Automation has revolutionized countless industries, from automotive to aerospace and electronics. Yet, when we turn our gaze towards the fashion industry, we find a surprising absence of automated technologies. The question is, why does such a disparity exist in an industry that generates trillions of dollars globally?
The State of Automation in Fashion Logistics
The fashion industry, despite its colorful exterior, is rooted in tradition. From the design process to manufacturing, most operations are still executed manually. This inclination towards manual labor is starkly contrasted when compared to other major industries. In the world of fashion design processes, automation is still a rare sight.
Automated versus Manual Processes
In industries such as automotive, aerospace, and electronics, everything that can be automated has been automated. These industries thrive on efficient, precise, and automated manufacturing processes. For instance, car engine factories that produce over a million engines per year often operate with a workforce in the low hundreds. This is a stark contrast to a garment assembly factory, where the most dominant feature is the sheer number of manual laborers.
In the fashion industry, not only is manufacturing labor intensive, but every stage of product development is also heavily reliant on manual processes. This includes critical stages such as design, technical design, pattern making, and sample making, both virtual and physical.
The Unwavering Tradition in Fashion
The fashion industry's reluctance to embrace automation can be traced back to its roots. Most industries that design and produce products had to evolve from a manual, expert-driven design and production process to a more automated one as the products grew more complex. However, the fashion industry, due to the relative simplicity of a garment compared to a car or an iPhone, and the availability of low-cost labor, has remained largely unchanged.
The Role of Simplicity and Labor
The relative simplicity of a garment and the availability of low-cost labor in many parts of the world have allowed the fashion industry to continue operating with its manual, expert-driven processes. As a result, even as a 2 trillion-dollar global industry, fashion still relies heavily on manual labor for both product development and manufacturing.
The Absence of Standards in Fashion Design
The fashion industry's manual, expert-driven approach has resulted in a lack of standards for information shared between experts. Most product definition documents, such as patterns and tech-packs, are created by experts for experts. This lack of standardization is a significant barrier to the implementation of automation in the fashion design process.
The Need for Standardized Data
For automation to be successful, data needs to be standardized. This includes the pattern, the assembly instructions, the bill of materials, the virtual samples, the points of measure, the grading rules, and more. In the age of digital garments, it would also involve digital fabrics, digital trims, and digital avatars. The fashion industry's efforts to standardize product information have been insufficient thus far.
The Lack of Tools in Fashion Technology
When compared to other major industries, the fashion industry's technology supply chain is surprisingly small. While companies supplying software tools to help design cars are multi-billion-dollar enterprises, those supplying software tools to aid in designing clothing are relatively small.
The Current State of Fashion Technology
The existing software tools in the fashion industry have been developed to fit into the existing manual design process. While these tools have made it easier for experts to collaborate, they have done little to make the overall process more efficient or faster.
The Future: Automating Fashion Design and Production
The fashion industry needs to embrace automation to increase efficiency. Companies like Clothing Tech are stepping up to this challenge. Our flagship product, the FashionrTM platform, is a first-of-its-kind 3D design tool for garments that automates many of the design processes.
The Role of AI in Fashion Technology
This AI-driven software automates many of the design processes, freeing the designer to focus on the virtual garment they are creating. It's a unique product that shows promising potential for some of the world's brands – large and small alike - to unlock efficiency, speed, and margin gains.
In conclusion, while the lack of automation in fashion logistics may seem surprising, it is largely due to precedent, the absence of standards, and the lack of tools. However, with the advent of AI and the drive for efficiency, the future of fashion design processes and apparel logistics is heading towards automation. Visit our product page to learn more about the FashionrTM platform.