Digitization is hitting every industry, and textiles are no exception. At the same time, businesses are able to deliver products faster. This comes with greater levels of customization, transparency (in order to meet compliance requirements) and quality. Let examine how the textile manufacturing sector is adapting to the shift towards more digitization as well as some of the challenges facing the industry.
Supply Chain Management
More than four fifths of apparel industry purchasing officers expect end to end process management to be the biggest issue their industry faces in the next five years. And it is having an impact, since many small and mid-sized suppliers are shutting down if they can’t make the necessary investments in digitization.
Another way the textile industry is behind its peers is the continued reliance on monthly face to face meetings in order to maintain close relationships. The Tirupur Export Association stands out as one of the exceptions to this rule. They’re trying to create a digitized, global production cluster for circular-knit-garments. While Tirupur is located in India, they’re trying to use technology to connect with European brands.
Project Digitex in the EU pioneered digital printing and finishing of textiles. This shift in manufacturing could dramatically reduce water usage while saving on operating costs. The same technology opens up the possibility of commonly available “smart fabrics”.
By printing distinct layers of different materials, it creates multifunction textiles that are light, comfortable, strong and attractive. The technology also supports mass customization and faster delivery. This technology may be what allows for interactive systems to be embedded in apparel. We’re probably still a long way off from designing an outfit online and then having it 3D printed.
Businesses can collect data about their operations and use data analysis tools to improve these same operations.
For example, data collected during the manufacturing process allows businesses to know the state of work in process, see potential problems with schedules based on the time remaining to complete the work, and track the quality level of the completed product. Tracking the performance of equipment, people and departments creates opportunities for identifying ways to improve their efficiency or quality. The greater degree of supplier collaboration and transparency is leading to a shift from final auditing inspections at suppliers to suppliers certifying their own shipments.
Connecting with Customers
The textile industry is increasingly using apps to engage consumers and provide support for them instead of simply using them as a transactional platform. They’re using these tools to not only remain relevant to current customers but to try to attract new ones.
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