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From wool to cotton, wovens to nonwovens.

Founded 55 years ago this month as a manufacturer of shoulder pads for the tailored garment industry, Acme Pad, Baltimore, MD, is a family-owned business that has continued strong through two generations and a myriad of changes in the industry.

As the shoulder pad industry evolved, so did Acme Pad's business, said executive vice president Gary Cohen. "Nonwovens didn't play a part until the late 1950's or early 1960's," he said, although the company's use of cotton began much earlier, in the 1940's. "Wool became too expensive and there was a shortage since it was used for uniforms (during World War II)." That was when Mr. Cohen's father, the company's founder, discovered India's "Dessi" cotton, a wiry resilient staple fiber with high micronaire and most of the properties of wool, all at a lower price.

It was in the 1960's that nonwovens began to gain a stronghold in Acme Pad's business. "Back then--around 1962--nonwovens served our purpose and our price," said Mr. Cohen. At that time, nonwovens were used as the bottom part of the pad--where there was no wear and rear--and were doing as effective of a job as previous woven materials. As manufacturers became more price conscious in the 1960's, nonwovens began to find application in the top and bottom of the shoulder pad.

Acme Pad moved into the needlepunched felt pads in the mid-60's, again because of price considerations. "We were looking for function and price," said Mr. Cohen. "Needlepunched felts were much less labor intensive, they were already concave in shape and yielded much higher productivity." Needlepunched materials gained market share in the low end materials and made inroads from there.

According to Mr. Cohen, Acme Pad's business at the outset was 100% basted pads. In the mid-1970's needlepunched materials made up about 10% of sales. Today, needlepunched shoulder pads are about one sixth of the company's business.

Acme is also involved in needlepunching roll goods, which it sells to industries such as medical, industrial, home sewing and other apparel markets. While it is doing fabrication of some of its roll goods for proprietary applications, it has no major plans to expand its end product manufacture into other areas. Acme currently has a Fehrer web forming and needlepunching machine; it will add a second line within the next 18-24 months.

"Our specialty is cotton fiber," said Mr. Cohen. "We use our needlepunched cotton in our own end product operations as well as selling it to our competition. We used to run two woolen loom two shifts for five days with 13 or 14 people and produce about 10,000 pads a week. Now we can achieve 10,000 pads in one ten hour shift with two people," said Mr. Cohen, pointing out how the industry had changed.
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Title Annotation:includes related corporate information; Acme Pad
Author:Noonan, Ellen
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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