Automation in the Supply Chain

In a digital world, fashion remains one of the most labor-intensive industries. For decades, the industry has had to continuously follow the regions in which labor was the most cost-effective. This has led a majority of production out of the U.S and other nations to lower-cost ones in Asia.

The rise in wages overseas and a trend of domestic production and nearshoring has made international manufacturing less appealing. The costs of nearshoring are still higher than that of outsourcing. But, automation in the supply chain is turning it into an increasingly viable option. But, not everyone is ready to jump in yet.

Advancements in the Production Process

When shifting production closer to home, automation will be key in helping to decrease the fiscal impact in doing soon. The McKinsey Report on Fashion cites digital and laser printing, 3-D knitting, semi-automated sewing as just the beginning.

Over a year ago, Amazon received a patent for an on-demand, fully-automated apparel manufacturing system. Now, other micro-factories are popping up in the in places like New York, Arkansas, and even Berlin. These factories can design, create prototypes and do almost all of the production in-house. Their adoption of this technology allows them quick turn-around times and greater control over quality and customization.

Slow and Steady to Adopt

Start-ups are at a more significant advantage as they can adopt the on-demand production. Established brands must tread a little slower as they disrupt and rebuild their current supply chains. Rapid advancement in technology is sure to make this a more seamless process in the coming years. Concerning mass-market labels, Sourcing Journal Online added that “to be successful, they will have to strike the right balance in a multimodal sourcing strategy in which low-cost countries and traditional production will continue to play a big role.”

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