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Lectra Turns to “Game Changing” Tech to Take Materials Costing From Days to Minutes

From augmented reality to improve fabric cutting machine uptime, to millennial inspiration improving its software user experience, Lectra wants to make it easy for its apparel customers to move faster in an already fast-moving, Industry 4.0 world.

At Lectra’s Fashion Goes Digital conference, held at its Bordeaux headquarters in France, the fashion technology company highlighted some of the key ways it’s refining its software and hardware with Industry 4.0 in mind.

Among the most important advancements to its Fashion PLM platform is the addition of “what-if scenarios” that enable users to load the available trims and material for a particular product and quickly compare and contrast two or more configurations, choosing the one that best meets their needs and standards from both the cost and quality perspectives. One consultant at the event hailed this new feature as “game-changing,” reducing to minutes a process that otherwise would take days if performed manually.

By the end of this year or early next, Lectra will enable designers and other stakeholders to manually edit designs and patterns in 3-D, which is most useful for visualizing design work while 2-D retains an edge when it comes to precision and accuracy.

Though augmented reality has been among the innovations to watch in recent years, Lectra demonstrated a proof of concept using the technology to help operators of its fabric cutters troubleshoot equipment problems and receive faster help and service from its call center. Superimposing virtual content on the physical environment, cutter operators can use a tablet or similar camera-equipped device to allow call-center technicians to better visualize the part and problem in question.

The operator also has the choice of changing what color the virtual content is displayed in—so if the defaults virtual color is grey, for example, the employee can switch to a hue such as orange or hot pink that “pops” better for the remote call-center professional. What’s more, when the issue is diagnosed, the cutter operator can don a pair of Microsoft or similar smart glasses to see step by step how to fix the equipment while actually working on the machinery.

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Lectra is developing this proof of concept with no word on commercial availability as of yet.

The company’s vision for a digitally-driven cutting platform puts data at the center and connects to critical IT systems such as ERP and CRM. In fact, connectivity plays a crucial role in Industry 4.0, as winning companies increasingly will need disparate systems to integrate smoothly and share information seamlessly in order to execute quickly.

As made-to-measure takes a greater share of the apparel market—it’s growing 40 percent to 50 percent annually—companies must be able to operate cutting rooms that can accommodate a number of different production models. Dayang Group, a Lectra customer, produced 300,000 made-to-measure suits last year and has set a goal to increase its made-to-order suits and skirts to 1 million by 2021; plus, the company hopes to use 20 of its 40 production lines for made-to-measure apparel.