Warren Buffet once said, “In a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.” For several years, apparel companies have been patching leaks created by the advent of e-commerce, new technology, and Amazon’s ability to deliver goods in two days or less. However, to survive, the apparel industry needs to jump ship and embrace Industry 4.0.
Apparel Manufacturing Before
For decades, apparel manufacturing fled overseas in search of cheap labor. In this way, they could produce large amounts of clothing at low prices.
However, this paradigm led to issues that are no longer palatable to the US population: unethical labor practices and enormous environmental waste. Add to these issues the need for nimble companies that respond quickly to customer-led trends and instant shipping, and you find an apparel industry that is no longer sustainable. Enter Industry 4.0.
Industry 4.0 is the fourth manufacturing revolution. The first was mechanization powered by steam and water. Then we moved on to assembly lines powered by electricity. Next came computers and automation. Today, Industry 4.0 enhances automation with smart systems that learn based on data input.
Although the concept may be difficult to grasp, the results are not:
- Production of the exact amount of inventory needed
- Orders completed in a matter of days rather than months
- Digital prototypes that produce no waste
- Increased efficiency
- Limited human error
- Highly customizable production
- Ability to produce small batches without decreasing profitability
The best news for American workers is that Industry 4.0 is coming to the United States because consumers want sustainable, ethical, products sooner rather than later. So, rather than shipping jobs overseas, the apparel industry can create high-paying, low-barrier to entry jobs in the US while still being competitive with overseas manufacturing companies.
Industry 4.0 is the future of the apparel manufacturing. This transformation allows speed to market and the agility to respond to consumer input to produce clothing that will sell. Boutique brands are more likely to jump on board before big brands, however, if the big brands want to stay afloat, then they will stop trying to patch the old model and will embrace Industry 4.0 as the future of apparel.