WSJ: The Robots Are Coming … That’s Good for the U.S., Bad for Poor Countries
Automation is reaching into trades that once seemed immune, transforming sweatshops in places like Bangladesh and bringing production back to America
There are plenty of upsides to automation in apparel, of course, especially in richer countries. By boosting efficiency, new technologies help keep consumer prices for jeans and other “fast fashion” products low. Automation could also help bring some apparel production back to places with more-expensive labor, including the U.S.
Softwear Automation, an Atlanta-based firm that develops automated tools for apparel factories, says that its “sewbots” will be used next year in a Little Rock, Ark., factory operated by Chinese garment producer Tinyuan Garments Co.
Softwear, the Atlanta automation firm, has added cameras to its “sewbots” to enhance production, spotting distortions in fabrics so they don’t get bunched up in machines. One inventor treated fabrics to stiffen them temporarily so they can be more easily manipulated by robots. Softwear CEO Palaniswamy Rajan predicts sewbots will eventually make individual clothing items automatically on demand after they’re ordered online, reducing the need of fashion brands to outsource production to Asia.
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