Automation in Garment Manufacturing offers efficient and inclusive insights into this complicated process. The term automation is defined as the use of equipment and machinery to make the production process easier and more efficient. Textiles such as cloth, yarn, cotton, and other fabrics have been made easier to produce with the introduction of automation, thanks to automation.
Automation in design and product development–including color matching, fabric inspection, 3D body scanning, computer-aided design and prototyping—is getting popular in the Bangladesh textile and apparel industry. From forty years ago since today Schlafhorst and Rieter were using robots to make piercings on every spinning frame that they sold. So, automation in the textile and apparel industry is not a new term, but Bangladesh is embracing it for a few years to cope with the trends to sustain itself in the global market.
A recent survey in China showed that developing economy labor costs have tripled in 15 years. So, China’s garment industry invested heavily in automation technologies while simultaneously shifting to higher value-added goods following the end of the MultiFibre Arrangement in 2005. In Bangladesh, almost all the regulation-compliant garment factories, especially the 160 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified factories are producing sophisticated apparel items, mainly outerwear using robotics.
In the competitive garment business supply chains, lead time is very important as almost all apparel-producing countries are competing with the same kinds of items and making strategic price offers.
So, quick deliveries maintaining high quality is a very important factor for retaining competitiveness in the business. Automation made it possible for the same tasks to be performed but with fewer hours of labor for employees.
Automation in the textile industry has provided safer working conditions for employees. The textile industry is known for transforming various clothes and fibers into fabrics. This process often includes dyeing and spinning which are textile processes that can be relatively dangerous to an individual. Automation has created equipment to handle the bulk of these processes, making working conditions safer for all in the textile industry.
As with any industry, high-quality products stand above all. The same goes for the textile industry, and automation makes this possible. When humans are tasked with a duty, there is always room for error for various reasons: they don’t feel well, personal company vendettas, etc. Although there are times when mistakes may occur with the equipment, there is still a much lower probability of error than when humans perform the same job.
Automation is booming
A recent report by McKinsey predicted that to meet customers’ needs, apparel companies need to focus on nearshoring, automation and sustainability. Mckinsey said that within five years semi-automated factories will be ‘lighthouse’ projects for most of the apparel brands and that within ten years fully automated factories will enable full nearshoring of production.
Sportswear giant Adidas already has fully automated factories operating in Germany and the US, it expects these new so called Speed factories to ramp up production and reduce manufacturing lead times for products to a matter of days. Bangladeshi textile and apparel firms also undertake big efforts to mitigate rising labor and production cost and reduce lead time.
Many types of clothing production are already largely automated, including knitwear and simple products such as T-Shirts and underwear. The sewing operations for complex products such as shirts and suits, however, are difficult to robotize, as the limpness of the fabric requires constant manual pulling and slipping to bring the material into the right position for the sewing machine.
Robintex Group, a Germany-Bangladesh joint venture, demonstrated its prowess and farsightedness by recently installing the state-of-the-art MS LaRio, the first and fastest ever single-pass digital printing machine in the world to rule the arena of AOP printing. Automation is enabling to run huge operations with less manpower. MS LaRio is a great example of automation.
Sakhawat Abu Khair Mohammed, Managing Director, Robintex Group said, “For this huge sophisticated 3.2 million euro machine, I need a maximum of 7-8 people to run the whole show. Maybe I can also run with six.”
Using LaRio, water consumption can be reduced by 70% and the electric one by 30%, if compared to traditional rotary printing. Team Group, which has a LEED certified garment factory, is currently using a semi-automated production line to bring more efficiency in productivity and time management and become competitive. It reduces 10 percent to 15 percent on costs through the installation of the modern machinery in his factory.
DBL Group, a major textile and garment manufacturer, has already installed many machines in the textile mills of the group. It has adopted new technologies for the sustainability of its business.
Masco Knitting of Masco Group has arranged a collection of circular and rib-knit machines backed by advanced software to meet the demand of time, and this collection of machines is being continually upgraded. Masco knitting wants to be a world-class fabric manufacturer through innovations in products and business methods that add value to customers and meet global standards in quality, customer service and human resource management.
In many parts of the world, including Bangladesh, the textile and apparel industry may pay below average for jobs that are performed by humans. However, in the case of automation which includes machinery and equipment that will typically come at a high cost. Also, the need for workers will not be reduced as the production of value-added garment items need more skilled workers.
Miran Ali, Managing Director of Bitopi Group, a leading user of programmable machines in the garment industry, said to a newspaper that the sweater industry has almost become fully automated where woven and knitwear sectors are quickly adopting automation.
However, bringing about end-toend automation is not possible, he said, adding that there was a possibility of unemployment rising for automation in the garment sector. Almost 80 percent of apparel factories have been using modern machinery for improving productivity and efficiency.
But in terms of the use of robotics, artificial intelligence and algorithm, it is between 5 to 10 percent. Bringing automation throughout the sector is not possible now. Automation was coming about in phases and full automation would take more time.