Over the past century, industry in general has gone through a massive evolution. The first industrial revolution was the advent of mechanization and invention of steam power followed by the implementation of mass production and assembly lines. Notthat long ago, in Industry 3.0, people started using automated workflows and computers. Now we are in the midst of Industry 4.0 – where digitization, the World Wide Web, mass customization and pace are shaping the processes. It is a new phase and integration of cyber and physical systems where even humans are starting to be replaced by robots.

The textile industry has until recent years relied mostly on traditional textile production process that are labour intensive, involving many long, complex steps. These processes have two major negative effects: Pollution and poor working conditions for most textile industry workers. Traditional dyeing processes require large quantities of water, and in order to be profitable, large quantities of fabric are dyed and large quantities of the final product need to be sewn off-shore and shipped to developed countries to be marketed and sold.

The traditional textile production workflow involves manual, labour intensive steps from creating a design to sewing the final garment.

However, change is happening and there are four major Industry 4.0’s growth drivers that are positioned to shape and speed up the textile industry.

Mass Production

Production processes are becoming more streamlined. Machinery and workflow processes are becoming connected. The result – saving of costs and time.

Mass Personalization

Consumers are demanding personalization of products.Fashion companies with automated manufacturing can now easily do it. The result – These companies can meet specific customer demands.

Agile Production

Visibility of full design-to-product process. Manufacturers can manage multiple production lines and handle smallervolume series in addition to permanent collections: The result a wider style variety!

Made to Measure

Supply chain mechanisms can meet individual needs. Communication happens in real time, orders and measurements are processed quickly. The result – Delivery times are short while costs are low.

But it doesn’t end there. The textile industry is undergoing a revolution of its own – with a new driving force – Microinfluencers. Social media and the speed and availability of the internet has given rise to a significant new driver of the fashion industry micro-influencers. The shift sees a decentralization of fashion trends – no longer only defined by fashion houses and sports companies. Micro-influencers can be anyone who would have their own fashion brand as a result of their social media influence through a significant Instagram account – from trendy surfers, Youtubers and sports people – anyone that could have their own fashion brand as well as “sew-a-holics”.

The only way to produce economically and efficiently for micro-influencers is with a micro-factory.

With the advancement to Industry 4.0, the textile industry also needs solutions that will both address environmental effects and human labour conditions on the one hand, while providing agile, cost-effective production that supports short runs and customization of garments and textiles in general.

Old manufacturing methods cannot support new consumer trends which are:

Individualization: People want individualized garments and textiles with the ability to print their own designs by loading them up via web shops andordering online.

Small production quantities: Screen printing can’t handle these small production quantities –With screen printing, you need to produce screens for every colour. In digital, print heads release the ink according to the image pixels. Digital printing solutions enable small production quantities.

Fast delivery times: Consumers are demanding fast delivery times. Fast production workflows with reduced production steps in eco-friendly factories in the customer‘s neighbourhood will make fast delivery times possible.

Backshoring: Bringing production back home is on the rise; production is moving to Europe and the US. Not outsourcing production to areas where labour costs are low like in China or Eastern Europe, is a growing trend and manufacturers are proud to be able to say that their garments were produced locally “Made in the US.”

Sustainability / eco-friendliness – less water pollution, water-based inks: People care where their clothing is produced and they want to know that the working conditions were acceptable in producing their garments. Having a reasonable environmental footprint by using eco-friendly equipment is becoming more and more important.

The micro-factory reduces the long complicated production steps to a smooth print and dry workflow. The micro-factory removes manual pre-treatment, drying and cutting steps, and delivers a simplified, automated workflow. The workflow includes the design phase of uploading image files. The Direct-to-Fabric printer removes pre-wash and fixing steps and combines printing and drying into one step. Fabric is printed to exact pattern pieces. The automated fabric cutter cuts printed fabric pieces and the only manual step is the final phase in which a seamstress sews the cut pieces to a final garment.

By Erica Narcyz from Kornit