1904 was the year when the first power loom arrived in India. Ever since, the industry has not looked back or slowed down. There has been no dearth of technology and innovations in the textiles and apparels industry.
The technological metanoia helped the apparels industry take many leaps towards automation. Indian apparels should ideally be competitive in the global market. They face difficulties that come with quick-changing fashion, faster deliveries, maintaining consistency in quality, and many more. This has to be achieved at an efficient cost.
Nevertheless, technology and automation can go a long way in mounting productivity in the industry by eliminating job redundancy, labour hours, and at the same time provide better working conditions, and boost the demand for skilled labour.
Managing inventory can be arduous for the garment industry. A lot is going on and organizing and storing fabrics, trims, and other raw materials have a cost. Automation can cut down the storage costs and juxtapose the delivery of raw materials with the production schedule (like the JIT inventory system).
Raw material prices rarely fluctuate. And hence, it has to be procured at the market price. There is limited scope for cost saving here.
However, this cost can be compensated in the sewing, or at some stages of manufacturing. This can be brought about by automation and advanced machinery. A machine, once programmed, can look over the manufacturing as long as it functions. We can easily incorporate changes into software programmes. Here, machinery has a clear edge over manual labour in terms of productivity.
Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the quality and their tastes change rapidly. The products should be ‘value for money’ and the ultimate goal is consumer satisfaction at lower costs.
Manual production cannot be 100% consistent in maintaining uniform quality. Plus, there are errors. Here, machines can ensure uniformity in the apparels and even do it at a faster pace. Moreover, complex designs take up more time to produce. This time cost can be saved by automating complicated processed.
The apparels industry (and a lot of other industries in India) are largely labour intensive. The cost of labour has been steadily surging. Then there are issues like scarcity and absenteeism. If we outsource the labourers, then there are additional costs of accommodating them.
We can cut all this circuitous process, and extra costs down if we automate labour demanding procedures. For instance, there are machines for cutting and sewing that take up less than a second to cut and sew. Manual labour will slow down the cutting and sewing.
Skilled labour, Semi-skilled labour, technicians, and other labour can supervise the workings of the machinery.
Fast fashion keeps the apparels’ sector on its toes. The new trends have to be captured, produced, and marketed. All the while, the cost has to be low and the quality should meet the consumer’s standards.
An interesting instance would be t-shirts inspired by memes. Memes are “temporary” trends and they grow old very fast. Hence, incorporating a meme into apparels and selling them off before the trend dies needs rapid action. This can be achieved by machines and advanced technologies.
As of today, automation has been retarded due to several factors like slow technological adaptation, selecting suitable machinery, investment, and reluctance towards changes. On the other hand, automation is becoming more inevitable due to diverse and changing consumer demands.
Within the next decade, it is speculated that the textile industry will achieve a CAGR of 12% bloating the market to $180 billion. The apparels section is sure to get a major boost. And adopting automation will complement this massive growth by boosting productivity.