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05.12.2016

Just-Style: Texprocess Americas Taps into Apparel Automation

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Just-Style: Texprocess Americas Taps into Apparel Automation

Automation and robotics were among the key trends on show at last week’s Texprocess Americas exhibition. These industry-changing technologies have the potential to bridge the industry’s skills gap, increase productivity in apparel manufacturing, and drive speed to market, according to exhibitors.

Dave Gardner, managing director of SPESA (the Sewn Products Equipment Suppliers of the Americas) and a long-time observer of the apparel industry, believes the recent resurgence of textile and apparel manufacturing in the US is a bona fide trend.

Among the factors he cites are textile firms from India and China investing in US facilities.

Commenting to a group of journalists at last week’s Texprocess Americas exhibition and symposium in Atlanta, which is co-produced by SPESA, Gardner said: “Technology is critical to our industry. The biggest newest thing for our show is automation and robotics.”

These industry-changing technologies were clearly evident during the three-day Atlanta event, both in the exhibit hall and the symposium rooms.

One of the Texprocess Americas Symposium sessions focused on robotics and other forms of automation. One of the presentations came from KP Reddy, CEO of Atlanta-based SoftWear Automation, a robotics and computing firm that specialises in technologies targeting apparel manufacturing and the sewn products industries.

“There is a huge need for automation in the apparel sector,” said Reddy. “Outside of the obvious ethical reasons around eliminating sweatshop labour, the biggest force driving manufacturers to automate their processes is the lack of skilled labour.

“Globally, it has become increasingly difficult to find, train, and retain skilled seamstresses. As the more skilled workers begin to retire there is no talent pool to replace them whether you are in the US or Bangladesh. Millennials the world over are moving to city centers and are generally uninterested in factory work making robots the next logical step to fill this skills gap.”

Reddy said symposium attendees were surprised to learn that many robotic solutions to apparel manufacturing needs are available now, not research projects that are five to ten years away.

“The feedback at our booth mirrored this same thinking,” Reddy said. “Attendees were shocked to see that flexible, lightweight robotics are available now for multiple sewing operations.”

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