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Sourcing Journal: The Robots are Coming to Pick up Retail’s Pace


Sourcing Journal: The Robots are Coming to Pick up Retail’s Pace

Automation is already transforming production lines across a variety of industries. Softwear Automation, an Atlanta-based machine vision startup is shaking up production with Sewbots for automotive, apparel and footwear manufacturers.

The company currently offers three patented Sewbots, including the Lowry, the Budger and the ASM. Lowry is an overhead system style pick and place robot that requires minimal hardware changes and uses vision for high product variability. Budger is a robotic ball that works with other similar machinery to transport fabric. ASM is an automated sewing machine that sews without an operator and helps streamline apparel construction for materials, like knits, that may distort easily.

All robots use Threadvision, Softwear Automation’s patented machine vision technology that maps and tracks the weft and warp of the fabric and helps with navigation, in addition to Qualsight, another machine vision technology, that helps with color, shape and quality identification.

When compared to traditional apparel production, Sewbots provides time and monetary savings. For example, the company’s T-shirt workline produces a T-shirt every 22 to 26 seconds depending on the size and only requires one person to operate it. Softwear Automation’s digital workline also requires one person to run it, since it has lean manufacturing built into the process. Cost investments and savings could average a one to two-year payback in the U.S. and a three-year payback in China.

Pete Santora, VP of Softwear Automation, said brands are highly interested in the robots because they can bridge the gap between their supply chains and consumers.

“If you can make goods closer to the end consumer, then they [brands] are incredibly energized to revisit what it means to make their products,” Santora said. “Manufacturers are also interested because they don’t want to die.”

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