Essay: Textile industry in Denmark

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  • Textile industry in Denmark
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In the late eighteenth century, the Danish culture was based around the prosperity of the agriculture. The production of textile was based on a limited household need, and you produced your own garments. In some rural areas, artisans set up shops, where the inhabitants of that rural area, would take their own homespun yarn to a weaver. Some weavers saw the opportunity to produce more than they needed and then supplement their income by selling their domestic products. This was the main kind of textile production from 1750 until 1850.
This developed into a need for a better way of manufacturing textile. But there was a hinder, technology, know-how and capital. The capital was found through the tax collecting the absolutist state did. Some of the money that was collected here was transferred into privately owned manufactures. The know-how was primary needed because of the lack of knowledge towards the new machines and factory production in generally. In Denmark the industrial revolution was a little behind, because the Danes lived of agriculture for longer than other countries. So many of the new manufactures were brought in from abroad, especially Germany, where many of the new machines also were found and developed.
Operations Management
Every business organization’sgoal is to provide services or producegoods in the most efficientway. Operations management is defined as the management of systems or processes thatcreategoods and/ or provide services1. Nowadaysknownmodern management practices, values and attitudes have evolved and wereformedthrough the ages. Contemporary management theories have theirfoundations in the late 18th, 19th and mid-20th centuries- the time of the Industrial Revolution. Though the modern management has changed radically due to the new technologies, eventoday the main principles of historicepochs’ heritage areapplied.
The conception and principles of production management are inherent to a production method. Before all innovations, which changed the way for production, goods were produced using craft production. In the craftsmanship model, workers learned a skilled trade while serving an apprentice to a master. Goods were produced according to customer specifications. This production method was time-consuming, not flexible and expensive. One worker’s job could be hardly replaced by other worker in small companies. Besides, as most craftsmen sold their production locally, therefore each had a personal onus in meeting customers. If quality needs were not met, the craftsman ran the risk of losing customers, which at that time were not easily replaced. Therefore, masters maintained quality control by inspecting goods before sale. Last, but not least, this method was not economical beneficial, since more production did not decreased production costs. Management and inspection of craft production was concentrated in the same hands, usually owner’s of the workshop. However, industrial innovations has resulted not only changes in technological way of production, but the management and control of the processes as well.
Great Contributors
In the late 19th century the Scientific Management movement started. Engineer and inventor Frederick Winslow Taylor is one of the earliest spearheads of scientific management. He studied the work process scientifically and researched worker productivity accordingly. Taylor’s theory focused on the belief that making people work as hard as they could was not as efficient as optimizing the way the work was done. Therefore, Taylor observation was concentrated towards detailed work methods survey in order to identify the most efficient method for any type of workplace task by utilizing scientific, engineering, and mathematical analysis. “Time and motion” studies also led Taylor to conclude that certain people could work more efficiently than others could. However, the remedy for this inefficiency lies in systematic management, rather than in searching for some unusual or extraordinary man . Hence, Taylor’s goal was to increase productivity without increasing the number of skilled artisans. He achieved this by assigning factory planning to specialized engineers and by using artisans and supervisors, who had been displaced by the growth of factories, as inspectors and managers who executed the engineers’ plans. Another important theory, which had a big influence on management, was the promotion of cooperation between workers and managers. As Taylor noticed in his paper, “arranging the relations between employer and employee that each workman will work to his very best advantage and at his speed, accompanied by the intimate cooperation with the management and the help, which the workman should receive, from the management, would result on the average in nearly doubling the output of each man and each machine” . The Principles of Taylor’s Scientific Management became widely practiced. Scientific management did provide many significant contributions to the advancement of management practice.
Taylor’s theory was applied and further developed by Ford. Inspired of Taylor’s principles he started to use interchangeable parts, which could easily fit to any automobile. In this way, using the moving assembly line, the costs and time in assembly significantly decreased. The standardization of the product was the first step towards mass production. Fordism has been described as “a model of economic expansion and technological progress based on mass production: the manufacture of standardized products in huge volumes using special purpose machinery and unskilled labour” . Ford also applied the division of labour. Based on the concept of division of labour, developed by Adam Smith, all workers were cooperating by performing of specific tasks and roles. Having workers perform single or specified tasks eliminated the need of long training period, which was required to train craftsmen. Also employees could be replaced with lesser paid but more productive unskilled workers.
Conversely, to the scientific management, where the main concentration toward technical aspects of work and production took place, the human relations movement emphasized human element in operations. The supporters and authors of this ideology emphasized employees’ motivation. Thus, many studies were dedicated for development of motivational theories .
Despite controversial aspects of scientific management, it was a foundation to general business practices such as planning, process design, quality control, cost accounting, and ergonomics. Nevertheless, it introduced systematic selection and training procedures, provided a way to study workplace efficiency, and it laid the foundation for mechanization, engineering and management (Table 1 provides summary of main scientific management movement’s theories and their aspects).
Table 1.
Actor Major principles Controversial aspects Influence
F. W. Taylor • adaption of the scientific method to study work and determine the most efficient way to perform specific tasks;
• matching workers to their jobs based on capability and motivation, and train them to work at maximum efficiency;
• monitoring of worker performance, and provide instructions and supervision to ensure that they’re using the most efficient ways of working;
• allocation the work between managers and workers so that the managers spend their time planning and training, allowing the workers to perform their tasks efficiently. • Repeatable, monotonous work influenced on the subsequent degradation of workers;
• the quality of production reduced;
• scientific management laid the groundwork for automation, engineering and offshoring;
• cooperation between workers and managers eventually developed into the teamwork we use today;
• theory provided significant contributions to the advancement of management practice, introducing systematic selection and training procedures;
• it encouraged the idea of systematic organizational design.
Ford • the standardization of the product;
• the employment of moving assembly line.
• standardized tools allowed unskilled workers to contribute to the finished product;
• deskilled the labour;
• the quality of production reduced.
• breaking down complex tasks into simpler ones with the help of specialized tools was a foundation to mass production;
• simpler tasks created interchangeable parts that could be used the same every time, adding flexibility when creating an assembly line that could change its constituent components;
• assembly lines gave the foundation and a new approach to lean production.
A. Smith • recognized the importance of technological development for the improvement in productivity;
• division of labor;
• provide an outline of proper expenses of the government;
• theories on processes growth. • unskilled the labour;
• specialization in one task increases productivity;
• his theories became a foundation of economic science and free market economic.
Mechanization and Automation
The theory and methods of scientific management advanced the mechanization process in manufacturing. Mechanization refers to the replacement of human power with mechanical power. Early engineering’s authors defined mechanization as “a combination of parts, connecting two or more pieces, so that the motion of one compels the motion of others, according to a law of connection depending on nature of the combination” . In the very beginning of mechanization processes, mechanization included the use of hand tools as well. Yet after electrification, most small machinery was no longer hand powered.
The transformation from craft work to mechanization, provided many important inventions, which not only influenced a faster production, but also “objects, that could not have been produced under any circumstances by the craft methods of yesterday” .
A Description of the Process of Textile Manufacturing
The general textile manufacturing process is based on some basic steps and principles.
During the Pre- Industrial times Vegetable and animal fibers were the primary source for raw materials. Cotton plantations grew primarily in Africa and Asia. The processes to produce cloth from e.g. Cotton were the same in terms of their core mechanisms during the pre-industrial revolution as well as during the Industrial revolution. The following table introduces us to an overview of cotton manufacturing process :
Table 2
Input of fibers/materials
Manufacturing Processing
Output (Finished Products)
Cotton Plantation Opening and Picking Cotton Fibers
Cotton Fibers (textiles)
Converted to Yarn using the Spinning technique.
Yarn Produced for further process
Yarn produced
Converted to fabric using Weaving
Plain Fabrics
Gray/Plain Fabrics Dyeing and Printing Finished Fabrics
Finished Fabrics Shaping/ Re-designing to garments/ Technical Textiles
Finished Garments/ Technical Textiles
Pre-Industrial Process of Manufacturing
Pre-Industrial manufacturing procedure were ever-present in agrarian societies like Denmark. Textile production by hand played a key role in maintaining income for the artisans prior to the Industrial revolution. A coarse fibre called “vademel” was used for everyday clothing while linen was used for undergarments and bed sheets . Spinning yarn and weaving cloth by hand were the most prominent methods for producing textiles. These processes were slow but sufficient when limited to producing for a few number of people but they soon will become incompetent for a far greater demand for cloth materials and textile due to the advent of industrialization. An interesting point to be brought up is that most processes prior to the Industrial era (in Textile manufacturing) were similar to processes during it in terms of the soul and technique. It was the mechanization, exponential changes in output of goods/products and the transition from home/local crafted to mass producing industries which caused the “Revolution” during this period in History.
The following flow diagram illustrates the processes of cotton/textile manufacturing taking place in the pre-industrial Era:
The Cotton was initially opened and picked and wash and spun using a spinning wheel. The resulting yarn was coarser compared to the modern industrial yarn due to the absence of the Carding, combing and roving processes. Therefore the yarn was directly sent over to the weaving/knitting process. It was weaved using the manual loom. Dyeing was the next step in the process; weaved fabrics were dyed using vegetable and natural colour sources. Either, cotton yarns were dyed immediately after the spinning process or they were dyed after weaving the cloth depending on the orientation and economics of the process.
The spinning process used the spinning wheel, which dates back its origin to China and the Middle East in the 11thcentury. The table top spinning wheel also referred to as the “Charka” was popularized by Mahatma Gandhi during the Indian Independence Movement. This gadget was operated by hand and spun the cotton into wounded yarns. The weaving process took place with the assistance of the loom. It weaved thread with the help of a hand handled shuttle which carried the yarn in bobbins into the loom where the fabric was then inter weaved by a complex set of movements. The illustration below shows a manual loom operated by a single weaver :
Power Sources and Semi-Automation
These were some key inventions in the textile industry which led to rapid industrialization in manufacturing of textile sector:
• The Power Loom
• The spinning Jenny
• The Cotton Gin
• The sewing Machine
• The flying shuttle
The Power Loom: The Power loom was a landmark invention in terms of using a renewable power source. It was invented by Edmund Cartwright and it used waterpower for weaving cloth. It was monitored and controlled by skilled weavers. It also enabled weavers to handle more looms at a time introducing the concept of the multiple loom system where one weaver could handle more than a single machine at a time.
The Spinning Jenny: This invention took the first step towards large scale manufacturing in textiles. It could automatically spin a multiple number of threads simultaneously at the same time. Therefore, replacing the Spinning wheel which spun and collected thread in the pre-industrial era. It was invented by Englishman James Hargreaves.
The Cotton Gin: The cotton Gin was a remarkable invention by Eli Whitley as it nearly multiplied the output of manual labour by a factor of 50. It was a machine used for the removal of seeds from buds (especially cotton). The seeds were hand Picked in the pre-industrial era and the fact that an automated machine was capable of producing 50 times the output in the same period marked the transition into the Industrial period.
The Water Frame: The water frame was a machine which used Hydro power to produce electricity and was useful in spinning thread. It was invented by Richard Arkwright.
The Spinning Mule: The Spinning Mule invented by Samuel Crompton combined the mechanism of the spinning jenny and the Spinning water frame to assist the mechanism of the power loom
The Shuttle: The shuttle carried a thread from one side to another (on the loom) automatically eliminating the usage of a human hand in this process and hence assisting the weaver to increase his/her work rate by a greater factor. It was designed by English inventor John Kay.
The Process of the Textile Production
Mill work was a repeated and a routine process with little or almost no variety in the goods produced. Therefore, it would be classified under the category of Mass or Continuous Manufacturing process type with high volume, continuous process flow and repeated process tasks. On most machines, the industrial workers possessed very little skills. They were taught the know how’s of each machine by word (which means other workers). Communication was key and there were no specific guidelines to be followed.
The following flow charts indicates the Manufacturing process of cotton textiles in Industrial era :
Firstly, the cotton seeds are collected from Plantations which were mostly found in the warm and fertile areas of the world for example: Africa, India and the Americas. They were then imported and were stored in factories for the forthcoming procedures. The next procedure involved was “Willowing“ and “Ginning”, which was akin to the processes of “Opening “and “Picking” where the dirt and the debris and seeds were cleaned and removed from the raw cotton and were mixed by different types of it to generate strength. The Cotton Gin played an integral role in this process as it helped remove seeds at a rate faster than ever increasing the productivity factor by almost 50 times the hand-picked method. The cotton is then fed into the Blowing machine or the Willowing frame where the cotton is processed to become soft without any dirt and debris.
The cotton is then transported over to the lap frame where it is passed through between iron rollers for getting a smoother sheet like texture (known as wadding) and removing the last of the remaining impurities like dust and sand. The process is also important as it is used for removing “flyings” which are debris from cotton that are easily inflammable (that can be extremely detrimental for the factory and the lives of the workers). The cotton is then carried over to the carding machines where the cotton is disentangled and the fibers are cleaned, they are plucked and straightened into parallel lines so that they can easily be spun into yarns . The short fibers were additionally combed with needles for adding even further straightening. They were then mixed with the other carded cotton in a process called “drawing”, which strengthened the material. This process is performed repeatedly for greater uniformity and strengthening of the cotton fibers. The cotton was twisted (“Roving”) and then wound as preparation for the spinning process. In the roving process the soft, strong uniform cotton was wound into bobbins. These bobbins were spun onto yarn after the roving process. Depending on the output and type of yarn required the spinning process took place via the spinning frame (jenny) or the Spinning frame. The operators of the spinning mule required more skills and were often men in contrary to the spinners operating the spinning frame who were less skilled and were primarily women . The spinning process results in the formation of cotton spools and were stored in creels . The warping process which takes place next lays emphasis on the arrangement many number of yarns on a warping beam in a parallel manner. It was an initiation step which proceeded to “Weaving” and the Mechanism of the loom. The yarns are then slashed and then made ready for the weaving process to take place via the loom. The warp had to be drawn in by hand such that the warp end through the eyes of the heddles which were attached to the harness of the loom . The weaving process is the final step in the production of a cloth from yarn. The warp yarn is attached around the beam behind the loom while the filling yarn which is wound into bobbins is fitted into the flying shuttle. In order for the weaving to take place an Interlacing position should formed. Therefore, the shuttle passes through alternating sets of lifted warps and hence forming a pick. It leaves a thread of weft to be taken in by the warp .The motion of the shuttle through the shed makes the idea of the weaving patterns a reality. “The Reed is fixed in the Lathe at the front, and by working backwards and forwards, it beats up the Weft closely, and forms the cloth which laps round a beam, until the yarn is all woven. The weaver then stops the Loom, rolls off the cloth, takes it to the man on the left, who, having looked it over, and picked out the motes, makes up the piece, and sends it to the Bleacher”
The picture above illustrates the weavers working on a power loom. They either were “steam engine driven” or used water power as a source of energy. One weaver could handle 2-3 looms at an average .The next step leads to the Dyeing, bleaching and printing of the cloth which involves the chemical treatment of them under different conditions such as being washed in a Dash-Wheel and stored in Dyeing Cistern filled with water dye stuff for the respective colors required such as madder and indigo . The cloth then undergoes through the printing process before being sold to the wholesalers and released into the consumer market.
The Power Loom
Early industry period in Denmark has many of the small textile industry (home craft) they used the handlooms. However, process of using hand loom has advantage and disadvantage. For example, we do not need the energy source, but we cannot produce large production. Because of industrial revolution in England, power looms were started to use and Denmark followed the leading country. Denmark imported two types of textile machinery. Wool machine were imported from Germany and cotton machine from England. Around the 1840,Denmark had a lot of labor force, however there was a lack of specialist and modern technology.
As the power loom was introduced into a few mills in 1843, it quickly spread to cotton weaving as well.
At that time, the power-loom could not really compete with the hand loom, as far as weaving goes. This was because the mills primarily used carded yarn which was a fragile weft. The problem could only be solved by reducing the speed of the power loom and therefore the transition from hand looms to power looms went rather slow but as the machines evolved they became more and more common.
The location of the mill now became a more critical factor. Most of those factories which could not relocate were forced out of business since they couldn’t keep up with production, when compared to the mills which were able to utilize water- or hydro-electrical power.
During the Second Industrial Revolution, the industry grew considerably due to the implementation of new machinery, methods and ideas. Especially the power loom was important here because it enabled the workers to operate even more looms – referred to as “the multiple loom system”. Whereas the common worker usually worked two looms at a time, he could now operate several different looms at the same time and thereby increase his own salary and the production of the factory. As the years went by more workers would start operating more looms, and by 1930 it was no longer a possibility to operate a single loom (see following table).
Due to the continuously evolving machinery, technological understanding and the expansion of the power loom, the textile industry became more automated and from the beginning of the 20th century, Denmark experienced an increase in production even though the number of workers at the factories only went up by a little.
The table below shows the main differences between the use of hand loom and power loom .
Hand loom Power loom
Manual operating system Powered by water, wind, steam or electricity
Shedding is done by pedal and picking and beating is done by manual Shedding, picking and beating is done automatically
Small production, low output Big production, high output
Slow running speed High running speed
Low Initial investment High Initial investment
High variety in products Low variety in products
Check and stripe fabrics are produced Normally single coloured fabric is produced
Pre industrial period power transformation to power looms:
From Sole Artisan to Mass Production
The change of the technologies led to the adoption of more effective methods in manufacturing, which significantly increased the quantity of the production. As a result mass production occurred. The mass production refers to large amounts of standardized products. Mass production was popularized in the late 1910s and 1920s by Henry Ford’s Ford Motor Company.
The first factory in Denmark to be considered a proper factory was the Royal Privileged Cotton Manufacture also referred to as the Manchester Factory. It was situated just outside of Copenhagen and was equipped with water frames and mules for spinning. At this particular factory, the machinery was driven by both hand- and horsepower. The manager of this factory – Ch. A. Norberg – played another important role in the Danish textile industry. Due to the Tools Act, import of certain machines from England was not possible and therefore the machinery had to be copied locally. Norberg founded the first machine shop in Denmark and through this he supplied many mills with machinery.
A new trend occurred at the beginning of the 19th century. In order to achieve a more effective production and cheaper production many cloth manufactures moved their production to more rural areas. This was primarily for two reason, first of all they were lured by the waterpower and second they could get away with paying lower wages in these areas.
Today factories still operate after this principle and it is quite common, even though the scale is somewhat larger. Instead of moving to the countryside they move to another country in order to achieve lower wages.
Brede Klaedefabrik is a great example of this new demand for location. The mill was established in 1831 at the Mølle Creek which is also referred to as the cradle of Danish industry.
In order to commence large scale manufacturing, capital is needed. Fortunately, Denmark possessed a rather effective tax-system, through which they were able to accumulate a decent amount of capital. The Monarchy transferred the capital to state subsidies for privately owned manufactures and thereby helped accelerate the progression of the Danish textile industry.
Another obstacle for the large scale manufacturing was the need of “know-how”. This was solved by importing master artisans, mainly from Germany. The large amounts of state subsidies also made this an attractive trade for the imported help.
These imported artisans helped fund some of Denmark’s first textile-manufactures. These manufactures were structured such that a few artisan-shops worked under the supervision of a master artisan or maybe even a merchant.
The Business Aspects
In the start almost all of the manufacturers were running smaller shops and artisans, and didn’t actually have a factory. However the “Manchester factory” that was established in 1779 was the first manufacturer that was seen as an real factory because of their use of water frames and mules for spinning. The waterpower hadn’t made it to the factories yet, but that time was not far away. In 1843 the first power looms and use of steam power saw the use in Danish factories, and in 1846, Modewegs cloth mill in Brede, was to adopt both of these technologies, and use them together for the first time.
From here on more and more factories were established mainly around the major cities for housing purposes, and import of foreign raw materials, mainly cotton. The spinning technology was improved with the self-actors and the weaving process was ever evolving with the endless improving of the power and automatic looms.
Then capitalism started to take its hold. Smaller manufactures, and factories that didn’t have the capital to expand and buy new machines, had to close because of the competition from the larger factories. More and more work was established in the big factories and they started to divide the labour more and more, which lead to employment of uneducated workers.
Workers Living Standards
As factories appeared, people started moving from the countryside towards the factories in order to get a job and an urbanization took on. Subsequent expansions of the mills, in order to compete and meet demand, turned the areas around the mills to small societies evolving around the factory. The life in these small villages was very bureaucratic and was based on the worker’s position in the hierarchy at the mill.
The first step towards these small villages was the factory housing. A high position at the factory would ensure the worker a better quality home. The factory owner himself would usually live in the main building where skilled and unskilled workers would live in small houses or apartments. The masters would be offered something in between. Some factory housings would even have a small garden attached to it where the workers could keep chickens and so on for a more personal use.
The link with the mills would for many workers last a lifetime. In order to ensure a sufficient workforce, some factories, like Brede Klaedefabrik, would implement systems at the factories in order to relief the workers of some of their social obligations. Since women and children still were a big part of the workforce some mills would implement arrangements such as nursery rooms, kindergartens and school systems.
The nursery rooms ensured that mothers could nurse during work hours and with the implementation of the kindergarten they did not have to use as much time looking after their children and could spend more time working. At mills like Brede Klaedefabrik the children could even attend school at the fabric. Here they were divided into two groups which attended classes either before or after work.
Some factories would even own their own burial ground or a part of a burial ground located nearby. Here, as in the factory housing, the employees were laid to rest accordingly to their position in the mill-hierarchy.
A more indirect, but at least as important, effect of the new kind of work was the leisure. Where having a farm and being self-sufficient were a fulltime job people now had time to spare which they could use as they wanted to.
In the mid to late eighteenth century, workers inside the industrial work field, such as those at the textile mills, started to form associations to group up against the employers, and therefore have a stronger community. The first greater social organizations were the social trade unions and the modern labour movement.
The international, was the first labour union in Denmark, and was formed in 1871, this union had special group including a weaver’s section. The international organized many things within the industry, and worked as kind of workers guild. In comparison to the new factory guild that put employers in extensive power over their workers.
The first specific Workers union was founded in 1873. It was called the Weavers Welfare Society and it was a trade union for skilled men only. However, it quickly became clear that in order to create an effective union they had to include the women and unskilled as well. The union changed and became a community for all textile workers under the name the Danish Textile Workers.
This change was necessary since the technology of the large scale manufacturing made the textile production more available for the common people and thereby it had a great impact on the status of the workers. Journeymen and masters became wage labourers and employees on the same level as unskilled workers, since the lifelong education they had gone through could now be replaced with a much shorter period of training in how to handle the machinery. Naturally more and more unskilled workers would seek towards the factories in order to get jobs.
This also improved the power of the union. Since their main “weapon” was strikes they naturally occurred more often. Especially after the strike fond was implemented. Soon other unions from across the country were fused together to make a more national movement, that would work to improve the majority of work conditions across all factories in Denmark, instead of just one problem at one factory at a time.
This movement was actually not started by the workers union itself, but by the manufacturers federation who demanded a national agreement, when the workers union threatened the Copenhagen manufacturers with strikes. The workers union agreed to negotiate terms and a national agreement was made between the textile workers union and the manufacturers’ federation, and was a landmark for further negotiations in the industrial sector, that are still made in this manner to this day.

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