Turgay Aşcı, Astaş Juki Board Member
Astaş Juki has been serving the Turkish ready-to-wear clothing industry for more than 40 years utilizing the world’s most advanced machinery brands and a wide range of products. In addition to the head office in Istanbul Güneşli, the newly opened R&D Production and Technology Center, as well as İkitelli Spread and Cutting Production Solutions Facility, Çatalca Free Zone, branches in Istanbul Ümraniye, İzmir, Bursa, Denizli, Samsun, and Uzbekistan, Astaş meets all the needs of the sector with its 350 employees. In addition to Juki, Astaş continues to successfully represent world brands in Turkey and the Turkic Republics, each of which is a leader in their respective field.
Astaş, which has been selling the sewing machines and apparatus that it has produced in line with the demands of its customers since the beginning of the 2000s, under the brand name of ‘Astron’, offers hanging garment bagging machines under the brand ‘Foliopack’, automatic fabric laying and cutting technologies under the brand ‘Mersmann’, brings washing instructions label sewing solutions under the brand ‘Labelmac’, ultrasonic sewing machines and mask production technologies under the ‘Normstone’ brand, and heat-bonding technologies for the technical textile and protective equipment group under the ‘Bondex United’ brand.
Astaş recently inaugurated the R&D and Production Technology Center, where many technologies are developed and produced for the combed cotton and chino, denim industries, and other product groups. The company, which organized the “Astaş Juki Technology Days” special for the opening, exhibited its new generation technologies and innovative solutions. Astaş Management, Marketing and Technical Team, and Juki Corporation Japanese officials were also present at the event, where the leading representatives of the industry came together.
We interviewed with Astaş Juki Board Member Turgay Aşcı at the opening ceremony of the R&D and Production Technology Center, for our Textile Technology magazine. Making assessments regarding sewing machines, ready-to-wear clothing, and the apparel industry, Aşcı said that there has been a great explosion in the demand for the combed cotton, chino, denim, and casual wear in the recent period and they have not been able to keep up with the demand.
Can you please elaborate on the establishment story of the R&D and Production Technology Center?
When exhibitions and events were canceled during the pandemic period, everyone retreated into their own shell. In this period, we wanted to gather our production facilities in different locations of Istanbul under one roof. As we aimed, we completed the construction of our R&D production technology building with a closed area of 10 thousand 500 square meters at the beginning of 2021. Since we know that our industry longed for coming together and seeing technological innovations, we wanted to bring our industry together with technology under the roof of Astaş by paying attention to the rules of mask, distance and hygiene. We also organized a mini-exhibition during the opening of our R&D and Production Technology center. In this exhibition, besides the sewing machines that we produce for our companies in Turkey, we also presented our high-tech sewing machines to our customers, which we export to Asia, the USA, and South America, which are our export regions.
‘‘OUR PRIORITY AS ASTAŞ IS TO MAKE OUR CUSTOMERS COMPETITIVE IN THE INTERNATIONAL ARENA BY INCREASING PRODUCTION EFFICIENCY AS WELL AS CUSTOMER SATISFACTION’’
Can you please provide information about your product portfolio and the features that distinguish your products from their competitors?
As Astaş, we have a wide product portfolio such as sewing machines and automated machines, cutting, laying, bagging technologies and label sewing machines, mask production technologies, bonding machines for technical textiles, and protective equipment group. The most important feature that distinguishes us from our competitors is our solution-oriented approach to the customer. We listen and understand our customers. We analyze the product in their hands in detail and offer solutions and automated machines accordingly. We produce special automated machines by appending an added value to each machine.
By making sure that our machines are of the highest possible quality, we ensure that the trust we provide to our business partners is sustainable. In addition to these, through our innovative structure, we closely follow all technological developments in the world and constantly increase our share in domestic and international markets. In addition to all these, we aim to increase our production capacity by 30% in the field of sewing automated machines and custom-made sewing solutions in our new investment, our R&D and production technology center of 10,500 square meters. We will continue to produce our own technologies here. In this way, we will provide better service to our customers and offer advanced technology in our new production center.
What are the latest trends in the ready-to-wear and apparel industry? What innovations and advancements do you expect in the coming years?
The trend lately is towards comfortable clothes and it seems that this trend will continue in the coming years. Because with the pandemic, we can claim that the comfortable clothing style has become more embedded in our lives. You can include tracksuits, t-shirts and polo shirts, chino and blue jeans inside the definition of comfortable clothes. People usually wear suits and ties on meetings or special occasions, and they prefer sportswear in their daily lives.
‘‘DEMAND IN COMBED COTTON AND SPORTSWEAR IS EXPLOSIVE, WE CAN’T KEEP UP WITH THE DEMAND’’
During the pandemic period, companies generally focused on R&D and production. As Astaş, what kind of roadmap did you follow to overcome the pandemic period with the least damage?
The troublesome coronavirus pandemic outbreak, which the whole world is struggling with, has adversely affected many sectors due to economic uncertainties. But we, as Astaş, continued to produce high-tech machines in this period, as we always did. We tried to adapt quickly to the changing conditions of life. We quickly combined the demands from the industry with our past experience and know-how and produced new technologies. We analyzed what the industry needed well. At that time, we started to produce mask automated machines and mask sewing machines in the first place and we still continue to produce them. After a few months, we focused on our main business, sewing machines, automated machines, and the apparel industry, and carried out innovations in this field. For example, we made innovations for denim manufacturers such as watch pocket inserting machines, flapless pocket inserting machines, pocket hemming machines, and J sewing machines. We have developed the existing forceps automated units for blouses and shirts. Despite the pandemic conditions, there is a great demand for combed cotton and sportswear. In this area, we manufacture and offer T-shirt rib preparation machines, T-shirt rib collar fastening machines, T-shirt skirt automated units, slit automated units, polo pat automated units.
‘‘THE CAPACITY OF TURKEY WILL BECOME SO BUSY TO RESPOND TO DEMANDS FROM EUROPE’’
There has been a serious increase in Turkey’s ready-to-wear clothing exports during the pandemic period. In the January-May period of 2021, the ready-to-wear clothing and apparel industry reached an export figure of 7 billion 634 million 816 thousand US Dollars with an increase of 35.7 percent compared to the same period of the previous year. How did the increase in ready-to-wear clothing exports reflect on the sewing machinery industry?
There has been a significant activity in the textile sector, especially in the last 3-4 months. Why do I say last 3-4 months? Because, as you know, we, as Turkey, are addressing the European market. A vitality in the market began with vaccination in Europe. Since people missed going to the stores and shopping freely, they are now shopping in stores in addition to online shopping. With Europe getting into motion, we see an increase in business in Turkey. In fact, we can say that Turkey’s capacity will become too busy to respond to Europe’s demand.
As in the 1990s, there will be great dynamism in our sector. You remember the 90s, even people from other professions entered the textile and apparel business. Currently, the leading garment factories in our sector are establishing additional manufacturing facilities in the incentive regions and increasing their investments. We observe that even entrepreneurs from different sectors enter the apparel industry. This alone is a terrific indicator.
As Astaş, what kind of work do you carry out to increase your domestic and international market share?
As Astaş, we address more than 30 countries by acting in accordance with international quality standards, advanced technology, and worldwide reliable technology. We represent JUKI in Turkey, Uzbekistan, and other Turkic Republics. Other than Juki, we manufacture and sell our own automated machines under the Astron brand to that region. In addition, we sell automated machines that we have produced to the USA, South USA regions. Apart from that, countries such as Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, and Russia from the Eastern Bloc countries use our automated machines. Japan Juki opened the door to the Far East for us. We sell the machines we developed together with Juki, especially in the regions of India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
‘‘OUR 2021 TURNOVER WILL EXCEED 2020 BY 30 PERCENT’’
What are your expectations and goals for 2021? Do you have new investment and expansion plans?
As Astaş, our turnover in 2019 was very good. Despite the fact that 2020 was poor due to the pandemic, we did not experience a decline. After 1-2 months of closure, we immediately started to carry out our production and R&D activities and kept our turnover stable. We aim to close our turnover in 2021 with an increase of 30% compared to the previous year.
We will also make some investments in Uzbekistan and Turkic Republics in 2022. We will focus on branching and on-site service to the factories there, especially in the 6th and 5th regions with incentives in the east of Turkey.
Interview: Dilek Hayırlı