MVM

 

Mount Vernon Mills: A Passion for Perfection

By David Loftin

Who is Mount Vernon Mills?

Mount Vernon Mills, Inc. is a one hundred and sixty five year old family owned diversified and integrated manufacturer of textile, chemical and related products for the apparel, industrial, institutional, and commercial markets. Products include denim, piece dyed and flame retardant fabrics for apparel; pocketing; table linens and other hospitality products. The Apparel Fabrics Group, headquartered in Mauldin, South Carolina, is the largest of all the Mount Vernon Mills groups, accounting for over half of all company sales.  The Apparel Fabrics Group consists of a fully integrated denim mill, plus a piece dyeing and finishing plant located in Trion, GA and yarn and fabric production facilities in Alto, GA.  Overall Mount Vernon has about 2,700 employees and operates 14 production facilities in the United States, located in North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas.

Mount Vernon Mills

 

Why did Mount Vernon enter the flame resistant fabrics market?

Mount Vernon has extensive experience supplying 65% polyester/35% cotton fabrics to meet the demanding requirements of the industrial laundry and workwear markets. Mount Vernon has also been a supplier of fabrics to the US military since before the Second World War and supplies digital camouflage fabrics and flame resistant pocketing to all branches of the service.  In reviewing the state of the industrial flame resistant fabrics market, it became apparent that at that time none of the FR suppliers had a vertical textile operation. In textiles, the term vertical operation means that all steps in the production process from fiber through finishing and shipment of the fabric are under the control of the same entity.  Companies that do not perform all operations themselves but purchase components on the market are known as converters.  There are at least two potential problems with this arrangement: lack of complete control over each step in the process and the inability to creatively innovate in new product development.

Lack of control in any step of the manufacturing process will result in problems with garments made from these converted fabrics. Improperly blended fiber can cause appearance and durability problems; poorly spun yarn can cause pilling, lack of strength and durability or appearance issues and result in weaving problems. Problems in weaving can result in appearance or durability problems. Ultimately, every step in the process affects the application of the flame retardant chemistry which is the key to the durability of the FR finish.

Innovation is critical to the survival of any business. This is particularly true of the American textile industry which has been under intense pressure from imports. Only with vertical manufacturing can a business truly innovate because this allows experimentation within the ongoing processes that are not possible when the components are being purchased.

Mount Vernon has the organization and financial strength of a privately owned major US textile company. With a proud 165 year history, Mount Vernon has invested in state of the art equipment and personnel and has in place the necessary vertical textile manufacturing operation and processes. Mount Vernon is also experienced in both flame resistant technology and in producing fabrics for the military, industrial laundry and workwear markets. Supporting the manufacturing operation Mount Vernon has an extensive process control system with over 3,000 control points being computer monitored and controlled three times per second. All of the collected data is archived to ensure that the exact conditions at each step of manufacturing are known and can be retrieved if needed.

Applying this technology, new equipment and proprietary processes led to the introduction of AMTEX, Mount Vernon’s name for a family of flame resistant protective fabrics. Since 2005 Mount Vernon has delivered more than 30 million yards of FR fabrics with no failures of the material in use.

As part of their introduction to the FR market Mount Vernon acted quickly to match the existing fiber blends, styles and fabric weights. Moving beyond currently available fabrics, Mount Vernon has been able to lead innovation by applying resin technology to improve the color retention of 100% cotton fabric. They introduced the lightest weight 100% cotton fabric that has a flame resistant finish durable for the expected life of the garment, fabrics with Cotton/Aramid fiber blending, and to meet market demand have produced cost effective and attractive FR print fabrics. In addition Mount Vernon has developed a proprietary dye system to produce FR cotton and cotton blend fabrics that meet the high visibility (bright) requirements of the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).  Recently Mount Vernon has developed all of their FR fabric offerings in an ultra-low formaldehyde finish to meet the stringent requirements of AAFA Restricted Substance List (RSL) limitations.

The Manufacturing Process

To ensure the flame resistance of Mount Vernon Mills FR fabrics, what testing is performed and how often?

All Mount Vernon flame resistant fabrics are guaranteed to maintain flame resistance for the expected life of the garment, as long as recommended laundering instructions are followed. Mount Vernon Mills conducts extensive quality control tests during manufacturing. The initial check takes place while the fabric is still being FR treated. Swatches are taken and read on x-ray equipment to check percent phosphorus fixation. The percentage phosphorus fixed on the fabric is critical to the durability of the FR finish.

After finishing, further testing is conducted in Mount Vernon's government certified and approved test facility using Underwriters Laboratories guidelines. The sampling plan is based on the Children's Sleepwear Standard with test specimens taken every 5,000 yards or from each mill lot, whichever is smaller. A quantitative chemical analysis is made on the finished fabric to confirm the percent phosphorus fixation seen in the x-ray test and to determine the phosphorus/nitrogen ratio. In addition to the percent fixed phosphorus, the phosphorus/nitrogen ratio is also very important to the durability of the FR finish.

Finally, fabric is laundered 100 times in a heavy soil-industrial wash formula and tested for flame resistance to confirm that the amount of flame retardant predicted by the x-ray & chemical analysis is present and that the fabric will perform after extended industrial launderings. Mount Vernon is unaware of any other mills performing such extensive quality assurance testing of their flame resistant fabrics.

In addition to the archived process control data from each lot of flame resistant fabric, Mount Vernon also maintains test records and a physical swatch of material in case any follow-up testing is needed. Each roll of fabric is assigned a unique numerical identifier that can be used to access the history file associated with it.

Testing

What are the industry standards?  (ASTM, NFPA, etc.) Mount Vernon Mills produces flame resistant fabrics for garments that are designed for continuous wear in occupations where exposure to garment ignition is a hazard. All Mount Vernon FR fabrics meet the requirements specified in ASTM International Standard F2302, Standard Performance Specification for Labeling Protective Clothing as Heat and Flame Resistant. These fabrics also meet the performance requirements of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 70E, Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces and ASTM Standard F1506, Flame Resistant Materials for Wearing Apparel for Use by Electrical Workers Exposed to Momentary Electric Arc and Related Thermal Hazards. Because these fabrics are flame resistant, they are acceptable under the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) Final Rule 1910.269, Final Rule on Electrical Protective Equipment.

Where appropriate, Mount Vernon FR fabrics have been certified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) to meet the requirements of NFPA 2112, Standard on Flame Resistant Garments for Protection of Industrial Personnel against Flash Fire and Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) Standard 155.20, Workwear for Protection against Hydrocarbon Flash Fire.

Certification by Underwriters Laboratories is not a one-time procedure. UL auditors visit the manufacturing plants once each quarter to ensure that proper procedures are being followed. They also take samples of material for testing against the requirements of the standards.

How do Mount Vernon fabrics comply with the standards? Mount Vernon AMTEX fabrics are tested to all applicable industry standards and specifications. The fabrics are tested for flame resistance by Federal Test Method 5903.1, FTM Standard 191A (ASTM D 6413), Standard Test Method for Flame Resistance of Textiles (Vertical Test); for electric arc protection by ASTM Test Method F1959, Standard Test Method for Determining the Arc Rating of Materials for Clothing; and for flash fire exposure by methods ASTM F1930, Standard Test Method for Evaluation of Flame Resistant Clothing for Protection Against Flash Fire Simulations Using an Instrumented Manikin and CGSB 155.20, Workwear for Protection against Hydrocarbon Flash Fire.

To ensure the accuracy of these results, Third Party testing has been conducted by Underwriters Laboratories in Research Triangle Park, NC; Kinectrics High Energy lab in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; and North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC. Copies of test results and fabric certificates are available on request.

Other Questions

Why should Mount Vernon Mills be considered the supplier of choice for flame resistant protective fabrics? What does it take for any business to survive 165 years of fires, floods, wars, depressions, recessions and continually evolving customer requirements? It takes intelligence, foresight and guts. It takes continuous innovation and never ending development. Above all, it takes integrity in everything you do.  Mount Vernon has shown all of these characteristics which are summed up in the phrase Passion for Perfection.

Perfection in flame resistant protective fabric production is not a goal – it is the baseline requirement. The lives of men and women working in hazardous occupations every day require nothing less. Mount Vernon is committed to providing innovative, cost effective American made flame resistant fabrics.  We will bring our customers innovations in flame resistant technology while remembering program cost must always be a consideration. End users of Mount Vernon fabrics can be confident that protection of the environment is equally as important to Mount Vernon as their personal protection is.  Mount Vernon meets or exceeds all state and federal environmental and safety regulations in their manufacturing operations.

We welcome you to join us. Our manufacturing operations in Georgia are available for tours so that we can show you how bales of cotton and other fibers are transformed into world class flame resistant textile fabrics. But more than machinery, processes and technology, you will also see first-hand the hard working American men and women who make this possible.  Find us on the web at www.mvmfr.com for all product and contact info.

©2011 Mount Vernon Mills

 

 

 

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