Bloomberg View: Robots are the New Seamstresses
“Why would I automate something that’s already cheap anyway?” asks K.P. Reddy, the CEO of Softwear Automation, an Atlanta-based startup that uses machine vision to drive precision sewing systems. Rather, automation promises quicker turnaround, lower transit costs and greater precision. That’s good news for consumers and retailers, bad news for Bangladesh. The jobs at risk are the low-skilled, repetitive tasks that have been the way out of poverty for two centuries. That road may be about to close.
Softwear Automation’s software tracks exact needle placement, using the thread grid and surface textures to create a topographic map of the fabric. “We’re at half-a-millimeter accuracy,” says Reddy. “Most humans can’t even contemplate what that looks like. We can do things like sew a perfect circle, which a human can’t do.”
Equally important, it can do so at a price that promises a payback in two years, thanks to off-the-shelf cameras that cost just hundreds of dollars, compared to thousands only a few years ago. Chalk that up to the spillover effects of ubiquitous cell phone cameras.
Softwear Automation assumed its primary customers would be U.S. apparel makers. Instead, it found its immediate market in home goods — “curtains, towels, bath rugs, all the flat things that go into homes” — and turned to apparel only in the past three months. It’s also heard from surprisingly eager foreign contract manufacturers.
Read the full article at Bloomberg View.