Press & Events


WTIN: Rethinking the Textile Supply Chain


WTIN: Rethinking the Textile Supply Chain

According to the UN, the global population is set to grow by 2.5 billion people by 2050. All these people will need clothing, and as a result, the textile and apparel market needs to grow to accommodate this change. However, faced with labour shortages, rising wages, competitive pricing pressure and a shorter production cycle, textile and apparel manufacturers need to become much more efficient and rely on more than man­power. To survive, they need Sewbots.

SoftWear Automation, a robotic sewing company based in Atlanta, US, is pioneering the creation of autonomous sewn good worklines for home goods, footwear and apparel. According to Softwear, its innovative technology will allow manufacturers to “sewlocal”, moving supply chains closer to the consumer while creating higher­ quality products at a lower cost.

The robotics start­up began at the Georgia Institute of Technology after seven years of research and development, working on projects with DARPA (US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and the Walmart Foundation. Since 2015, the company has been shipping its Sewbots to customers in the US. According to Softwear, its machines have produced millions of home textile products that are currently being sold in stores across the US. Recently, the company received US$4.5m in

financing from existing investor CTW Ventures to further accelerate the development of fully automated sewn good work­lines specifically for apparel production.

At the moment, Softwear’s customers are using their technology to create home textile goods, towels, automotive mats, pillow cases, mattress covers, and bags. The company is now setting its sights on apparel, with its automated T­shirt work­line launched at Texprocess in Frankfurt last May. Chinese company Tianyuan Garments Company of Suzhou signed an agreement with SoftWear Automation to develop a fully automated T­shirt production line at Tianyuan’s newly acquired plant in Little Rock, Arkansas, in July.

The system, scheduled to be fully operational by the end of next year, will be used to make T­shirts for Adidas. “From fabric cutting and sewing to the finished product, it takes roughly four minutes,” says Tang Xinhong, chairman of Tianyuan Garments. “We will install 21 production lines. When fully operational, the system will make one T­ shirt every 22 seconds. We will produce 800,000 T­shirts a day for Adidas.”

With complete automation, the personnel cost for each T­shirt is roughly US$0.33. “Around the world, even the cheapest labour market can’t compete with us,” he says. “I am really excited about this.”

Xu Yingxin, the vice­president of the China National Textile and Apparel Council, says that establishing a clothing factory in Arkansas enables Tianyuan to satisfy instant order demands from its clients. He praises Tianyuan’s collaboration with American partners in automation as a smart move at a crucial junction in the technology revolution. “The idea of Industry 4.0 and intelligent manufacturing is gradually becoming the reality,” says Xu. “It is revolutionising labour­intensive clothing manufacturing.”


Infinite possibilities

Have a product you would like to automate? Download a tech pack today to get started.

Go Now