Lucas Ritondale takes a look at Industry 4.0, asking what it is, how it will impact fashion brands and how the apparel industry can get on board
Clothing production may have doubled since 2014, but for those involved in the fashion industry, these are still very challenging times. As shown by the seemingly unending list of high street casualties, margins are squeezed tighter than ever, with increasing pressure to get product to market faster than ever before coupled with continued Brexit uncertainty making it harder than ever for fashion businesses to stay both competitive and profitable.
For fashion manufacturers in particular, to keep pace with the ever-increasing speed of the whole sector, businesses must drive process innovation to achieve the levels of business agility needed to not only capitalize on demand but to keep costs down right across the complex supply chain. To help to drive this process innovation and to steel themselves against any future market challenges that may arise, forward-thinking fashion businesses are looking to the concept of Industry 4.0, investigating the benefits that this revolutionary way of working can potentially bring and asking how they can embark on their Industry 4.0 journey.
For the majority of fashion businesses, before looking at its potential benefits, the main question has to be what actually is Industry 4.0? Representing arguably the most revolutionary change to impact the manufacturing sector in quite some time, the main aim of Industry 4.0 is to facilitate ‘smart factories’. This is where all systems and equipment are connected by a combination of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), resulting in a network of machines, devices, sensors and people that communicate autonomously with each other.
This results in huge productivity improvement, reductions in labor costs, increased product quality (due to water-tight QC processes and procedures), and less waste. Add to this the predicted 13-fold increase in on-time deliveries of products and vast improvements in CAPEX and inventory costs, and you can see why Industry 4.0 is being heralded as the way forward for manufacturing, not just the fashion industry. In short, Industry 4.0 has the potential to make fashion manufacturing less wasteful, more productive, more efficient and, most importantly for the manufacturers themselves, more profitable.
For all businesses, moving to Industry 4.0-based operations will be very much a gradual process, avoiding the temptation to invest in technology for technology’s sake, but fashion businesses can definitely take steps in the right direction straight away. The main priority for fashion manufacturers should be to embrace digitization, getting rid of creaking, disparate legacy systems and infrastructures, which are severely limiting business potential. All these do is add extra levels of complexity to an already complicated product lifecycle and supply chain, causing bottlenecks and delays due to their inability to quickly and efficiently process the huge volumes of data that are part and parcel of doing business in our global digital economy.
Fashion businesses owe it to themselves to make the most of the technology available to them, uniting all processes with a single system to not only simplify organizational complexity but to get a handle on the multiple variables at play right across the supply chain. It’s only then that fashion businesses can hope to readily identify inefficiencies and problems, easing the passage of information through the business by breaking down departmental silos of information.
Not only do the right systems bring together all business data in one place, but in-built analytics turn this data into real business insight. It’s this insight that ensures you can better predict changes in demand, while establishing robust and efficient processes to facilitate business growth and pave the way for your business to successfully combine automation and information to improve efficiencies - the winning combination that lies at the heart of all things Industry 4.0.
Making sense of business data is the key to unlocking the full potential of Industry 4.0. By adopting and implementing digital technologies across all areas of the business, fashion manufacturers are laying secure foundations upon which to build successful smart businesses, driving process innovation to increase productivity and business agility by taking full advantage of the in-depth insight and foresight that the right solutions can provide. It’s only when fashion businesses get to grips with their data, becoming more agile, efficient and responsive, that they can progress to the next stage, with access to timely, accurate and in-context business information the cornerstone of successful smart factory operations.
To find out more about how Argentis Systems can ease you into Industry 4.0, contact us.