Industry 4.0 is essentially “smart” physical products communicating with computers to collect and interpret information that benefits both the brand and the customer. Our previous blog post explained the basics of Industry 4.0. The following are ways 4.0 technology can be applied to the apparel manufacturing industry:
Digital Twin technology
Digital Twin technology is already used in many manufacturing industries, but not textiles. However, by adapting this technology a brand could benefit in the following ways:
- A “digital twin” database can be created for practically every body type imaginable. By using these “twins” they can produce an article of clothing that fits your body type perfectly.
- Advanced digital modeling allows brands to test the way clothing will fit and stretch while it’s being worn. A brand could see virtually how a shirt would fit or stretch differently if, for example, 20% rayon was added to the fabric. A brand could test how adding additional fabric to the sleeve would affect the overall fit. An athletic apparel company could test how their clothing would stretch in every different position. An outdoor apparel brand could even test what would happen to their jacket during a windstorm.
- Additionally, since the product is sampled and tested digitally, any quality issues can be found and fixed before production. This means no wasted raw materials and no wasted time reworking products. Thus, workers’ time is maximized by making a product that can be sold, rather than going back to fix mistakes. This level of efficiency does not exist in the soft goods industry today and is one of the big reasons why a 4.0 factory in the USA is competitive with a non-4.0 factory overseas.
Inventory scanning and cataloging
which happens upon arrival at a “smart” factory, will help to determine the best way to cut the fabric, keeping waste to an absolute minimum. In traditional manufacturing fabric arrives at the factory in giant rolls. After the fabric is unrolled, a person with a marker will draw outlines on the material of the sections that need to be cut. This old method typically creates a large amount of wasted material. With 4.0 technology, the computer will also be able to reference all other projects going on at the factory and determine if any scrap material could be allocated to another project.
will already be dramatically reduced by the digital twin methods discussed above, but to take it a step further, cameras at every stage of production will be able to detect even the slightest variation. Traditionally, quality control is conducted by a QC team at the factory, but this method makes it impossible to detect quality problems before they arise. Right now, most companies understand that every order will contain at least a few defective products. 4.0 manufacturing might be able to eliminate defects entirely.
Small order quantities
which are made cost-effective by 4.0 technology, will help to reduce the risk for many apparel companies. While companies can research their market and make educated guesses about what items will sell best, they ultimately cannot be sure. Having the flexibility to order fewer items and test the market will make sure companies don’t have a warehouse full of unsold merchandise. Conversely, a product that sells well can be restocked in a matter of weeks, rather than traditional manufacturing methods which could take several months.
Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software
connects the client and factory like never before. Prototyping and small adjustments to a garment, which previous took months to approve, can now be done digitally in a matter of days.