The graphical user interface (GUI) Template Editor, introduced in the MILLNet™ 4.0 for Windows software, provides a much easier way to create and arrange laydowns. While the DOS version of MILLNet software required the user to use a text editor to make changes to their laydown template file, the GUI laydown template editor in the Windows product "puts the power in the hands of the user," said Al Hlavin, Manager, EFS® Americas.
• Add and arrange bales: The MILLNet Template Editor allows the user to drag and drop bales into a graphical interface and then arrange them by moving and rotating them as needed for both straight line and circular laydowns. The user can also set both template order and consumption order for a laydown. While template order relates to the physical order of the laydown set by warehouse personnel, the consumption order relates to mini-mixes within the laydown. The user can number bales in small groups to preserve the order in which they are consumed.
• Group position: The Template Editor enables the user to determine the group position of bales in laydowns. The user can also specify the locations of stacked, partial, waste, and noil bales.
• Secondary property: A new function in the MILLNet software is the ability to specify a secondary HVI® property for a laydown using the Template Editor. Along with the primary default of micronaire, a recommended secondary property is color (Plus B).
• Match any group: Typically, the group codes within a template will be set to "*" in order to match any group Laydown templates available in graphical user interface used within a mix. The Template Editor will also allow forcing a bale within a specific group into a specific bale position, which is useful for handling bales of different sizes.
• Verify template: Once the laydown has been arranged, the user can verify the template for errors to ensure that both the template order and consumption order are correct.
Cotton Incorporated presentations at the 2011 Beltwide Cotton Conferences in Atlanta focused on economic outlook and agricultural research.
In a joint presentation with Alejandro Plastina of the International Cotton Advisory Committee, Cotton Incorporated's Jon Devine, Manager, Economics and Analysis, provided an economic outlook for cotton with a paper titled "Pass-Through Analysis of Cotton Prices." The purpose of the collaborative study is to provide insight into how changes in cotton prices influence cotton pricing throughout the supply chain.
Citing the "unprecedented volatility in cotton prices over the past several months" and a "series of all-time record highs in cotton prices in most of the world’s major cotton producing countries," Devine noted that the current trend has had a different impact for various segments of the market. "If you're a producer, it means a lot more change in your pocket. On the other side of that transaction, if you're trying to purchase cotton, it means a lot of headaches," he said.
Cotton prices for 2010-11 are up by 85 cents per pound over the previous crop year. Ultimately, that surge in prices has potential impact on apparel cost. Providing data for the average retail weight of a single t-shirt, polo shirt, woven shirt, and pair of jeans versus the weight in cotton required to manufacture each item, Devine concluded that the resulting price increases at retail on those four items would be between 1.8 and 4.5 percent.
The study indicates that the most significant pass-through increase in price occurs between the fiber and yarn segments of the supply chain. Since August 2010, the current crop year prices have already resulted in a doubling of fiber prices and a 45-percent increase in yarn prices. During the same period, a 12-percent increase was seen in fabric prices, and a one-percent increase was observed in garments. However, at retail, there was a one-percent decrease in apparel prices. While the higher percentage increases for fiber and yarn are reflective of quotes for future delivery, the lower percentages at the latter stages are more significant as the increases have an impact on traded goods already manufactured.
Devine noted that retail clothing prices have declined over the past 10 years and have remained fl at for the past five years. With clothing representing only 3.6 percent of consumer expenditures, Devine predicted that during the improving economy, the retail purchaser will be willing to accept price increases of between two and five percent.
Mark Messura, Senior Vice President, Supply Chain Marketing at Cotton Incorporated, noted that cotton has a 30-to-35 percent share of the global fiber market. In his presentation, "Cotton's Share of the Global Fiber Market: Current Challenges and Future Outlook," he reported that 95 percent of the distribution of end uses of cotton are in apparel and home textiles—relative shares that have not changed in decades.
"The demand for basic cotton apparel will grow because of strong population growth and increases in income in developing countries," he said. However, Messura advised that cotton use should be more diversified since demand fell by 14 percent during the recent economic recession. He said that while it's important to protect existing markets, cotton use is too heavily concentrated in apparel. Opportunities must be taken to expand wherever possible, but also pursue new uses for cotton fiber, such as nonwovens.
Don Jones, Director of Agricultural Research at Cotton Incorporated, presented "Q-Score: Improvement in Predictive Value," an updated summary of the research and development of an index score for spinning performance based on four HVI® properties. The quality score is based on coefficients using upper half mean length, micronaire, uniformity, and strength. The coefficients were applied to five spinning parameters: adjusted break factor/tenacity (skein), RKM (single end break), Thins, Thicks, and Neps.
Initially, testing was completed based on 2006-08 data from the Research Breeders Testing Network, consisting of 8-10 locations per year across the Cotton Belt. The coefficients were then adjusted and applied to a second set of data from the Regional High Quality Test. The same HVI® properties were used from 7-10 locations from 1999-2008. Jones said that using the two data sets resulted in an improved quality score tool that is not dependent on specific locations, varieties, or crop years.
Based on the results of the testing, Jones said that there is potential for the development of one general quality score for spinning performance based on the five yarn traits, and that predictions can be improved by adjusting for location effect. As research continues, the quality score applications will be conducted using Advanced Fiber Information System (AFIS) test results, and a comparative cost analysis will be made between HVI and AFIS testing as related to determining the quality score.
Mike Watson, Vice President, Fiber Competition at Cotton Incorporated, said that cotton is beginning to catch up with competing commodities, which has both positive and negative consequences. On the plus side, it is likely that cotton production will return to viable levels in communities hit hard during the economic downturn. On the minus side, there will be increased pressure to find new cotton products that will excite the consumer. Watson said there is also constant pressure to improve availability, increase yield, and to make more cotton with less water.
MILLNet 4.6 for Windows® software has been installed and is running at several sites. There are several new features that are of interest to both the user and system administrators.
For MILLNet software users, on the main window under Utilities/ Groups & Categories, there are two new group definitions available under Select Property: Gin Codes and Crop Year. Also, when creating a group/category, any two-letter combination can be assigned. Users can also manually check for updates under the Utilities menu. From the main window, a new selection is available in the Report menu: the Upland Color Summary Report.
For system administrators, it is important to know that all users must now log in to use MILLNet 4.6 software. Also, the software can now be installed to run on a terminal server rather than individual computers, allowing the option of installing and maintaining MILLNet software on only one machine.
New technology presented at the 2011 Beltwide Cotton Conferences included an automated instrument by Cottonscope that is capable of isolating and measuring cotton fiber maturity and fineness individually.
From the company's web site, www. cottonscope.com: "The current industry standard for cotton quality measurement is Micronaire. However, its measurement results combine both maturity and fineness and cannot separate the two properties. This means that a coarse and immature fibre will give the same reading as a fine and mature fibre."
"The microscope, which uses a light microscopy test developed by Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), captures color images of cotton samples in 25 seconds. The inner cell wall of a cotton fibre is illuminated in red with an intensity relative to the maturity of the fibre. Immature fibre will appear transparent.
"Determining fibre maturity helps to identify immature fibre, which can be weaker than mature fibre, resulting in more breaks and shorter length. Immature fibre can also have more neps and absorb less dye, which can result in uneveness of color in the end fabric.
"The Cottonscope could provide a tool for breeders to make decisions regarding new varieties," said Vikki Martin, Director, Quality Research and Product Evaluation at Cotton Incorporated. Martin added that the instrument will be evaluated by U.S. researchers, including Cotton Incorporated.