Glossy: The Rise of Robotics in Retail

It takes ten steps from start to finish to cut and sew a basic T-shirt. In regard to manual labor, that’s a breeze, considering cutting and sewing a traditional dress shirt takes 78 total steps.

And yet, despite the simplicity of the production process, 97 percent of T-shirts sold in the U.S. are exported, according to data culled by Softwear Automation, an Atlanta-based company specializing in automating the sewing industry.

“The global supply chain is broken,” said Peter Santora, the VP of sales and marketing at Softwear Automation. “The only thing stopping companies from making goods where they are is cheap sewing labor. Everything else has been solved;it all comes down to cutting and sewing.”

Robotics and automation in fashion can make production and labor costs cheaper, bring supply chains closer to home — a move that not only cuts costs and environmental impact, but also helps brands compete on speed — and improve efficiencies in inventory, customer service, and e-commerce experience. Jobs, of course, are at stake: Cornerstone Capital Group predicts that over the course of the next 10 years, automation will take 6 to 7.5 million jobs from the retail industry, or 38 percent.

Softwear Automation’s “sew bots” apply robotics to the supply chain to automate the sewing process by using camera-equipped sewing machines that trace pre-programmed patterns, similar to the way self-driving cars follow maps.

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