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Li & Fung Enlists Sewbot Technologies in Drive for Digital Supply Chain

The next step in Li & Fung’s supply chain digitization endeavors will involve robots sewing its T-shirts.

The supply chain solutions company announced a new partnership with sewing technologies firm Softwear Automation at the Sourcing Journal Summit in Hong Kong Tuesday.

As part of the strategic cooperation agreement, Li & Fung will leverage Softwear’s autonomous sewing worklines to create a fully digital manufacturing supply chain initially focused on T-shirts, though Li & Fung said there’s the potential to expand to other products in the future.

Discussing the close connection everything will have in the new world of digitized supply chains during a keynote at the Summit, Li & Fung Group CEO Spencer Fung said the company is bringing in a lot of different technologies to form its future-facing ecosystem.

“Today, we’re announcing a strategic agreement with Softwear Automation as a very important part of our end-to-end digital supply chain looking at automation, offshore manufacturing,” Fung said, adding that Li & Fung has plans to make other strategic announcements “in the next couple of months” as it creates its end-to-end journey.

Li & Fung has been investing in innovation and new technologies to help it drive speed, in particular, since the launch of its Three-Year Plan last year, and Fung said the company has already made substantial progress in creating its targeted supply chain of the future.

With Softwear’s digital T-shirt Sewbot Workline, Li & Fung will need only one operator to produce a complete T-shirt every 22 seconds—which is twice as fast as what humans could achieve.

“Digitizing the production portion of the supply chain presents a game-changing opportunity for manufacturers and suppliers,” Li & Fung said in a statement released with the news. “Technology solutions like automation will enable manufacturers to deliver better productivity and efficiency and create new, higher-value employment opportunities for their employees, such as engineers and technicians.”

For Fung, automating the supply chain has moved from being a far-off dream to more of a concrete goal as the technologies become available to help this digitized set-up materialize into a tangible reality.

“Very soon, you’ll be able to pretty much automate the whole supply chain, which is pretty scary, especially for a lot of us sitting here,” Fung said to the room full of supply chain executives and manufacturers.