Pants being made almost entirely by machines.
Pants being made almost entirely by machines.
Textile and garment manufacturers in countries facing chronic labour shortages can derive hope from the march of digitalization and artificial intelligence which are making conventional textile production methods with human workers almost redundant. Such countries can benefit from technological innovations, besides enhancing their production efficacy.  

At the Techtextil/Texprocess twin shows held in Frankfurt, some experts told CTA that technologically overhauling the production facilities could help not only save costs but also strengthen the suppliers’ competitiveness in the global markets. 

While the availability of well-trained workers is important for the labour-intensive textile industry, technology is the key to long-term survival of the global textile industry, particularly in countries facing rising production costs and labour shortage. 

The revival of the textile industry will thus not just depend on human hands, but also on robots and automation which together constitute what is called “smart manufacturing”.  

Substantial R&D investments on smart solutions

Landsberg-based company Veit GmbH has been supplying “smart machines” for textile and garment production. Veit’s director (product/innovation), Sascha Dehl, said in an interview that his company, which specializes in supplying all kinds of machinery for garment production, was showcasing the latest version of the “shirt finisher” machine which could press shirts in a matter of 10 to 15 seconds.  

Sounding bullish about the market response, Dehl said that the machine could replace almost all the work done by hand. “Our machines are purchased by garment manufacturers in Asia, Africa and Latin America where manufacturers endeavour to save production and labour costs,” said Dehl, highlighting the machine’s new features, including its capability to provide maximum protection to workers against exposure to heat.  

Dehl emphasized the machine was the result of extensive R & D work, much of which was carried out at its R&D centre in Landsberg, though it also has a smaller R&D centre in Hayan, China. 
“Our company lays emphasis on further developing our innovation capability which can ensure our success,” he said, adding that the company had allocated “substantial sums” for R & D work. 
Veit, which supplies its machines to major textile-supplying countries Bangladesh, China India, Indonesia, Vietnam, etc., singles out automation as a way to improve the textile industry’s chances of survival. 

One machine that aroused the interest of trade visitors was an upgraded version of the shirt finisher SF-26 which, according to Veit representatives, had enhanced the functionality and ergonomics of the shirt finisher, besides optimizing the high quality of the finished product and simplifying the operation. 

In response to customer demand, Veit had expanded its BX series with the BXT fixer machine – the universal solution for the shirt and outer-clothing with a separate band and a 7” colour control device. 

Digitalized systems mark the beginning of a new era

Staff members of the DA Group received the Texprocess Innovation Award 2019.Another German supplier, the Kaiserslautern-based DA Group, famous for its trademarks Duerkopp Adler, PFAFF Industrial and KSL, showcased its industrial machines, sewing machines, sewing robots and garment soldering machines.  

DA Group’s chairman, Dietrich Eickhoff, highlighted the M-TYPE DELTA machine which also won the Texprocess Innovation Award at the fair. The new M-TYPE-DELTA marked the “beginning of a new era of industrial sewing” Eickhoff said. “Through our path-breaking new sewing system M-TYPE DELTA, we are defining the industrial sewing anew and making it possible to reach solutions which were simply unthinkable in the past,” Eickhoff said in an interview. 

“The sewing machine becomes an assistant, a partner, a helper and a communicator. That is a major difference from all the hitherto machine concepts, and opens up incredibly new possibilities,” he averred.

The new M-TYPE DELTA sewing system was a fully digitalized industrial sewing machine for materials usable in every situation without much expenditure for the change.   The machine, Eickhoff said, is easy and quick to learn through the use of a video, which explains what must be done and how it could be done. 

The PFAFF 3586 machine was showcased with new controlling “DAC Compact” device, enabling the production, for example, of slimline shirts. The PFAFF 3589 could produce in a flexible manner and at minimum costs.  

The new PFAFF 8311 is a new generation of ultrasonic soldering machines. Besides regulating speed and soldering energy, the PFAFF 8311 is being called a “real-world innovation” and a quantum leap in the case of textile ultrasonic soldering. 

The group’s KSL segment presented with the robot unit KL 500 (with needle head KL 558) a complete 3-D sewing cell as used in production units of the automobile dash-board manufacturing worldwide.   

Eickhoff said that his company’s latest Delta System is equipped with Industry 4.0 features. “Our Delta system can communicate well … it is a sewing system which is revolutionizing the entire sewing process. Such a system would be very suitable for countries facing shortages of skilled workers,” the DA Group’s chief said. The Delta System has the capacity to “integrate the present with the future”. Besides the textile industry, other industries, notably the automobile and the aviation industries, use DA machines. 

Microfactory concept drive integrated processing

Fine-tuning size/design on the computer.Michael jaenecke, the director for brand management (technical textiles and textile processing) of Messe Frankfurt, the organizer of the Techtextil show, explained the digitalization phenomenon sweeping the textile industry:  “You can send your favourite design per App to the manufacturer and tomorrow you can put on the customized and exact-fitting shirt or trouser.  That is no longer any futuristic vision.  It’s already happening.”

However, Jaenecke also put things into perspective.  “Behind such simplified stories there are complex production, processing and logistic processes.  Microfactories are the progressive vehicles which, by means of interconnected processes, make textile processing quicker, more flexible and also sustainable.  Over and above, customized products can be produced,” the expert on technical textiles told CTA at the show.

The five microfactories on display at the Texprocess gave insights into the functioning of integrated textile processing.  This year’s Texprocess show, in conjunction with the Institutes for Textile and Fiber Research Denkendorf, with support from the industry, presented a live demonstration of a digital textile micro factory and a fully networked production of clothing items – from the design stage to digital printing, automatic cutting and fabrication.  Potential buyers were given insights into the various stages of manufacture in the microfactory. 

The stages range from the CAD/Design area through printing and cutting to assembling and labelling, all of which can be executed within the microfactory concept.  As Olaf Schmidt, the Messe Frankfurt’s vice president (textiles and textile technology) put it, fast fashion can become the cry of the day with the microfactory’s progression. 

“The demand for individualized products necessitates making the entire production process more flexible. Serial production with smaller and smaller batches, right down to batches of just one, is only possible with industrially manufactured individual products. These fully automated and networked processes can now be implemented through the use of digitalization,” noted Elgar Straub, General Manager (Textile Care, Fabric and Leather Technologies Division) of the German Machine-Building Association. 

Digitalization and cross-linking of processing technologies were also demonstrated through the five microfactories. “Microfactories play, particularly in respect of sustainability, a major role because the customer buys here what is produced, microfactories save wastage and resources,” observed Professor Meike Tilebein of the German Institutes for Textile and Fiber Research Denkendorf.  “Only those parts are printed which are needed for the product. Prototypes can be sent digitally, instead of physically, anywhere in the world.” 

In short, a digital revolution is underway and is transforming the labour-intensive textile manufacturing industry. Such a development could benefit countries facing shortage of skilled labour, with the use of artificial intelligence deploying robots and automation.