Digitalization provides complete visibility up and down a digital supply chain from design through manufacturing and to the distribution of textile sewn products. It offers complete visibility into every cutting, sewing, and manufacturing operation. Digital manufacturing permits ultra-fast response to end-market changes along with complete visibility up and down the digital supply chain from design thru manufacturing to the consumer.
With digitalization, companies can design a consumer’s product one time in 3D, then distribute that design to “local” for local manufacturing operations, and can have complete visibility to every manufacturing operation, in real-time. A number of semi- or fully-automated technologies have been introduced on the garment manufacturing shop floor such as spreading, nesting, marker making, and cutting systems. Despite this, major parts of handling and joining operations remain highly manual, labor-intensive, making the whole garment-making process uncompetitive in high labor cost countries. The industry’s response to a major shift of manufacturing to low labor cost countries often far away from the point of sale/consumption of the final product has, in turn, introduced additional complexities, risks, and costs.
Long lead times, challenging logistics and quality assurance procedures, a lowly skilled workforce as well as a higher vulnerability to IP infringements plague these operations sometimes coupled with political or social instability or higher economic and financial volatility in these offshore manufacturing countries. The related costs and risks are borne by manufacturers and distributors alike and also limit them in the adoption of new business models based on digitalization. New digital business models have, in a number of significant individual cases, proven the potential for significant economic value creation in an end market that becomes more and more segmented, fragmented, and fast-moving. However, for a majority of industry players locked into the 20th-century paradigm of labor-intensive mass production at low labor cost locations using 19th-century manufacturing technology concepts, such value creation remains an elusive potential. –NE–