As tariff and trade uncertainty gives the supply chain a vicious shake, apparel and textile manufacturers find themselves seeking their own take on the serenity prayer: namely, the ability to manage what’s in their control.
In order to insulate their businesses against political headwinds, more companies are discovering that augmenting their production cycle is a strategic way to regulate costs while maintaining agility. Producing on demand to create a “reverse supply chain”—in which the product isn’t made until the customer has already paid—has the added benefit of preventing large stocks and inventory risks while enabling proximity production for faster speed to market.
Papilio Prints, a U.S.-based apparel and textile manufacturer, turned to Kornit Digital’s Allegro roll-to-roll fabric printer in order to increase its turnaround time. Incorporating the digital printing technology into its business enabled the company to color-match 145 designs for one home furnishing company without having to worry about minimum order quantities, said Uday Patel, Papilio president and CEO.
Unlike traditional textile printing, Kornit’s digital printing solutions facilitate immediate production, saving companies valuable weeks during their production cycles. With the Kornit Presto solution, there’s no need to even pre- or post-treat fabrics, said Sharon Donovich, Kornit’s regional product marketing manager (Europe), which saves even more time. Thanks to these on-demand capabilities, brands can immediately react to changing trends while mitigating the risks accompanied by having overseas supply chains.
Donovich said Kornit has found requests for quick turn, U.S.-based resources is on the rise.
“The traditional textile printing industry left the U.S. in the 1980s,” she said. “Now, with changes in Far East economies and also the rise of e-commerce, manufacturers want to return and print in the U.S., close to the end customer.”
Perhaps most crucially, digital printing can help companies advance their sustainability goals by eliminating overstocks and reducing the amount of resources required during production.
“In today’s world, the number one environmental risk factor in textiles is water pollution,” said Donovich. “The amount of water currently used, wasted and polluted is huge, and the amount of water used in conventional dyeing and textile print processes could fill the Mediterranean Sea every two years. As sustainability is one of the key trends and directions today, and public awareness for a better and greener planet is rising, the textile industry shift toward digital printing aligns with reducing its environmental impact.”
To keep in step with these priorities, Kornit’s systems employ a 100 percent waterless process—no pretreatments, steaming or washing required. Traditional rotary reactive ink six-color printers need between 60 and 80 liters of water per linear meter, explained Donovich, while digital reactive ink for fashion designs needs between 14 and 40 liters of water per linear meter. Kornit’s Presto digital printer requires zero water and uses biodegradable ink that’s both GOTS and Eco Passport by Oeko-Tex certified.
What’s more, while traditional textile printing adds costs for every color used during an order, digital CMYK and RGB printing reduces design limitations, so companies can print any file or design at the same cost. Unlike previous digital printing that could be cumbersome and costly to set up and operate, the technology has progressed considerably, Donovich said, who added that Kornit has learned a lot during the 10 years it’s offered its solutions. Now, all that’s required of users is that they select a digital file and press print.
“The customer can print one or many, and the cost will stay the same,” she said.
It’s thanks to this focus on eco-friendliness and simplicity that Papilio can focus on the fastest-growing part of its business—apparel—while still keeping sustainability at the forefront even when the category is undergoing frequent seasonal color and design changes. The company’s customers appreciate the earth-friendly inks Papilio’s products use, said Patel, as well as the reduction of water and energy waste during production.
“It’s had a very positive impact to our business,” Patel confirmed.
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