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Advertising Speciality Institute: The Future of Apparel


Advertising Speciality Institute: The Future of Apparel

Case-in-point: Atlanta-based SoftWear Automation has developed “sewbots” – a trademarked term referring to robots that can sew garments without a seamstress. While complex garments are currently beyond the sewbots, they can produce simpler products like T-shirts. Eventually, SoftWear envisions making denim items and more. CEO Palaniswamy Rajan has said that every four robots only require one human operator to manage them.

Beyond Softwear, Seattle-based Sewbo has developed a process in which fabrics are temporarily stiffened with the help of a non-toxic polymer, allowing “conventional” industrial robots to build garments from rigid cloth. So far, Sewbo has had success creating T-shirts. Additionally, household name brands like Adidas, Nike and Zara’s parent company Inditex have been focusing on greater automation.

While the technology isn’t taking over in 2017, interest in bot-driven automation is ramping up. That’s because it could provide lower labor costs, enhanced efficiency, fewer mistakes, and more speed and flexibility in the supply chain, allowing brands to get clothing from conception to consumers quicker in a world of fast-changing trends.

To the point of rising interest, consider this: Rajan recently told California Apparel News that 2017 SoftWear sales are forecast to beat 2016’s numbers four times over. Also interesting: he and other proponents of robotic automation believe the technology could help drive onshoring of apparel production, given the envisioned reduced labor costs and growing desire to get apparel to market with lightning speed. “You will see a sizable amount of industry moving back to the U.S,” Rajan says.

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