A garment is a consumer oriented product with a large number of fragmented supply chains. It starts with fiber selection, proceeds to yarn and fabric production, and ends in garment manufacturing. Garment industry, in order to be more competitive, is driving toward mass customization. This move toward made-to-measure garment requires underlying technology to facilitate acquiring human body measurements and extracting appropriate critical measurements so that patterns can be altered for the customer. Traditionally, tailors have taken these measurements themselves for their own pattern alternation methods. For this reason, tailors’ measurements are notoriously inconsistent when compared with other tailors.
Garment manufacturing process is labor intensive and now heading toward automation because of several advantages. The labor dependent nature of cutting and sewing tasks make them expensive. Fabric cost and cut-and-sew labor are the two largest expenses in apparel manufacturing. So, automation is very essential in garment manufacturing. The application of automation and robotics in apparel industry can transform the labor-intensive production into high-tech production centers.
The automation can perform small tasks such as bobbin change to the use of sewing robots to produce the entire garment with improved quality, reduced cost, and reduced lead time compared with human work. Although the manufacturing of entire garment is not commercially successful till now, it will be a reality in near future. When automation is adopted in any process during garment manufacturing, the manufacturers should be aware of the pros and cons of installing automatic equipment.
The automation has not gained much success in garment manufacturing because of the flexibility of fabrics. For automated fabric handling, the relative changes in the humidity and temperature can lead to difficulty during material handling. Hence, the precise control of fabric and environment is very essential. For reliable results in automation, the fabric need to be manufactured with consistent quality and the environment should not change rapidly in humidity. The fabric handling area is the most challenging field of research for many researchers. In future, the research and development teams, garment manufacturers, and OEMs should look into alternative approaches for effective gripping and transferring of fabrics by using precise engineering principles. If a real solution is achieved, it will be a large success for a number of industries to adopt automation in fabric handling.
In future, the application of automation and robotics will be increasing in garment production. However, complete automation of clothing manufacturing may not be feasible because of complex nature of the production systems and cost factors. As cost is the prime driving factor in garment manufacturing, the company owners in several instances do not want to install expensive automation tools and equipment. Hence, the scope and level of automation in future will be directly influenced by the labor cost in apparel manufacturing. If the labor cost increases substantially, the manufacturers will focus on the automation techniques to reduce the cost of production.
It is believed that in future when the automation becomes a reality, several workers will lose their job, which may not be true always. Although automation can perform the jobs done by multiple workers, there will be new jobs emerging because of automation. For example, the need to run the control software of the automation equipment and robotics can create more high-wage jobs compared with the low-wage manufacturing jobs. Hence, the workers can acquire these skills and earn high wages. There will be always some demand for high-skilled people to modify the program, maintain the machineries for automation.
Fabric inspection, fabric spreading, cutting, sewing, pressing, and material handling are some of the areas where automation can be adopted in garment manufacturing. Automation is achieved by the use of automatic tools and equipment embedded with sophisticated electronic devices or even by the use of robotics. Although not successful commercially, the use of robots with high-speed sewing machines have helped to produce complete garments without the use of labor.
In future these processes will be extended to commercial manufacturing of garments fully by the robots. Increase in production efficiency, quality accuracy and reduction in the lead time are some of the benefits achieved by automation. There are several areas where automation reduces human intervention to a minimum resulting in saving of labor and energy and improved precision. Although automation eliminates the human operators from a specific job, they create new jobs to assist the automatic tools and equipment. In future the garment manufacturing will be fully automated that will eliminate the requirement for high-skilled labor. This will help the industries to gain competitive advantage and keep their product cost low.
- Automation in Garment Manufacturing by by Rajkishore Nayak Rajiv Padhye
- Garment Manufacturing Technology by Rajkishore Nayak Rajiv Padhye
- Automation in Textile Machinery: Instrumentation and Control System Design Principles By L. Ashok Kumar, M Senthil kumar
- Dr. Minyoung Suh “Automated Cutting & Sewing Developments” Accessed: 10th August, 2021. https://www.textileworld.com/textile-world/features/2020/03/automated-cutting-sewing-developments/
- 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.