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11.27.2017

Dhaka Tribune: The factory of the future

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Dhaka Tribune: The factory of the future

Are we ready for the next phase of industrialisation?

The term “Industry 4.0” or “factory of the future” was coined by the German federal government in the context of its high-tech strategy in 2011. It describes the integration of all value-adding business divisions and of the entire value chain with the aid of digitalisation.

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Robots capable of sewing — called “sewbots” — will soon change the calculus of apparel production. In 2015, Softwear Automation Inc launched LOWRY, a robot built with machine vision and computing technologies that automates fabric handling.

Working in parallel with LOWRY, Softwear Automation will introduce an automated sewing machine (ASM) that can run on a continuous basis without a human operator by end of 2016.

Innovative technology at the sewing stage is pushing apparel production to what seemed impossible in the past — sewing robots automating the more difficult and labour-intensive tasks in garment-making.

Sewbots are unlikely to displace current workers in developing world garment factories, but more likely to be deployed in destination markets such as China, Europe, and the US. The disruptive impact on the sector could be very substantial; as robotic automation becomes more prevalent, it could pose a significant threat of job displacement.

Particularly, a strong case can be built for re-shoring if the total cost of using sewbots proves more economical than sourcing from off-shored countries, with direct savings accumulated in shipping and duty, and wider benefits of reduced reputational risk associated with regards to unfavourable working conditions in factories, or worker safety and fair wages etc.

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