In 1885 Singer produced its first "vibrating shuttle" sewing machine, an improvement over contemporary transverse shuttle designs; (see bobbin drivers).Singer began to market its machines internationally in 1855 and won first prize at the Paris World’s Fair.At the height of its productiveness in the mid 1960s Singer employed over 16,000 workers but by the end of that decade compulsory redundancies were taking place and 10 years later the workforce was down to 5,000.Financial problems and lack of orders forced the world’s largest sewing machine factory to close in June 1980, bringing to an end over 100 years of sewing machine production in Scotland. During World War II, the company suspended sewing machine production to take on government contracts for weapons manufacturing.The following April 17, Singer was given an educational order of 500 units with serial numbers S800001 – S800500.The educational order was a program set up by the US Ordnance Board to teach companies without gun-making experience to manufacture weapons.
Glasgow was selected for its iron making industries, cheap labour and possibly because at the time the General Manager of the US Singer Manufacturing Company was George Mc Kenzie, who was of Scottish descent.
Its labour force of 14,000 was about 70% female at war's end.
From its opening in 1884 until 1943 the Kilbowie factory produced approximately 36,000,000 sewing machines.
In the First World War, sewing machine production gave way to munitions.
The Singer Clydebank factory received over 5000 government contracts, and made 303 million artillery shells, shell components, fuses, and aeroplane parts, as well as grenades, rifle parts, and 361,000 horseshoes.
Between 19 the Clydebank factory underwent a £4 million modernization program which saw the Clydebank factory cease the production of cast iron machines and focus on the production of aluminium machines for western markets.