"Sewbots" — or automated sewing machines — could drastically reduce the need for human garment workers. But, is the apparel industry ready for it? Check out industry expert Heera Kumar’s post on sewbots in the fashion industry.
• Automation — or the creation of technology
systems that eliminate the need for humans to
perform certain tasks — is set to transform the
• The industry that is most likely to be affected
includes manufacturing and retail. It’s no surprise,
then, that fashion is destined to be irrevocably
reshaped by automation.
• Apparel production, especially for fast fashion, requires
expensive machinery and timely delivery at a very low
• With such challenging margins, companies are forced to
seek out the lowest wages possible and are unlikely to
invest in new technology.
• Even China is racing to keep up with increasing outsourcing
to Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Ethiopia due to the rising cost
• The apparel manufacturers are faced with the challenges of
designing fashionable garments with multiple styles in short
runs, managing stock levels, improving delivery speeds,
achieving flexibility and versatility and ensuring consistent
• They also have to produce clothing cost effectively for a
market which is supplied largely from countries with very
low wage rates.
• Most of the works in industries are carried manually but to
sharpen the competitive edge the industry must necessarily
invest in automation to meet the global standards.
• At a certain point, the hunt for cheaper and cheaper labor
must come to an end.
• Technology is the only way out.
• There are many benefits of using automation such as energy
saving, less spare parts, less maintenance cost, less space
requirement in the production line, reduced handling, better WIP
control, easy production accountability, reduced alteration etc.
• Development that was once overseen by in-house teams with an
advanced knowledge of production processes now is performed a
world away and managed by contract manufacturers who often
place high piece minimums on orders and modify designs to
• This new paradigm restrains brand creativity and has created a
situation where one misstep in trend forecasting can result in
millions of dollars lost in inventory.
• "Sewbots" — or automated sewing machines — could
drastically reduce the need for human garment workers.
• The “sew bots,” or sewing robots, reduce production costs,
increase quality, cut lead times and allow brands to take
back control of their manufacturing process. In Sew bots,
there is a capability to change how apparel is made.
• Sew bots may be the answer to hunt for swarm of cheaper
labors and delivery of better quality more efficiently
• Benefits to automation include more reliability, fewer
variations in stitch quality. When it goes in the production
environment, it will be at the same speed as a human
• Unlike a human sewer, however, robots do not need
breaks and are rarely subject to error. That is what Sew bot
can do for the apparel assembly.
• It will be a very long time, if ever, before things are 100%
• Fabric production, garment dyeing, and finishing are already
highly automated as compared to the garment
• There is still human labor involved, “but they’re able to
leverage machines to achieve incredible productivity, to the
point where the labor cost to manufacture a yard of fabric is
usually at a minimum.”
• Innovators are working diligently to increase its machines’
capabilities around the wide array of fabric types and
operations that go into producing stock keeping units for
manufacturers in home goods, automotive textiles, apparel,
and footwear markets.
• As with any new technology, automation in sewing still has
some hurdles to overcome before robots fully replace
seamstresses. The future won’t be entirely run by robots—
people are still a necessary component—but factory
production can be far more fruitful.
• But there is another side to this whole lot of automation in
the industry. Robotic automation might be the answer to a
lot of things. People also feel that automation will eliminate
the deplorable conditions of the garment workers
in poor countries.
• But, what is the alternative for the workers who support
their entire families and will be laid off the jobs because of
So, the bottom-line question that needs to be answered is
whether a few robots will exempt the suffering that
unemployment will bring to these workers?
Should an attempt be made to equip the hunger and
homelessness that might follow the closing of the factories?
Maybe it’s time to think not just about automation and the
cheaper clothing that will follow, but also about the major
garment force that will lose its source of income.
Maybe it’s time for some compassion towards the
workforce. It is the one thing the robots can’t manufacture.
• Fenigsohn, G (2016, August 17th) The Sewbots Are
• Kansara, V (2017, May 16th) The Sewbots Are Coming!
For an elaborate insight on the topic,