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Industry 4.0 must weave into clothing supply chain, says GlobalData

The clothing sector must embrace Industry 4.0 to boost productivity and harness creativity by providing a single, connected platform for all supply chain processes, writes GlobalData.

Industry 4.0 – or the fourth industrial revolution – is a hot topic in manufacturing. Its premise is that combining new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT) and robotics with real-time data can transform factories into fully automated entities that offer a more predictive and responsive approach to production.

Leonie Barrie, Apparel Analyst at GlobalData, says: “For the labour-intensive clothing industry with its long and complex global supply chains, Industry 4.0 has the potential to improve efficiency, speed up the whole planning and production process, reduce lead-times and allow brands to interact with supply chain partners in real-time.

“We already have 3D design and virtual prototyping tools, as well as intelligent cutting and sewing systems, but imagine the possibilities of a truly networked supply chain, where every step is seamlessly connected from design to manufacturing to the consumer.”

The most exciting opportunities lie in the ability to shake up the traditional model in which designs are pushed out to the consumer in the hope that they sell, to one that instead enables companies to design and sell products based on consumer demand. This would pave the way for mass-customized clothing made only after the order is received, as well as more localized manufacturing. It would also help brands get closer to the consumer by providing more information about each product.

Barrie adds: “This changing model also means the role of the creative designer in Industry 4.0 is constantly evolving thanks to new digital tech. Instead of creating designs in isolation from the consumer, the end-user will be able to participate in the process and adapt the designer’s vision.

“Likewise, designers need to keep automation in mind, taking the technology and factory making process into account, as well as the customer, material and brand. The increased access to information driven by Industry 4.0 can ensure efforts are focused on the merchandise that will sell quickly.”

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