Textile Industry: Changes & Problems

Instructor: LeRon Haire
The lesson will discuss some of the changes and problems that have occurred in the textile industry throughout history. Specific topics that we'll explore include the automation, globalization, outsourcing, wages, and working conditions.

Beginnings of the Textile Industry

The textile industry, which is the industry that includes the manufacturing of materials such as yarn, fabric, and clothing, has been a staple of people's lives for centuries now. The textile industry experienced significant growth during the Industrial Revolution, which was an era of new manufacturing processes that took place in the 18th and 19th centuries. Demand for textiles was high during that time, and the creation of textile factories and machinery helped manufacturers and merchants meet the need of the market.

The textile industry is known for producing the steam engine during The Industrial Revolution.

Textile Industry Changes and Problems

Since those early years, the textile industry has experienced many changes. Let's take a closer look at some of those changes that have occurred within the textile industry.


Automation is the process of using equipment and machinery to make production easier and more efficient. Many people credit automation as being the most important change of the textile industry. Inventions were a major part of automation in the textile industry. Let's take a look at some of the inventions that improved efficiency and changed the textile industry forever.

  • Cotton gin: The cotton gin was created by Eli Whitney and designed to separate the seeds from cotton in an efficient manner.
  • Steam engine: This machine converts steam and uses it for power. It was very useful for pumping stations and transportation methods, including trains.
  • Waterwheel: A waterwheel converts water into energy and is used to mill flour and grind wood into paper.

Education and Training

The roots of industrial engineering education and training date back to the Industrial Revolution. Education and training in this area helped the progression of automation and textile manufacturing by creating individuals who knew how to design, maintain, and operate new machinery. The rise and staying power of the textile industry has since encouraged even more institutions to incorporate engineering education into their program offerings.


Many manufacturing industries have moved beyond national markets to markets around the globe. This process is known as globalization. The manufacturing of textiles has expanded to many companies overseas. For example, the textile industry in India now employs over 15 million people and accounts for 20% of the country's industrial economic production. This expansion is evident in other countries as well. From 1970 to 1990, the number of textile, clothing, and footwear employees saw an increase of 334% in Indonesia and 597% in Malaysia.

Textile Industry Problems

Not every change in the textile industry has been positive. In fact, some genuine problems have occurred as a result of its expansion. Let's take a closer look at some of these problems.

Exporting of U.S. Jobs

One of the ways that the textile industry has changed is that it has increased employment in poor, developing countries overseas. As a direct result of this, domestic textile jobs in the U.S. have been diminished. This outsourcing of jobs has had a negative impact on the U.S. economy.

Employee Working Conditions

In many of the poor countries that are taking on the responsibility of performing tasks for the textile industry, the conditions in which they perform the duties are horrendous and unsanitary. These poor countries are often lacking the proper building facilities to perform these duties. The employees are also frequently subjected to work hazards that can harm, injure or even kill them. These countries are also notorious for not offering any significant, detailed medical benefits for themselves or their families.

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