Blog: Taking the labour out of garment production
Leonie Barrie | 21 June 2012
The search for ways to take human hands out of the sewing process has been underway for as long as I can remember. Research has always been driven by the need to cut labour costs and boost productivity - but has also been limited by the simple fact that nothing is as efficient or intuitive as the combination of dextrous human fingers and eyesight in aligning and adjusting the fabric parts being sewn together.
Could that all be about to change? The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) certainly hopes so, after awarding $1.26m earlier this month to a company called Softwear Automation in a bid to help turn the concept into reality by building a computer operated, unmanned sewing machine.
Its system will include a numerically-controlled sewing machine that tracks fabric movement by observing passing threads and moves the fabric under the needle stitch by stitch.
Softwear Automation says its goal is to return the production of sewn items to the US and other developed countries - and in the process make it a profitable endeavour - even though US workers won't be among the beneficiaries. It also believes its technology "appears to allow cutting and sewing at costs less than in China."
With apparel imports into the US alone worth some $77.6bn last year, there's a lot to be gained if a labour-intensive industry can be converted to one that is capital-intensive. Whether the firm can achieve its ultimate goal of "complete production facilities that produce garments with zero direct labour" remains to be seen - but will be watched with keen interest.
Confirmation that digital supply chains are top of mind for apparel industry executives came last week with the latest plans from global sourcing specialist Li & Fung....
As a barometer of the issues top of mind for apparel sourcing executives, it is hard to beat the annual Prime Source Forum in Hong Kong. ...
Over the past month, Donald Trump and his team failed to offer any clear plan to ensure Americans would "Buy American, Hire American" - while the British government's attempts to clarify the specifics...
The Bangladesh government was forced to respond late last week to pressure over its crackdown on labour activists after a number of global brands and retailers, including H&M and Inditex announced pla...
- No US rush to Myanmar despite end to sanctions
- Using worker surveys to drive supply chain change
- Where does VF supply chain sit in growth strategy?
- Investment continues in Ethiopia clothing sector
- Rana Plaza four years on – Timeline of change
- Driving ban intensifies Myanmar logistics hurdles
- Amazon wins on-demand apparel manufacturing patent
- Trump bolsters "buy American" with executive order
- Start-ups chosen to re-think fashion industry
- Inditex, Adidas and Patagonia top ethical report
- Global market review of denim and jeanswear – forecasts to 2022
- When Things Go Wrong - A Practical Guide to Managing Common Problems in Apparel Sourcing
- Southeast Asia strategic sourcing review – a focus on Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar
- Myanmar - ISA Country Report
- Clothing Market in the Top 5 American Countries to 2021 - Market Size, Development, and Forecasts