• Li & Fung is partnering with US robotics firm Softwear Automation to create its first fully-digital apparel supply chain.
  • They will initially focus on the supply chain of T-shirts, with potential to expand to other product categories in the future.
  • The benefits are expected to include better productivity and efficiency as well as creating new, higher-value employment opportunities.
The benefits of the partnership are expected to reach Li & Fungs suppliers and all stakeholders along the supply chain

The benefits of the partnership are expected to reach Li & Fung's suppliers and all stakeholders along the supply chain

Li & Fung is preparing to create its first fully-digital T-shirt supply chain through a new cooperation agreement with US robotics firm SoftWear Automation.

The Hong-Kong based supply chain solutions provider says the partnership leverages its global supplier network and SoftWear Automation's fully autonomous Sewbot worklines.

While they will initially focus on the T-shirt supply chain, there is potential to expand to other product categories in the future – as well as create customised solutions for Li & Fung's global supplier network.

Requiring just a single operator, the worklines produce one complete T-shirt every 22 seconds – twice as fast as manual sewing.

As Li & Fung explains, digitising the production portion of the supply chain presents a game-changing opportunity for manufacturers and suppliers. Technology solutions like automation will enable manufacturers to deliver better productivity and efficiency and create new, higher-value employment opportunities, such as engineers and technicians.

In March, Li & Fung group president Marc Compagnon shed more light on the sourcing giant's progress to reorientate its business model to focus on speed, innovation and digitalisation.

"We have already made substantial progress in our digital journey to create the supply chain of the future and this partnership with SoftWear Automation is another building block in our end-to-end digital supply chain," says Spencer Fung, group CEO, Li & Fung.

The two companies will partner with an initial set of manufacturers and use those learnings to scale the technology and create customised solutions for Li & Fung's supplier network around the world. The benefits are expected to reach its suppliers and all stakeholders along the supply chain.

Palaniswamy Rajan, chairman and CEO of Softwear Automation, adds: "We have a shared vision with Li & Fung that the analogue will become digital. Consumers' demand to get things faster, quicker and more unique than ever before is only increasing. Together with Li & Fung, our revolutionary Sewbots will enable the speed needed for on demand, made-to-measure manufacturing, at scale."

SoftWear Automation last week revealed it is seeking to collaborate and partner with European manufacturers, brands and retailers as it extends its fully autonomous Sewbot T-shirt workline to the continent for the first time.