Automation in Textile and Garment Industry:
The term automation is defined as the use of equipment and machinery to help make production easier and more efficient. The textile and apparel industry, which has been around for centuries, has made many strides thanks to the advent of automation. Automation has been made easier to produce cloth, yarn, cotton, and other fabrics. In this article we will discuss about the advantages, disadvantages, and transformation automation has had in the textile industry.
Presently, textile and apparel production is extremely personnel dependent and therefore cost intensive. The use of automation in textile and apparel manufacturing provides several benefits and helps the industry to gain competitive advantage and produces good quality product at lower cost. The automation process also suffers from drawbacks, which are discussed in the following section.
Advantages of Automation in Textile and Apparel Industry:
There are several benefits of using automatic tools and equipment in textile and garment manufacturing, which are mentioned below:
1. Increase in productivity: Automation increases the productivity by increasing the efficiency of the process. When the job is performed by a labor, there are chances of error, reduced efficiency due to fatigue, and the breaks taken by the worker. However, automated process of performing the job eliminates these and increases the productivity.
2. Increased inventory turnover: As the productivity of the industry increases, the material turnover also increases. With manual operations the raw materials, cut components, and semi-finished components have to wait longer to get converted into the final garment. Hence, with automation increased inventory turnover is achieved.
3. Improvement in quality: As mentioned above, automation leads to reduced amount of error of garments because of human intervention is eliminated. This leads to the products with less defects, improved quality, and reduced rejection rates.
4. Replacement of repetitive and monotonous work: Majority of the garment manufacturers use progressive bundle system (PBS) of production. In PBS one worker performs a specific job and passes to the other. Hence, the work becomes repetitive and monotonous for the worker. This can lead to fatigue and reduced efficiency. However, automation can help to avoid these as all these repetitive works are performed by the machine.
5. Reduction of variability among products and product batches: As the involvement of labor is reduced, the variability of the products produced by different workers is also reduced. Similarly, the variability of the same product manufactured in different batches (manufactured over different times or in different industries) is also reduced.
6. Performing jobs beyond human capability: Automation can perform some jobs, which needs high skills of the labor. As today’s garments are moving toward the integration of electronic devices and other gadgets, high skill is needed many times to perform these operations. Automation can achieve these objectives much easily.
7. Reduction of direct human labor costs and overheads: Automation helps to achieve increased productivity and efficiency. Automation also helps to perform the task of multiple operators. Furthermore, the need for training of workers for each new style and other quality- related training is reduced. Hence, the cost of human labor and labor overheads are reduced.
Disadvantages of Automation in Textile and Apparel Industry:
Automation not only provides several advantages in garment manufacturing but also suffers from some drawbacks (disadvantages), which are discussed below.
1. High initial cost of installation: The initial cost of installing automated tools and equipment is high compared with the unit cost of garment. The cost of investment may be beneficial when the automation is applicable to many products over a period.
2. High cost of research and development: The cost involved in the research and development of automatic tools in garment industry is high. Therefore, it may take long time to realize the benefits and cost savings from automation.
3. Security threats: As the automatic systems lack intelligence, it is common to encounter errors when there is an unexpected change from the normal operation or deviation from the immediate scope. The automated subsystems cannot apply the general principles for simple logic to solve common problems.
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4. High cost of maintenance: Automated equipment need special spare parts too, to repair and skilled people to do the repair and maintenance. Hence, the cost of care and maintenance will be higher compared with the normal machineries.
5. Unexpected production delays: This situation will arise when the automated equipment malfunctions or ceases to function. As it will take longer time to repair the automatic equipment, there will be production delays. The whole product line will be suffered in case of mal- or non-functioning of automatic equipment.
6. Limited scope: Automation cannot be extended to all the processes involved in garment manufacturing. Some processes are hard or more expensive to automatize. Fabric flexibility, proper alignment of two components joined together, correct tension during sewing, and slippage of fabric during garment manufacturing are some of the factors that limit the scope of automation in garment manufacturing.
7. Lack of flexibility: Automation is not a flexible and convertible process in production of clothing. Garment manufacturing demands more flexibility as there are many style and size changes in a short time. Automation should allow the switching of production line from one to the other without much hassle. The use of digital electronics is helping to achieve more accuracy and flexibility in the product line.
6. Unemployment: Many workers may lose their jobs because of automation as automatic equipment can perform the job done by multiple workers. Hence, the workers doing the job will be at the risk of losing their jobs by automation. However, there will be some new jobs emerging because of the automation, which will provide employment. A recent report published by the International Labor Organization revealed that about 88% of workers in Cambodia’s textile, clothing, and footwear industry are at high risk of losing their jobs because of automation. Various advanced technologies such as 3D printing, CAD, 3D body scanning, and robotics application are the potential areas that need less people. Similar problems will be faced by the garment manufacturers in many other developing countries. The use of automatic cutting equipment and the increased use of robots in sewing (or sewbots) will be the most influencing areas. Several manufacturers in the Europe, the United States, and China are facing the problem. Although there is no immediate threat in ASEAN region, it will impact more with increased automation.
- Automation in Garment Manufacturing by by Rajkishore Nayak Rajiv Padhye
- Garment Manufacturing Technology by Rajkishore Nayak Rajiv Padhye
- Application of robotics in garment manufacturing by Thomas Gries and Volker Lutz
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Founder & Editor of Textile Learner. He is a Textile Consultant, Blogger & Entrepreneur. He is working as a textile consultant in several local and international companies. He is also a contributor of Wikipedia.