“Industry 4.0 is old for some industries like automotive, but if you look at fashion and apparel, there is more of a consensus building of what Industry 4.0 is and its benefits from a marketing and manufacturing perspective,” said Jason Adams, president of Lectra North America.
The company, which offers integrated technology solutions to industries using fabrics, leather, technical textiles and composite materials, has devised a dynamic educational and marketing graphic called “The Rise of Industry 4.0 in Fashion” that details the many facets of the concept and how to put it in to practice.
Often heralded as the fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0 is essentially the next stage in the digitization of manufacturing. Recent innovations have paved the way for smart manufacturing, where Internet-connected machinery is used to monitor and automate the entire production process.
But, as Adams pointed out and the diagram explains, “Industry 4.0 is not just about manufacturing—it concerns the entire fashion eco-system, from high-end brands to fast fashion retailers. It will reshape the entire marketplace and change how companies work and respond to customer demands.”
[Read more about digitization in the supply chain: Digital Disruption Will Cause Waves in Container Shipping]
Adams noted that Industry 4.0 requires big changes in the production process for brands, retailers and manufacturers, and integration will require a new level of connectedness and transparency across traditionally siloed functions and departments.
The four main pillars of Industry 4.0 are augmented reality, which helps companies avoid errors by enabling them to manage inventory in real time; additive manufacturing such as 3-D printing and robotics that allows companies to produce faster; Big Data, such as the Internet of Things that enables data centralization and storage, and data analytics, in which companies can anticipate trends and roadblocks.
“It’s really what you do with that data,” Adams said. “Lectra has been doing IOT for 10 years, so it fits in well with our systems and our software. With Big Data, the questions are do you have the overall infrastructure in place, do you have safeguards for accuracy and do you have the talent in place to analyze that data and put it into action.”
On new technologies, he noted that companies can now produce faster, with high-speed prototyping and digitalization of design, allowing for decision making in real time.
“With the market that we’re in, speed to market and fast fashion, being able to get to market 20 to 50 percent faster is outstanding,” Adams said.
New manufacturing techniques have combined with consumer demand to bring about the need and ability for customization and converting large scale production into multiple small volume runs that can be highly profitable.
“I also see a lot of momentum in made to measure and converting supply mechanisms into the process,” he added.
Industry 4.0 also brings a big opportunity to achieve supply chain transparency.
Lectra’s tool notes that among the main benefits of Industry 4.0 is that it brings about “smart manufacturing…bridging the gap between supply chain actors and consumers.”
Smart manufacturing is estimated to bring a 3 percent to 5 percent increase in overall productivity, a 20 percent to 50 percent increase in speed to market, 85 percent increase in forecast accuracy, 10 percent to 20 percent decrease in cost of quality, and 20 percent to 50 percent reduction in inventory cost.
In a section on how to prepare for Industry 4.0, Lectra advises companies to digitize their supply chain to achieve enterprise-wide transparency by connecting systems, processes and people together. It’s also necessary to educate staffs on how to manage the company’s newest technology assets. Employees can upgrade their skills through training sessions led by industry and technology experts.
Noting that adopting Industry 4.0 processes is “an overall company change in mindset and commitment,” Adams added that by keeping a lookout for new innovations, companies can choose solutions that best fit their needs.
Flexibility and agility are key to allowing businesses to evolve as they mature by investing in solutions that are modular and scale-able, so they can adapt easily to change.