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Resource-saving and sustainable clothing manufacture is not possible without digitisation. Software solutions and smart systems make supply chains more transparent and utilise the latent potential for making improvements at all stages of production.
Fast fashion has become the byword for an industry that operates irresponsibly. Ever since the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh in 2013, it has become clear to many people that things cannot go on like this. The cries for eco-friendly and fair trade fashion were growing ever louder, but the quiet voices from the German clothing industry were drowned out in the media storm at the time. Susanne Pass, Director at Dialog Textil Bekleidung (DTB) in Kirchheim, tells us that the industry had been signalling a paradigm change for a long time: "Before 2013, the clothing industry and its suppliers were already working hard on improving and accounting for the ecological and social conditions at all stages of production. However, it is a huge challenge to bring the necessary transparency to the textiles supply chain."
Stumbling blocks on the way to a sustainable collection
As far as sustainability is concerned, the constant despatch of prototypes, colour and fabric samples, waste from faulty goods, and badly positioned pattern pieces, have a negative impact on the consumption of resources. And at many production stages – in particular, fibre production – the extent of compliance with working standards and environmental requirements remains unclear. So there is still a lot of room for improvement.
With data and pixels
Nevertheless, industry-specialised software providers are not at a loss for solutions. So it is already possible with digital technology to visualise the development of a product right up to its final release. Three-dimensional designs that are reproduced true to colour and materials help to shape the pattern; 3D body scanner systems ensure an excellent fit. This means that unsaleable collections, which do not fit and are highly likely to be thrown away, are a thing of the past. Further resources can be conserved with pattern placement software, which makes best use of the textile and minimises cutting waste.
Tracked at every turn
Digitisation not only leads to more environmentally-friendly production: it can also be used to control social manufacturing conditions. A customer can find out by means of communications platforms whether social and qualitative audits have taken place and whether amendments have been carried out accordingly. This is good for corporate social responsibility, and also for economic efficiency, because adjustments are possible in real time. In practical terms, delivery performance regarding the route can even be tracked now, right up to the arrival time of the container in the harbour. This means that the actual carbon footprint can also be predicted.
Strategy for working in cycles
With the latest software solutions, processes in the clothing industry can be improved in a sustainable way and the use of resources, waste production, and emissions can be minimised. This means that the industry is already coming very close to the concept of a circular economy. However, legislators see the need for action and are increasing the pressure at national and European level. With this in mind, the European clothing and textile association EURATEX (Brussels) is announcing that it will be presenting a strategy for a circular economy in May. From 14 to 17 May 2019 in Frankfurt am Main, Texprocess, the leading international fair for processing textile and flexible materials, will present practical ways that offer greater insights into this.
Source: Messe Frankfurt
Image: Digital Textile Micro Factory