just-style: Why apparel firms must plan for “responsible automation”
As digitisation, connectivity, robotics and artificial intelligence start to make inroads into apparel production, now is the time for the industry to move towards “responsible automation” – where workers are trained and supported so they have the skills for the future.
Pete Santora, chief commercial officer at SoftWear Automation, which is developing robotic worklines for the apparel and footwear industry, believes robots have been a scapegoat for wider issues within the sector.
“Workers don’t work in the best conditions, and in some ways I think robotics is a way to target this problem and then say, ‘the robots are going to take the jobs.’ I understand that viewpoint, but I also think you need to respect and educate the workforce today rather than demonising robotics.
“Don’t turn away from the issue of your labour force, just because robots are coming.”
He believes the integration of robotics and automation into production lines is going to be a gradual process that starts with the least-skilled and most repetitive tasks – as well as tackling challenges like transportation related costs and costly, unwanted inventory.
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