SEATING: Camira Fabrics

By: Amie Hickland


A Melbourne-based seating fabric supplier is continuing to make their mark

SEATING: Camira Fabrics
Camira Sales and marketing manager Rodney Peterson

If you think all bus seats are cut from the same cloth, there is a very high chance you are, in fact, correct.

Camira is Australia’s largest supplier of public transport fabric and by far the most prominent.

The Melbourne-based arm of the United Kingdom manufacturer is responsible for the fabric on many Australian buses – including notable state operators State Transit Authority (New South Wales), Perth Transit Authority (Western Australia) and Brisbane City Council (Queensland) as well as supplying passenger seat fabric to most of the Australian rail networks and also into the ferry industry.

"Locally in Melbourne, we’re in most major bus networks and bus operations," says Camira Sales and marketing manager Rodney Peterson, noting Transdev, Ventura, Dysons, Firefly and CDC among others.

Peterson says the supplier deals with the majority of bus seat manufacturers worldwide – and locally with McConnell, Styleride and others - as well as directly with bus and coach manufacturers, bus operators both large and small and many upholsterers around the country.

Worldwide the ‘transport’ sector of represents some 30 per cent of the total Camira business, while 70 per cent is termed ‘contract’, meaning fabric used for offices, public buildings, hotels and hospitals.

To add some perspective, the company manufactures a total of about eight million metres of fabric per year, which is approximately 150,000 metres of fabric each week.

The ‘transport’ sectors’ 40,000 metres equates to enough fabric for around 500 coaches or nearly 1,000 route buses… per week.

In 2007 the West Yorkshire based Camira Group bought out John Holdsworth & Co fabric – thus taking with it the latter’s outstanding reputation in the local industry.

Holdsworth Fabrics was a sixth generation family business at the time with a holding on the majority of the Australian public transport market, after its inception in 1822.

"A lot of that history still transports across to Camira today, with weaving looms relocated only some 20 miles and staff remaining with the new company," says Peterson.

Locally, Holdsworth fabric was largely supplied into Australian via New Zealand up until the late 1990s.

Now the sales office is located close to the Melbourne CBD, while the distribution warehouse sits near the airport in Tullamarine.

TOP OF THE CHAIN

Peterson says the Australian office and warehouse location has been strategic in being able to meet customer’s needs.

Camira’s Australian team is currently three and have plans for a further Sales Representative to join the team early in 2016. Overall the company employs over 650 people.

"The majority of our fabrics are regularly airfreighted from England into Melbourne as these costs have decreased over the years and more importantly it is done just a matter of meeting the customers’ requirements, so really it’s a necessity, not an option," says Peterson.

"There has been a core selection of patterns used though the years by Australian operators, but we are also regularly adding new pattern ranges to give operators more choice to give a fresh look to new or refurbished vehicles.

"Also, we’re here for the life of the vehicle," Peterson says.

 "We’ve got patterns that have been around for 20 to 30 years that continue to be manufactured for use in bus fleets, new and old – that’s our commitment.

"We still need to have these older patterns in stock in case the operator requires fabric for repairs and maintenance – being the manufacturer, we can still do that."

Peterson uses Sydney operator State Transit Authority (STA) as an example of standardising fleets, and says they have used the same fabric in the fleet for as long as he can recall.

"All of the STA fleet is decked out in our fabric, confirming that they are extremely pleased with the performance, durability and years of service in a demanding environment," he says.

"In the trade, ‘Holdsworth’ was really the generic name for bus and coach fabric, when previously flat cloth and vinyl were the only choices for public transport seating.

"Holdsworth were the only choice for quite a while. It had quite a monopoly and it was successful because it was a great product – durable, comfortable and safe.

"If we’re leading the way that means competition will always come in behind us.

"Under Camira ownership great initiatives are well underway to keep ourselves ahead of the pack."

No longer offering only the well-respected Holdsworth moquette (pile) fabric, the range of products has recently expanded to include polyester, vinyl, leather, curtains and various other interior trim products, offering the ‘one stop shop’ for bus and coach interiors.

"The change of ownership has also meant improvements in quality and lead time."

In recent history, Camira have invested heavily in all processes of manufacture, including a dye-house, spinning, weaving and finishing, all under Quality Management System IS0 9001 as well as having a very green focus on natural products (wools, cotton and bast fibres) by utilising waste, reducing water, gas and electricity usage.

Camira achieved Environmental Management ISO 14001 in 1996, being one of the first textile companies in the world to do so.

The company’s new ‘Defender’ product which is available only on the high wool content fabrics is something bus & coach operators in particular have been embracing.

"We wanted to make a good product better, so we have now put the ‘Defender’ treatment to all of our high wool content fabrics as standard," says Peterson.

The ‘Defender’ treatment is a mixture containing silver and silicon, which is designed to repel liquids, stains and is anti-bacterial.

As the treatment is part of the manufacturing process (not an after-market treatment), where the solution is chemically bonded to the yarn and backing fibres and effectively makes the fabric waterproof, anti-stain and hygienically clean.

This is beneficial in a public transport situation to protect passengers against liquid spills & stains, odours from moulds & fungi and offers protection against vandalism.

Though the Camira stock and back-catalogue contains literally thousands of patterns and colour combinations, another benefit of being the manufacturer is that Camira are also able to personalise an operator’s livery into the fabric, which could mean including logos or using corporate colour schemes, however there are factors of minimum production quantities to consider first.

"Our core products are made with high wool content and being so it naturally makes for a fire resistant product, which is becoming a more important subject these days. We also have the capability to meet higher rail and ferry flammability requirements."

Peterson says Camira’s commitment to quality, durability and high safety standard of the product range is what has kept them to continue as a market leader.

"It’s not simply due to marketing – it’s a good product," he says.

"We’re looking to be the natural choice for fabric solutions for the bus and coach industry."

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