Apparel Brands Keep Up with Amazon Using Smart Factory Floor Software

The fashion industry has always prided itself on being cutting-edge. With technologies like the Internet of Things and analytics, apparel brands are now able to pivot more easily and frequently as styles change.

Apparel makers “scrub social media, bringing up styles based on what people are wearing,” says Paul Magel, president of application solutions and technology outsourcing at Computer Generated Solutions, which sells software designed for the apparel manufacturing industry. “You can react to those trends when you can [change production plans] much faster.”

New York-based CGS was founded in 1984 and in recent years has focused on developing and deploying software technologies that digitize apparel shop factory floors—right down to the needle on a sewing machine.

In fact, the company unveiled a partnership in May with Juki, a Japanese sewing machine manufacturer, to install CGS’ software on the devices, effectively making them “smart.” Updates can be sent and changes can be sent to fabric batches in real-time while data from the machines are easily accessed for up-to-date analysis.

“You used to have to convince folks that technology is an enabler of the business, not just a necessary evil,” Magel says, reflecting on the apparel industry’s embrace of new technologies. “They now look to technology as required; it’s a must.”

Overall, the appeal of these innovations is to make both man and machine more efficient, even at manual tasks such as sewing. One CGS customer, General Sportswear, reported an 11 percent increase in efficiency at its facility in Nicaragua, according to a case study provided by CGS. General Sportswear, which makes private-label denim and other apparel for major retailers, says CGS’s software enables it to spot sewing and cutting errors and machine malfunctions in real time.

For example, the company says the factory typically used an “end-of-day” batch processing system to assess 800-plus employees, who are paid by the piece. That manual process required the collecting of tickets, which then needed to be manually scanned at shifts’ end. Using CGS’s software, General Sportswear says “supervisors gained access to real-time production data. What used to take two to three hours at end of day to do a manual count, is now available in real time.”

In addition to increased efficiencies and better management of employees, technological advancements on the shop floor can help brands accomplish another key … Next Page »

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