russia — we cannot even always satisfy it, because there are capacity limitations. We carry out only pre-orders, the goods do not even arrive at the warehouse,” continues the head of the company.
The enterprise has no problems with raw materials. Flax is exceptionally Belarusian, as is the polyester fibre supplied by Mogilevkhimvolokno. Cotton comes from Asia, viscose — from China. From there, a group of non-combustible heat-resistant fibres ‘originates’. The share of European raw materials, in which our textile workers were denied today, was small and, actually, was a small loss. Svetlana Smirnova is sure, “Such difficulties are solvable, it just takes a little time to mend broken supply chains and new contacts. Sanctions make us work harder, think and move.”
Working machines at the enterprise are predominantly imported — it happened historically that powerful textile engineering developed mainly in Europe. This could be a weak point, but the company does not think to lose heart, “There are many alternative options in Turkey and China. Some assemblies are also made in Belarus. For example, now our designers are developing drawings of one of the details of an imported machine for a domestic company that is ready to produce it. The European manufacturer, by the way, is ready to supply us with the necessary unit, but the logistics are still not working out.”
The head of the enterprise notes the good work of the mechanical repair department and the supply department, which allows the factory to work without interruption.
The average production capacity of Gronitex JSC today ranges from 220 to 250 tonnes of yarn per month, the assortment consists of 25 different raw materials and yarn numbers. A sound steward will not even lose waste: fuel flax briquettes are made at the enterprise from the remnants of flax processing. This is a new type of biofuel that is gaining popularity, which is environmentally friendly, practically does not produce smoke, leaves no ash and has a high calorific value. By the way, briquettes from flax fire were very popular among EU residents. Now they, apparently, will throw brushwood collected in the forests into their fireplaces, while more and more residents of the Grodno Region will be heated with flax briquettes.
How yarn is born
To get an idea of production, it is better to look at the operation of spinning and carding machines.
“We underwent modernisation recently, last year we installed a linen production line. It seems that we are dressing the whole of Belarus in knitwear, we are actively engaged in the production of bandages, we are making reinforced threads for Belshina. Very large orders come from Russia, new types of products are in demand — for example, flame-retardant FR viscose. It is used to make overalls for welders, metallurgists, employees of petrochemical and gas producing companies, combat uniforms for emergency response workers of the Emergencies Ministry,” the forewoman of the spinning department Irina Bodak leads us to her workplace.
The spinning department has ten ring spinning machines and four rotor spinning machines. There are cane machines that combine two or more threads into one, and twisting machines, which then twist them. Now they are engaged in cotton processing.
Cotton enters production in pressure-compressed bales weighing 700–800 kilogrammes. It is sent to the loosening units through special nozzles, then it goes to the cleaners. A powerful headset combs through the raw material while forming a tape. A semifinished product is pulled out of it, which is called a roving. In spools, it enters the spinning machines, which make yarn. If necessary, it is dyed, winding machines rewind it into cone-shaped bobbins weighing 2 kilogrammes, which the consumer picks up in order to put them on looms.
“Spinning production is the most expensive and the most difficult. Therefore, there are few enterprises like ours. So we will definitely have something to do!” states Irina Bodak.
There is always room for perfection
“We diversified our list of products, as well as the sales market at the first stage of modernisation. If earlier yarn was produced, which consisted mainly of cotton fibre, today the assortment line of yarns consists more of various cotton blends. This made it possible to change the customer base, to produce products with greater added value. The purpose of our yarns has also changed. Advanced processing of flax has been established. Much attention is now being paid to the production of semifinished products for smart textiles, such as thermal and flame-retardant yarn. The next stage of innovative development involves the replacement of spinning equipment and the growth of production volumes. The project passed the state expertise, received a positive conclusion from the committee on science and technology, but there were previously unidentified risks — through equipment suppliers. At the moment, we are studying machines and lines of Asian manufacturers, and when we decide on new ideas, we will update the business plan and continue to develop and improve production,” states Svetlana Smirnova.
By Oksana Nevmerzhitskaya Photos by Aleksei Matyush