Blog: Leonie BarrieRobotics opportunities still remote

Leonie Barrie | 5 December 2016

Among the issues currently facing leading sportswear brands and manufacturers is the struggle to equip factories with the robotic and cyber physical systems (CPS) element of Industry 4.0 processes – at least in the near term, a major international conference has heard.

However, the CEO at Hong Kong based shirt maker Esquel has told just-style the company continues to innovate to improve efficiency and productivity, and has recently moved its highly automated pilot production line from Malaysia to its major facility in Gaoming, China.

Israel-based tailored clothing maker Bagir Group is also fighting back with new products, a return to innovation and a refocus of its manufacturing base on Ethiopia, Egypt and Vietnam, the company’s CEO has told just-style. On top of this, the firm has just shipped the first trouser exports from its new production site in Ethiopia, completing a test order for fast fashion giant H&M.

And developments at Hong Kong based apparel manufacturing giant Crystal Group include expanding its worker empowerment programme to male staff for the first time.

Meanwhile, the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) Foundation has released a new set of wastewater guidelines aimed at harmonising expectations across the global apparel and textile supply chain.

And in a bid to speed the switch to safe chemicals in the apparel supply chain, Bluesign Technologies says the latest generation of its online Bluefinder platform lists more than 7,500 approved alternatives – including more than 60 alternatives to PFCs.

Separately, US outdoor clothing specialist Columbia Sportswear has unveiled its first high-performance, environmentally-friendly, waterproof breathable jacket made without the use of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs).

And The North Face, the largest brand in VF Corp's outdoor and action sports group, has launched what it says is the first outdoor apparel prototype in the world to feature synthetic spider silk.

The challenge of freeing up capital in the apparel supply chain is the focus of special fashion finance articles on just-style this week. The misfit between traditional finance products and fast fashion, solutions for keeping track of inventory, and software systems to guide planning and operations are all covered.

November comparable store sales proved disappointing for the few US apparel retailers still reporting their figures, with only two recording increases. This was despite robust e-commerce growth from the Black Friday weekend and a more favourable macro backdrop to consumer spending.

In the most recent third-quarter filings from US apparel and footwear brands and retailers, Abercrombie & Fitch revealed a "disastrous" quarter, while American Eagle Outfitters booked record sales. Foot Locker and Chico's, meanwhile, both saw growth thanks to the implementation of ongoing group strategies.

And in other news, apparel maker Fruit of the Loom has named a new CEO following the sudden death of Rick Medlin; a new film documents the daily lives of Cambodia garment workers; and Pakistan has suspended cotton imports from India.

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