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Background

The art of sewing has not fundamentally changed since the first
seamstress put needle and thread to fabric thousands of years ago. Even
with great engineering advances including mechanized looms and
sewing machines, the way sewn goods are produced is just as labor
intensive today as it was 100 years ago. To further complicate matters,
today’s consumers want inexpensive, high-quality goods delivered to
their doorstep within days, pushing the limits of the traditional
manufacturing business model to its breaking point.

Over the past few decades, sewn goods manufacturers lowered overhead
by relocating operations to the countries paying the lowest wages.
However, this business strategy is becoming increasingly difficult to
maintain because of rising labor costs in the developing world, a global
shortage of skilled seamstresses, and a change in consumer behaviour
pushed by fast fashion brands and social media platforms. New market
conditions have made the sewn goods industry ripe for a new age of
automation.

Why humans are needed?

There have been attempts in the past to fully automate the sewing
process. Most of the previous systems relied on clamps to hold the fabric
taught, making it more rigid and less susceptible to distortion. This
system limited automation to certain operations during the sewing
process such as when sewing on buttons or pockets. Aligning two pieces
of fabric correctly and feeding them through the sewing head without
slippage or buckling occurring — while maintaining the correct tension
levels — has proven to be a process better managed by human hands.
Demand of Textile Machineries from Different
Segment of Indian Textile Industry

Sr. Segment of Machinery Area Activity For Key Focus


No. Textile Which Areas
Industry Machineries
Needed
1 Garment Embroidery, Digital Modernization, Surat, Tirupur,
Industry Printing, Expansion / Bhilwara,
Sewing Machines Additional Ludhiana, Delhi,
Automation of Capacity Kolkata,
Operations – CAD, Building, Bangalureu,
CAM, Cutting, Automation Organized Sector
Sewing & related Players
Areas.
Software for
Technology Up
gradation
2 Knit Manufacturing Area, Modernization, Tirupur, Delhi,
Industry Automation, Expansion / Ludhiana,
Software for Additional Mumbai,
Technology Up Capacity Organized Sector
gradation, Printing, Building, Players
Embroidery, Automation
Ornamentation
3 Spinning Automation, Modernization, Coimbatore,
Area Software for Expansion / Tirupur,
Technology Up Additional Organized Sector
gradation Capacity Players,
Building, Maharashtra,
Automation Gujarat
4 Weaving Manufacturing Area, Modernization, Surat, Bhilwara,
Area Automation, Expansion / Organized Sector
Software for Additional Players,
Technology Up Capacity Maharashtra,
gradation Building, Gujarat
Automation
5 Wet Manufacturing Area, Modernization, Surat, Tirupur,
Processing & Automation, Expansion / Bhilwara,
Finishing Software for Additional Ludhiana, Delhi,
Technology Up Capacity Kolkata,
gradation Building, Bangalureu,
Automation Hyderabad,
Organized Sector
Players
Maharashtra,
Gujarat
According to Global Automation Market in Textile industry
2017-2021, Technavio

 Automation Market in Textile Industry is projected to display


growth at CAGR of 6.06% during 2017-2021.

 Market segmentation by solution type: - automation market in


textile industry by hardware and software, automation market in
textile industry by services

 Market segmentation by components: - automation market in


textile industry by field devices, automation market in textile
industry by control devices type, automation market in textile
industry by communications

Key vendors Other prominent


vendors
• ABB
• Beckhoff
• Festo
• Bosch Rexroth
• Rockwell Automation
• Brainchild
• Schneider Electric
• Danfoss
• Siemens
• General Electric

• Honeywell
International

• Lenze

• Parker Hannifin

• Rotork

• Yokogawa Electric
Automation Market in Textile Industry by Dynamics: –

 Market Driver: Technological developments in automation


market in textile industry

 Market Challenge: High investment cost

 Market Trend: Robotic automation in textile industry

 Geographical Regions: – APAC, Europe, North America,


ROW

Case Studies of Development in Automation of


Manufacturing Processes

Case Study 1: Sewbot

When the Chinese clothing manufacturer Tianyuan Garments Company


opens its newest factory in 2018, it will be in Arkansas, not China, and
instead of workers hunched over sewing machines, the factory will be
filled with fully autonomous robots and their human supervisors.
“Our goal is giving a tool for manufacturers to manufacture
convenient to their customers,” says Palaniswamy Rajan, CEO
of SoftWear Automation, the company that developed the robotic
technology that will be used in the new plant.

Sewbot–SoftWear Automation’s clothes-making robot–was developed at


Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center in a process
that began a decade ago. In 2012, researchers got a grant from the
Defense Department’s tech innovation wing DARPA to develop the
concept and formed a company to commercialize the technology. By
2015, the company was selling a more basic version of the robot that
could make bath mats and towels. The newest version, to be deployed in
the Little Rock factory, can make T-shirts and partially sew jeans.
While others have attempted to automate particular steps of the process
of sewing, it’s only now that technology is becoming capable of creating
an entire garment autonomously.
SoftWear’s technology uses computer vision to watch and analyse fabric
so the system can move the material while sewing. “What we did was
approach it and look at it from how a seamstress actually operates,” says
Rajan. “The first thing they do is use their eyes, and based on their eyes,
they do micro and macro manipulations of the fabric with their fingers
and hands and elbows and feet. So a robot replicates all of those
functions.”

While the technology is still developing, and will eventually make more
complicated items of clothing, Rajan believes that some higher-end
clothing will always be made by humans. “We’d never do a bridal dress,”
he says.
“We’d never do a bridal dress.”

In this respect, he argues that the technology could have a positive


impact in countries with large garment manufacturing industries.
Workers might shift into doing more artisanal work, at higher wages. If
robots make it economical to manufacture more clothing in the U.S. or
Europe, where regulations better protect both the environment and
labor, low-wage countries might be forced to improve their own
performance to compete. “It might create the pressure among them to
treat their workers fairly,” Rajan says.

In practice, the transition is likely to be messier. Sewing robots may only


threaten certain jobs in developing countries; the machines are
expensive (the company won’t disclose the cost) and the company is
initially only selling them in the U.S., where manufacturers can save
money on the total process because they can avoid factors such as higher
industrial electricity bills in some other countries, and can benefit from a
“Made in USA” label (the military, for example, is required to buy
clothing that’s made in the U.S., while factories that can produce that
clothing are dwindling, and the average garment worker is nearing
retirement).
They can also have faster turnarounds on orders.

For factories in India or China producing cheap T-shirts for a local


market, cheap local labor will still make more sense than investing in
robots.
But some jobs are likely to be displaced. That displacement may grow as
others develop similar technology and the cost drops. Another designer
is also working on a T-shirt-sewing robot. Amazon filed a patent in April
2017 for “stitch on demand” technology that would sew clothing after an
order is placed.
In Bangladesh, where garment workers make far less than what is
considered a living wage–often enduring abuse and working in the kind
of conditions that led to the 2013 factory collapse that killed more than
1,000 people–the majority of the country’s exports are clothing. More
than 4 million people work in the industry. If H&M and Walmart choose
to relocate production of some apparel to North America and Europe,
people in Bangladesh and other low-wage countries will probably lose
jobs, though, in theory, they might also have an opportunity for
something better.

“It’s very hard to know how things will play out,” says Sanchita Saxena,
executive director of the Institute for South Asian Studies at the
University of California-Berkeley. “My guess is that there’s going to be a
lot of displacement without any sort of safety net in place, because that’s
how these countries work.”

In Little Rock, Arkansas, the new Tianyuan factory will eventually


provide 400 jobs. While the robots are fully autonomous, three to five
people will be employed to work with each production line; others will
work in logistics and other parts of the factory. SoftWear says it has
calculated that a robot can create between 50 and 100 jobs downstream,
either within factories or in related industries. Some manufacturers may
choose to begin buying more local cotton, for example, to use in U.S.
factories, increasing farming jobs.

By producing closer to consumers, and by reducing material waste as it


sews, the technology can also reduce brands’ carbon footprints. Fashion
for Good, an initiative to improve the sustainability of the fashion
industry, calculated that the Sewbot can help cut emissions by around
10%, and is supporting SoftWear through a scaling program.

Rajan believes that, on balance, the robot will have a positive impact,
both on labor and the environment. (In contrast, one of the first
inventors of a sewing machine, in 1832, decided to bury his invention
because he was worried about the potential to put seamstresses and
tailors out of work.) As another 2.5 billion people are added to the global
population, we’ll need more clothes, and apparel is one of the most
polluting industries–the robot can help produce those clothes with less
pollution. “The efficiencies we can bring are important for humanity’s
survival,” Rajan says.
Once the seams are stitched, the stiffened garment is put into hot water,
where the plastic melts off and the shirt emerges in its soft, finished
state.

Because of labor costs, many companies have moved manufacturing


overseas to Asia, where workers may be paid very little to sew
in dangerous conditions. Automation has the potential to change that,
it’s the future, and other startups are working on it.

 Kniterate, which was founded several years ago, is trying to knit


together ready-to-wear garments–almost like 3D printing of fabric,
with no sewing needed.
 Fabrican uses a “spray-on fabric,” where a chemical is applied
directly to the body to create a garment that molds to any
individual’s physical form.
 SoftWare Automation uses computer-enabled cameras to track the
location of the fabric and determine stitching position. But Sewbo
appears to be the only startup using a stiffener to make fabric
adaptable to existing robots–a cheaper solution than building a
machine that uses cameras and algorithms to manipulate fabric,
since Zornow estimates the cost of plastic needed to stiffen one shirt
is less than 10 cents.

Once the cut fabric has been dipped in the plastic, it can be molded,
aligned, and welded together.
Right now, Zornow’s prototype doesn’t do all those things, but that’s
because those tasks–including cutting fabric from a pattern–have
already been automated. He’s focused on creating the right process so
that two cut pieces can be sewn together with no human touch needed.

For the first three years of the project, which he started working on in
2012, he experimented, researched, and continued to run his idea by
people in the industry in order to poke holes in the concept. It was only
when he’d surpassed his own skepticism toward the project, he finally
quit his job, found investors, and launched Sewbo into the world.
Polyvinyl alcohol is nontoxic and is used in a wide variety of industries,
including in textiles, where it’s used to strengthen yarns for weaving. It
can be found in everything from paper to contact lens lubricant to the
pod-sized packages that hold dishwasher soap and laundry detergent. In
Sewbo’s case, Zornow says it can be recovered and reused after it’s been
washed out of a garment through an evaporation process.
Right now, Zornow’s prototype takes about 30 minutes in total to make a
shirt, with most of that time spent measuring and adjusting the
alignments. The actual sewing, he says, is done at “normal sewing
speeds”–he believes that the robots would be able to use Sewbo’s
technology to put together shirts at the same rate as the most efficient
human assembly lines, if not faster.

Zornow envisions a world with no human sewing (at least not on a mass
scale). Automation could mean that there would be more factories in the
Western world, which would enable fashion companies to turn around
new designs faster. Manufacturers in Asia might also be able to produce
garments faster and cheaper.

Zornow doesn’t believe that factories accustomed to an entirely manual


process will have any doubts about switching over to automation, but
automating would require a fairly large investment upfront, which some
factories may be reticent to make.

It would also mean that millions of workers across the globe would be
out of a job. While automation wouldn’t necessarily replace all of the
world’s sewers–details or even whole pieces for higher-end companies
would likely still be sewn by hand–it could have a serious impact on the
global economy.

Since he announced his technology earlier in September, Zornow says


he’s received a large amount of interest from investors and
manufacturers. He has begun the search for strategic partners to help
him test Sewbo in an environment bigger than his lab–as well as
employees, since he has run Sewbo as a one-man-show for the last year.
Zornow hopes to license Sewbo to factories around the globe.

As conversations with investors, potential hires, and manufacturers


begin, Zornow is fine-tuning the assembly process, such as looking at
how hot the water should be in order to melt the plastic off different
kinds of dyed textiles, which can only be washed at certain temperatures,
or figuring out the most efficient way to put a certain piece of clothing
back together.
“From my end, it ends up looking like a jigsaw puzzle,” Zornow says.
“You have to figure out with these robots, what’s the most efficient way
to do this?”

The beginning of the trend, of course, will not be unique to the textiles
and apparel industry alone. Earlier this year, the World Economic
Forum (WEF) in its report titled The Future of Jobs had predicted that
the world is standing at the cusp of the 4th Industrial Revolution, and
that advancements in technology will destroy over 5 million jobs by
2020. The fields that were said to be the drivers were automation,
artificial intelligence, robotics and biotechnology. The WEF report had
cracked down on the numbers, “. Current trends could lead to a net
employment impact of more than 5.1 million jobs lost to disruptive
labour market changes over the period 2015-2020, with a total loss of 7.1
million jobs."

Conclusion
The automation of textile manufacturing processes is inevitable. Though
it will lead to mass unemployment in India, but it also presents us with
the opportunity of training the current workforce employed in the textile
industry to perform more skilled tasks. This will lead to manufacture of
quality goods with a lot of variety in a styles. With proper planning and
investment, this can be a great opportunity for India
References
Source: Web Sites
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3. Automation and process control in textile Industry


http://fashion2apparel.blogspot.in/2017/04/automation-
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