The Smart Garment Factory - Concepts, Technology and Future (with Two Cases)

What is a Smart Factory?

The smart factory is defined as a factory where physical production processes and operations are combined with digital technology, smart computing, and big data to create a more opportunistic system for companies that focus on manufacturing and supply chain management ( The smart factory is an aspect of Industry 4.0, a new phase in the Industrial Revolution that focuses heavily on real-time data, embedded sensors, connectivity, automation, and machine learning. A factory that used industry 4.0 technologies - such as Robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Analytics, and AR/VR (

Though the name sounds like it is something new and a hi-tech factory setup and the factory will take over all the human activities - that is not the case. A smart factory works with a lot of automation with the existing operator sewing machines. Through the case study and example of a smart factory, we will try to understand what a smart factory means. This article is written based on information gathered on a webinar presentation organized by NIFT Fashion Technology Department. 

Example of smart garment factory
Image source: Webinar screenshot 

List of contents 

1. Components of a smart factory

In the garment manufacturing sector where you can add a technology that helps existing companies to become a smart factory. Components of a smart factory include - Automation in production, maximum use of Robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Machine learning, Analytics, and AR/VR, application of rea-time production and quality data capturing and processing of data toward controlling the processes. 

Here are a few examples of technology solutions and innovations available for moving towards a smart factory (Dr. Jana). Smart procedures can be introduced in apparel manufacturing such as
  • pre-sewing areas in automatic pattern making, on-screen digitizer, an accessory dispensing system which reduces time wastage,
  • IoT enabled CNC cutter which is familiar in the last decade. Tukatech has already initiated the automatic pattern making system.
  • Virtual digitizer which is generally done by taking photos also helps in pattern making
  • application of robots in the pickup section of the sewing area also uplifted the motion of smart manufacturing,
  • an operator-less sewing machine is in the near future with the addition of sew-bot.
  • Digital sampling 

Evolution of the smart factories 

Professor Deepak Pangal briefed the revolution of the smart factory and what a present-day smart factory includes. How it can be applicable and what are the areas it can be applied in the apparel manufacturing systems. How AI, big data cloud, Predictive maintenance, co-bots integrate the cutting sewing, quality, and inventory departments of an apparel manufacturing sector. To know more about these watch this YouTube video.

2. Achievements through smart factories

To date, the kinds of achievements smart factories have are listed here.
  • Manufacturing of full instrument operated t-shirt production of Adidas in 22 seconds as well as operator less sewing machine.
  • In post-sewing areas, automation is there in the garment measurement system using a digital measuring tape.
  • robotic ironing system and garment folding system. The automated measurement system laser-based measurement system is also there in the commercial sector.
  • IoT based technology enables tracking the skill set of operators as well as the average quality score of the operation along with the strength and weakness of the operator. Sewing machine operation and production evaluation systems work with a material handling system that is how much time an operator needs for that operation.
  • RFID tags help to track the time taken between two consecutive operations. CGS’s Bluecherry shop floor control system is an example of an RFID based real-time production tracking system.
  • Juki, Brother are some of the sewing machine manufacturers that come up with IoT technology for tracking operations in sewing machines by an operator.

3. Advantages of being a smart garment factory

As per experts, benefits that a smart factory enjoys include -
  • A smart factory is fully equipped with a WIFI system,
  • Smart factories can track the operation done in a sewing machine through a real-time system and using a cloud-based system.
  • the prediction of defects in the material where he addresses that the more the data is pre-input in the system, the more it will be flexible for the tracker.
  • Better prepared for the production
  • Reduced manpower and dependency of staffs

4. Technology level found in a smart garment factory - Case-I (Hugo Boss)

On the webinar, Mr. Erkut Ekinci from Hugo Boss, Turkey, shared the strategies they have taken for the implementation of their foot toward their journey of installation of a smart garment factory.
  • They have opted for artificial intelligence, robotics, and digital twins in which machines, people, products, and processes are considered part of the smart factory.
  • A system enabling faster data entry systems, easy IT access, modular flexible systems, and people mentality impacted towards better smart manufacturing is necessary.
  • They have completed certain projects in this arena such as
  • Smart data management, group & line board
  • They are using augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications.
In smart data management, they have shown how easily they are tracking every data through tablet devices situated on the shop floor workstations. A large screen line board graphical representation in the midway of their factories helps their employees to know about the quality, repairs, inventories, shipments, delivery dates, and time left. 

AR/VR helps them in employee training, machine maintenance to understand the critical operation of manufacturing particular apparel. Active digital assistants (chatbots) helps them in data retrieval and stocking of information.

Speech recognition is one of their completed projects. Completion of Robotic process automation enables them to eliminate non-value-added items and reduces unnecessary human interventions. They have introduced AI to detect quality defects, with fabric consumption estimation and improvement in the cutting section of garment manufacturing as well as an advisory warning signal generator in each segment.

From the above example, you can see that there are many things a garment factory can do to convert their factory into a smart factory. Each event, process, and activity of the apparel supply chain can become part of the industry 4.0.

5. Technology level found in a smart garment factory - Case-II (Raymond)

Mr. Kaushalendra Narayan of Silver Spark Apparels of Raymond Ltd has shared their journey of how they have implemented a smart manufacturing system in one of their factories. 

The IoT has enhanced their Made-to-Measure (MTM) production of blazers and jackets for exports in fabric quality, cutting, cut components inspection system sewing, and inventory departments too.

A bar-code system is quite easy for tracking its huge manufacturing system in a more synchronized manner. The Bar-code system also tracks the fabric inventory, raw material, order status, pressing of blazers.

Production planning software and line balancing solutions are two software’s which have been taken by Raymond in their journey.

They have also built up their quality tracking management system with the help of an RFID. An SMS based sewing machine maintenance system was incorporated by them along with an internal environment maintenance system, energy monitoring system as well as fuel consumption monitoring system.

In that factory, they have implemented a digital Kan-ban system and live production system to track the ongoing production system. Bar-code for every piece and digital material in-house communication system.

For the ergonomic betterment of the labor, they have introduced pneumatic chute for trims issues and automated fabric inspections too. 
Raymond has also introduced the digitization of everyday reports to reduce the paper consumption in reports,

Virtual sampling auditory activity as well as virtual shipment procedure and tracking of inventory through virtual systems.

Raymond is quite innovative and also can act as a pathway to many other Indian apparel manufacturers. With technology adoption, they have also improvised the processes internally to make the factory as a smart factory.

6. Conclusion:

In the future, some garment factories will evolve themself and become smart factories. They will be in a better position to control the business processes - from production planning to order execution to employee training, real-time automated data capturing, automated data analysis. But the traditional garment production factories will co-exist. Garment businesses are investing in Saas based software solutions for the digital revolution. All these are possible through the changes of mindset. Reasonable investment and better solutions are coming to bring the changes. 


Prasanta Sarkar

Prasanta Sarkar is a textile engineer and a postgraduate in fashion technology from NIFT, New Delhi, India. He has authored 6 books in the field of garment manufacturing technology, garment business setup, and industrial engineering. He loves writing how-to guide articles in the fashion industry niche. He has been working in the apparel manufacturing industry since 2006. He has visited garment factories in many countries and implemented process improvement projects in numerous garment units in different continents including Asia, Europe, and South Africa. He is the founder and editor of the Online Clothing Study Blog.

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