Texprocess 2017 – New software solutions for speed and efficiency

2 June 2017 | Features & Interviews | Source: Leonie Barrie & Beth Wright

Digitalisation was a buzz-word at the recent Texprocess apparel technology trade show in Frankfurt, Germany, with new tools allowing data to flow seamlessly from digital design and development all the way through the supply chain to help garment manufacturers cut costs, improve quality, increase productivity, speed time-to-market, reduce waste and stay competitive.

Productivity and efficiency
Business software provider CGS presented its enhanced Actionable Intelligence dashboard feature, which gathers data and analytics from operators in real-time on the shop floor and displays it on a tablet or large screen. The information can be used in line balancing by allowing managers to be proactive to changes and shortages in production, reassigning and allocating operators to fill any gaps immediately as opposed to waiting until the end of the day. According to the company, the enhanced feature also acts to streamline operations. For example, if an operator has a specific request or needs to step away, he/she can simply enter the request through the system, which generates an automatic pop-up for approval by the manager. The dashboard also displays KPIs (key performance indicators) such as department attendance, production and efficiency.

Meanwhile, CGS also shared details of a new partnership with industrial sewing machine giant Juki that saw the company integrate its BlueCherry Shop Floor Control (SFC) solution with Juki sewing machines. The collaboration works to gather real-time data from the sewing machine itself in addition to information on operator performance. Both sets of data are then combined to provide insights into productivity and performance, helping to increase overall efficiency and flexibility on the manufacturing floor.

The information can be used to analyse everything from machine stop/start times, running time, actual production versus target production, efficiency and even worker attendance and skillsets. If the factory knows which skillsets are available it can re-balance the line if necessary. The system can also be used to pace the operator and workflow so that productivity also increases.

The sewing machines are wirelessly connected to tablets used by supervisors so they are automatically updated on what's coming down the line. "This allows us to drive our productivity and value proposition deeper onto the shop floor," Paul Magel, president of the business applications and technology outsourcing division at CGS, told just-style. Another benefit is that information is collected that relates to compliance, such as payroll and labour. The KPIs can be tracked and shared with retailers. "It's all about productivity and efficiency for world-class manufacturers," Magel adds. "Our goal is to get to 100% efficiency."

Digital is now
With a range of software solutions covering the entire process from the first idea to store design, one of the biggest highlights from the Human Solutions Group was its 'Digital Fashion World' with several rooms dedicated to the various process steps. Focusing on the theme 'Digital is now' the company showcased product development, production and showroom solutions to portray how the entire product development chain is now digitally possible, meaning sample-free all the way to production, and helping to significantly reduce time to market.

Based around its Digital Fashion board, the successor to the analogue mood board, the Digital Design Room showed how the "ideal" prototype can be designed, tested and approved digitally. The process starts with the Digital Fashion board, where data from the Vidya 3D simulation software is directly linked to information from PLM GoLive, before international body dimensions portal iSize helps define the target group with all necessary decisions for the collection – including price ranges, materials and accessories – determined in the PLM system. A pattern is then developed in Cad.Assyt and simulated and visualised in Vidya. The result is a pattern file from which to start production.

The Digital Production Room, meanwhile, demonstrated the entire production process from compilation of the order data and its optimisation, to nesting and cutting. The Vitus bodyscanner was also on display, which creates a colour image in seconds.

Also building on the technology of the Digital Fashion Board was the Digital Show Room. Real clothing, equipped with a QR code, could be held up to the board, generating a Webshop displaying the selected product and its variants. The Virtual Mirror meanwhile, enables virtual try-on thanks to the Bodyprofiler and Vidya technology, with a virtual avatar removing the need for consumers to physically try on clothes or even enter a brick-and-mortar store at all.

Another highlight was the Virtual Reality Room in which virtual reality glasses were used to demonstrate how partners in different locations together can work together to coordinate a collection.

Also new for Human Solutions is Vidya version 20.17 which has been enhanced with digital shadows to highlight the edges of patches and button plackets. Material simulation has also been further optimised, with a "precise" display of a fabric's texture, appearance and drape. This also applies to the distance between the garment and the body, and the simulation of the fabric's physical properties such as elasticity so stretch can be visualised. Vidya also renders seam types and material reinforcing like zip and interlinings.

Simplified design and development
For Tukatech, Texprocess provided a platform to launch its suite of cloud-based digital design and development applications that the company says will enable the entire supply chain to collaborate and communicate design ideas – with the overall aim of reducing the number of iterations prior to samples.

The starting point is the TUKA3D Designer Edition, a visualisation tool that enables designers to build garments virtually using mix and match pieces from the TUKAbank, a library of components, PDF patterns and 3D virtual style files. Different print repeats and placements can also be tried out using TUKAstudio for digital fabric development; and visuals of the final concept presented in a design meeting, in a tech pack, or sent  directly to a vendor as a reference.

Virtual samples can even be tried on virtual fit models, complete with real-time motion simulation aiming to demonstrate exactly how the garment fits during a range of movements intended to mimic those of a human fit model. These avatars can be customised for different bodies, shapes, sizes and companies. The virtual samples can also be uploaded to the TUKAcloud web-based digital sample-room, and accessed for approval and review.

According to Tukatech CEO Ram Sareen, real-time motion simulation is the only way to verify at the design level that a garment fits; while the company's monthly rental programme means its entire software suite is also accessible industry-wide, including to smaller brands, designers and students.

3D design to print
Pressure from fast fashion, the need for greater agility and more design iterations, are all accelerating the uptake of EFI Optitex's 2D and 3D design and prototyping tools, according to the company's general manager Asaf Landau.

The firm's latest innovation is a cloud collaboration application for the fashion industry – O/Cloud Collaborate – a web-based Software as a Service (SaaS) solution that enables companies to share and communicate on any product-related file, including styles, tech packs, graphic designs and artwork in one secure location. The centralised workspace not only hosts the digital files but can also be used to share feedback and comments. The aim is for faster decision-making and to eliminate errors before producing the first physical prototype.

Also in the pipeline is a 3D Adobe Illustrator plugin that allows designers to make better decisions, eliminate redundant samples, and review design and print options in minutes. And further down the line is Optitex Digital Revu, which will enable users to view the entire collection, mix and match options, look at different sizes and analyse them together. The 3D images can also be used in meetings, reviewed in presentation mode, and multiple page capabilities enable a range of different garments to be viewed during a design session.

"We continue to see 3D being adopted, in most cases through the design and development process, where you can see samples in hours as opposed to waiting a month or so," Landau explains. "Most of our customers talk about going faster in the first year they use us; by the second year they're talking about seeing stuff earlier, making better decisions, and making better products because they can put through a lot more changes and let the creative be creative without all the cost of it."

The acquisition of Optitex last year by digital textile printing specialist EFI Reggiani also means the business now offers a complete design to print solution, from designing in 3D to printing onto the pattern pieces directly. "This allows you to change the economics of digital printing. And your designers can manipulate or change the print and design exactly as they want without consideration of the fabric, because the fabric is happening afterwards."

Optimised omnichannel management
Software supplier Intex has combined a number of features from its enterprise resource planning (ERP), product life-cycle management (PLM), and supply chain management (SCM) tools into its new IX Fusion product, a fully integrated solution that optimises omnichannel management.

The range includes modules that can manage production, sales or storage, as well as features for web orders and CRM, and is aimed at improving transparency, accelerating supply chains, reducing costs and ensuring "perfect" distribution of goods over various sales channels. The top-end IX Fusion Pro is specifically tailored to each customer's needs; IX Fusion primarily illustrates standards and can be enhanced with up to 25 add-on modules from the IX Fusion Plus range; and the IX Fusion App includes numerous modules as mobile apps. There is the option to purchase software licences or to spread investment via the IX Fusion Cloud.

Automated sewing
Speed and automation were among the highlights at Pfaff Industrial, whose latest innovations for jeans production included a special "curved version" of the Pfaff 3819 waistband machine designed to process fashionable ladies' jeans. Traditionally, a ladies' jeans waistband is divided into straight and curved seam sections to achieve a perfect fit. However, using the new unit it is now possible to produce straight and curved seam sections of the waistband in one operation with just one machine, Pfaff says.

Its new jeans pocket setters also focus on increasing productivity, with the Pfaff 3589 capable of processing up to 2,600 medium-sized jeans pockets during an 8-hour operation. Likewise, the Pfaff 3538 pocket hemmer automat features a new fully automated pocket loader that can be filled with up to 500 cut pockets and then works without an operator. An output of up to 16,500 pockets is possible over an 8-hour shift, and one operator is able to look after several machines.

The move towards operator-less production also featured in a joint innovation with KSL to carry out a fully automated bobbin change on the Pfaff Plusline 2481 pocket bag attacher using a handling robot. A changer magazine can hold 8 bobbins, which the robot exchanges automatically. Additionally, the robot guides the item to be sewn past the sewing head, helping reduce operator intervention.

Camera controlled sewing system 
Showcased by Brother was the BAS-H Nexio Series, a new generation of electronic pattern sewer with a touch panel and integrated programmer, with digital tension as standard for easier customisation. Using the BAS-H Nexio, the company also presented its "industry first" camera controlled sewing system: the Vision Sewing System. The camera system enables sewing data to be created instantly for outline badges and patches.

Other highlights included a robotic system for automatic loading of fabric; customised robot systems for closing elastic tape in briefs production and attaching hangers or loops for womenswear; and the SG 67 steam generator which allows different pressure ratios to be set to control the intensity of the steam – not only its quantity but also more dry or more wet steam – and an automatic cleaning device. 

Artificial Intelligence 
Morgan Tecnica said its two biggest pieces of news were its Next 2 and Ply 1 cutting machines. From natural woven fibres to technical textiles and composites, the Ply 1 single ply cutting machine is suitable for prototypes, made-to-measure and technical fabric and can reach speeds and accelerations the company claims are the fastest in its category. 

Meanwhile, its Next 2 high-ply cutting machine is available in 5cm, 7cm and 9cm compressed fabric versions, and features Artificial Intelligence that allows self-handling of processes such as sharpening cycles or real-time speed controls. The machine can also notify the operator when it requires maintenance or new parts in order to prevent sudden breakdowns. 

As already reported on just-style, elsewhere at the show new technologies including a digitalised sewing machine set up via a touchscreen or app, were among winners of the Texprocess Innovation Award 2017.

Texprocess 2017: Four top innovations unveiled