The global apparel and textile industry began to change about 9 years or so ago. Back then, I noticed several trends beginning to mature. Notable among them were developing technologies for production, a growing interest in made in the U.S.A., and awareness of labor and environmental issues in production overseas. Connections began to form between these trends leading to thoughts about strategies that the apparel industry in CT (the U.S.A.) should concentrate on to be most competitive. I believe they are:
· high quality
· educating consumers
· dedication to “Made in America”
This week, I’ll be discussing innovation. I would love to hear what you have to say on these subjects.
The inclusion of the latest technology, such as robotics, in the production of apparel is the single most powerful and expedient addition we can make to create a competitive industry in the U.S. After all, that’s what we here in CT do best, right? Innovation and a can do attitude are the core of “Yankee ingenuity!” The cost lowering affects of technology are one of the factors that are creating the “tipping point” between making the choice to manufacture in China or the U.S. This tipping point represents a call to action that has been growing from a whisper to a clamor so loud that even Walmart is hearing it!
Innovation in Manufacturing Methods
Lean manufacturing, a set of production practices developed in the auto industry to cut waste in manufacturing, is currently being used to advantage by manufacturers such as Joseph Abboud in RI.
It is not so much a hardware innovation as an innovation in thought from the problematic assembly line where workers are isolated to a reorganization of the manufacturing floor into “pods” or groups of workers who complete garments together. Lean manufacturing can cut production time from days to hours, especially when coupled with the computerization of printing, pattern drafting, marker making, cutting and sewing steps.
Software such as Yunique PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) is only one of the products created by Gerber Technology, one of the world’s leaders in computerized manufacturing support located right in Vernon, CT. Yunique PLM makes it possible for designers and manufacturers to communicate accurately and quickly to insure high quality and profits. 3D body scanning, being spearheaded by [TC]2rd the world leader in body scanning software and hardware located in Cary, NC, is making it possible to easily create a garment fitted to an individual’s exact measurements. AM4U (Apparel Manufacturing for You) located in Palo Alto, CA has created a digital printing process for fabrics which drastically cuts the time needed to print, eliminates the costly, environmentally unsound practice of dyeing in water and produces a print that is impervious to bleaching and fading.
Employing these products in the manufacturing of apparel in CT falls right in line with the state initiatives to enhance high tech manufacturing. This level of manufacturing generates professional careers in high paying jobs and the development of training opportunities and apprenticeships for our technical high schools and community colleges.
I am extremely excited about the position in which we find ourselves! The technological innovations being originated in our country, the growing interest in made in the U.S.A., and the economic tipping in our favor are creating an opportunity which we must seize. Please see the links below for more information.
Next week: how quality impacts competitiveness.