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The global fashion business journal

23 Sep 201905:18

From the speedfactories to the sewbots: the future of the industry is already here

Although the great disruptor of the new industrial age is data and its analytics, automation in production processes also continues to advance and transform an industry that has barely changed in the last two centuries.

24 Jun 2019 — 09:45
Silvia Riera
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The fashion industry, a sector that has barely evolved in thousands of years, now faces a profound transformation. The new consumption habits, the new socio-economic and geopolitical scenario, the demographic changes and the irruption of technology in all daily tasks also have an impact on the value chain of the sector. Digitization and sustainability open a new era in all its links, which implies the incorporation of new systems in the factories. Itma, the largest fair of textile machinery, will give the keys of what will be the fashion industry of the future in its next edition, which will be held from 20 to 26 June at Fira de Barcelona. There will be 1,600 exhibitors and it is expected to exceed 125,000 visitors.

 

 

From the 'speedfactories' to the 'sewbots': the future of the industry is already here

 


Robots sewing, stamping printers and self-managed factories. It's not science fiction, it's the new fashion industry. And it does not end here: processes that do not consume water, hardly any energy, or even chemicals. Technology capable of recycling, regenerating and reintroducing. Perhaps the data is still being the most disruptive, but even so, the new machines that the industry incorporates have completely transformed its image.
 
Far away are the tall smoky chimneys, the big red brick factories of a thousand workers or the rivers colored by the remains of the dyes. The textile industry has long left this stage behind to face a new stage based on efficiency and savings with the introduction of new technologies. Now, however, it is about to give another twist and introduce new advances in the same direction.
 
Sewing continues to be the most labor-intensive production process. While the sector has been able to rely on developing economies in search of low labor costs, it has defended its margins. But this model is exhausted. The only way to contain costs is by automating the process.

 


 


In recent years, the first automated cutting and sewing systems have begun to appear, and the trend is to go further. In this way, not only would the return of part of the new garment industry to the consumer markets be allowed, but it would also stabilize investment in the largest hubs against the natural tendency of emerging economies to raise labor costs.
 
Digital printing is one of the new revolutions in the textile value chain. This technology replaces tinting, reduces labor and decreases the use of chemicals. In addition, in the same way as a conventional paper printer, the textile one is able to dye small surfaces, to stop and change, without extra costs and minimizing errors.
 
Logistics, on the other hand, is one of the links in the chain that has incorporated technology into its warehouses and systems faster, pushed by the unstoppable progress of ecommerce. This activity has not only been armed with data analytics, but also with robotics and augmented reality, in addition to reordering its entire network of facilities to solve the challenge of the last mile.

 

 


The technology that has not yet finished joining the sector, but is expected for the next few years, is 3D printing. At the moment, these printers have begun to be used in specific areas, from the construction of pieces for the machinery of the industry to the construction of soles of sports shoes or glasses.
 
However, it is expected that, with the advancement of materials, 3D printing will also be introduced in the manufacture of clothing and accessories. There are experts who link their development to the reactivation of wearables research. If 3D printing is achieved, the introduction of this technology is not ruled out even at the point of sale.

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