The apparel industry, like any other industry, is undergoing a revolution which is termed as apparel 4.0. It can be explained as the digitization of textile and apparel industry processes, from concept to post retail, with the help of the latest technology such as IoT, AI and Cloud Computing, enabling companies to monitor and automate the entire production process with complete supply chain transparency.
Coming to Bangladesh’s perspective, there are very few applications of automation in important manufacturing sectors related to textile and RMG. Therefore, the existence of industrial 4.0 and its establishment-level has not yet been proved in Bangladesh.
However, debates and scrutiny have already started in various public forums pin-pointing the consequence of automation led by apparel 4.0 in countries having labor-intensive manufacturing. Think tanks and policymakers are quantifying the ins and outs of the impact, apparel 4.0.
Apparel 4.0 led automation and Job loss
A study by the McKinsey Global Institute predicts that by 2030, as many as 800 million jobs could be lost worldwide to automation. In the context of Bangladesh, garments will be the worst sufferer of industry 4.0 revolution as there is a possibility of 27 lakh or 60% of jobs being lost in the next 15 years – according to a2i of GoB.
a2i in their study on future skills shed light on the possible job losses for certain occupations as well as the nature of new occupations due to the advent Industry 4.0 in the area of textile and garment industries:
Major occupations that are in threat due to automation in the RMG and textile sector:
|Occupations||Possible number of job loss by 2041|
|Sewing operators who operate single needle lockstitch machine, double-needle lockstitch machine, single and double-needle chain stitch machine, sewing machine mechanic||500,000|
|Floor supervisor, pattern maker||10,000|
|Pattern making for knitwear, quality control, production planner, merchandiser||10,000|
|Fashion designer, CAD-CAM operator, portfolio developer, production planner, and controller||5,000|
Major new occupations that will emerge in the RMG and textile sector:
|New occupation||Areas of application|
|Computer-aided process planning professional||Production planning linkage between CAD and CAM|
|Computer-aided quality-control professional||Garment inspection, statistical process control|
|Computer-aided training professional||Intermediate testing of semi-finished materials or final inspection|
|Automated inspection||Fabric trims inspection|
|Automated material handling devices||Fabric, pattern, semi-finished garment handling|
|Artificial neural network expert||Fabrics inspection, color solutions, garment inspection, supply chain, retail management|
|Pick and place robot operator||Fabric handling for sewing|
|Numerical controller||Sewing, buttonholing and button attaching|
|Automated fusing and pressing machine operator||Fusing and pressing operation|
|Enterprise resource planning expert||Fabric storage, spreading, cutting, sewing, pressing packaging, human resources, inspection, supply chain, and retailing|
Advent of automation in Bangladesh and possible impacts on industries
a2i program of GoB identified 5 major sectors of Bangladesh to be mostly encountered by 4IR led automation:
|Readymade garment and textile||Leather and footwear||Agro-food processing||Furniture||Tourism and hospitality|
For the above-mentioned five sectors of Bangladesh, a2i found 40% of all employment has a high risk of automation in the next couple of decades. Among the five sectors, the share of jobs with a high probability of automation is lowest in tourism and hospitality (20%) and highest in furniture and readymade garment sector (60%).
In the leather and footwear and agro-food sectors, the shares are 35%, and 40% respectively. Garment and textile production, in particular, are strongly characterized by low-skills and labor-intensive production in Bangladesh. Given that the bulk of salaried jobs in the sector (such as sewing machine operators) require completing extensive routine and manual tasks, a large part of garment workers are at high risk of automation.
Emerging areas of apparel 4.0 application:
|Smart clothing||Autonomous robots (i.e. sewbots)||Big data analytics||Simulation technology||Horizontal and vertical system integration|
|The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)||Cybersecurity and cyber-physical systems||Cloud computing||Value additive manufacturing||Augmented reality|
|Machine to Machine (M2M) communication in knitting machines||Smart factory solutions||3D printing technology||Smart fabrics||AI-infused industrial ERP|
Automation and robotics in the apparel sector: regional peers’ perspective:
|Sewbot, software automation (advanced ERP), digital marketing, 3D printing technologies|
|China||Tianyuan Garments Company
Guangzhou Jidian Fashion Co. Ltd
Guangzhou Junyu Clothing Co., Ltd
Guangzhou Jiazhuo Garment Manufacturing Factory
Hengxing Clothing Factory
|Smart clothing, sewbot, virtual garments design, horizontal and vertical system integration, ERP, RFID, digital marketing, consumer-driven garment design, additive manufacturing, augmented reality, 3D printing technologies|
|Vietnam||Ha Noi Textile and Garment Jointstock Corporation
Nam Dinh Textile and Garment Jointstock Corporation
Phong Phu International
Viet Tien Garment Joint-stock Corporation
|RFID, Sewbot, horizontal and vertical system integration, ERP, digital marketing, consumer-driven garment design, additive manufacturing, 3D printing technologies|
Automation and robotics in the apparel sector: Bangladesh perspective
There are few companies in Bangladesh are at the tip of implementing automation in their operation in a bid to cushion the advent of apparel 4.0.
However, instances are very few. Therefore, the below-mentioned table draws the evidence available on secondary sources means that there may be more players in our scenario who are in the process of embodying apparel 4.0 in their operation.
|Mohammadi Fashion Sweaters Ltd.||Installed 173 german made automated knitting machines for knit black sweaters. The human intervention required only in case program designs or to clean the machines.|
|Envoy Textiles Ltd (ETL)||Employed 14 robotic autoconers in spinning and rotor at its Bhaluka factory to produce 55 tons of denim yarn per day.|
|DBL Group||Using Fast React Enterprise Resource Planning software, SedoMaster textile production and dye management software, ColorMaster – a dye recipe management system to monitor and capture data of daily operations. Also, they added two new 16-color printing machines to its rotary screen-printing capacity which is doubling capacity at its DB Tex Fabric and garment printing unit to 40 tons per day.|
|Beximco, Liz Fashion Industries Ltd., and EOS Textile Ltd||Using Datatex software – an artificial intelligence (AI) infused software offering integrated automation in the area of resource and Management Information System.|
|Ad-Din Group||Using three HTM Double Twine Sequin Embroidery Machines in Bangladesh, offering flat embroidery, cording embroidery, and chenille embroidery – readily available on order and upon demand within bargain prices. The three machines are completely automated.|
|Fatullah Apparels||Using AI-infused Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. The software has different modules set up for different departments throughout his factory, like human resource, marketing, inventory, sales, finance and others. All of these modules take input manually, separately, but also reflect on a central database that all the modules the software has. This essentially rules out any duplication of data.|
|Karim textile||In their cutting section has installed 6 European automatic fabric spreading machines and 2 robotic auto-cutters.|
|Akij Textiles||Using Robotics piers Carriage on Schlafhrost Autocoro (i.e. automatic rotor spinning machine), which increase productivity as well as quality of the end product.|
|Khalil Knit Composite Ltd.||Have a dyeing laboratory equipped with some Hi-Fi technical appliances like fully computerized automatic dispenser (Robolab) which can contain 240 bottles and can make measured, error-free recipe dispensing for dye house in working conditions of fully robotic motion.|
Preparedness required for Bangladeshi textiles and garments sector
|Training and up-skilling initiatives (factory to management level)||Government-led training and upskilling initiatives are an absolute must moving forward. The RMG industry needs upskill, from the shop floor through to management and board level. On the training and development front, the industry faces a huge undertaking.|
|Technology up-gradation fund at textiles and garments sector||Considering the importance of technological upgrades for the future success of apparel industries, our competing countries have introduced special policy support like the Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (TUFS) for the garment and textile industry in India. Our leaders in this sector should negotiate with the government for similar provisions.|
|Reduce dependence on basic products||To create a technology-proof workforce in our textiles and garments sector, we have to reduce our dependence on basic products. Because the scope of applying 4IR led technology is very limited in basic product manufacturing whereas high-end value-added opens the opportunity to implement latest technology. And, compel the management to train its workers on the industrial applications of the latest technologies. So, we need to build our capacity to meet the demand for high-end and branded fashion segments in order to prepare the industry for 4IR technologies.|