Bringing Digital Tools to the Sewn Products Industry
In a run-up to its recent LiveWorx event in Boston, PTC, a leading computer software and services company, introduced a new manufacturing initiative that is designed to transform the way that apparel is sourced and manufactured across the global sewn products industry.
In a statement, PTC said the Intelligent Apparel Manufacturing (IAM) initiative is in response to acute pressures placed on brands and retail businesses by today’s fast-paced, hyper-competitive market.
Built with FlexPLM and conceived in partnership with digitalization consultants Black Swan Textiles, the IAM initiative leverages PTC’s FlexPLM and ThingWorx IoT (Internet of Things) solutions to bring the vision for Industry 4.0 alive for fashion and apparel manufacturers anywhere in the world. Other technology layers (PLM, ERP, inventory, etc.) also feed data into IAM.
As a brand or retailer, the benefits of integrating multiple threads of data and obtaining real-time digital insights into the factory floor are profound, and the IAM initiatives will give them a huge competitive advantage.
“Combining PTC’s technical expertise with Black Swan Textiles’ decades of experience in automation, manufacturing and product development, the IAM initiative will allow the fashion and apparel industry to significantly reduce time to market, to shrink inventory and to digitally connect a fragmented supply chain,” said Brion Carroll, vice president of Global Business Development for PTC’s Retail Business Unit.
To establish a comprehensive link between PTC’s FlexPLM solution and the full complement of factory systems and hardware, the IAM initiative has been forged by new partnerships with PTC, Black Swan Textiles, Henderson Sewing Machine Co. and Blacksmith International.
“To meet the demands of their customers, global manufacturers need access to real-time data from the shop floor in order to make informed decisions during the manufacturing process,” added Edward Hollyday, vice president of automation at Black Swan Textiles. “By connecting different assets and sources of data such as 3D design, PLM, cutting and sewing machines, an existing factory can quickly become an ‘intelligent factory’ and begin delivering on the promise of the Industry 4.0 revolution. As a brand or retailer, the benefits of integrating multiple threads of data and obtaining real-time digital insights into the factory floor are profound, and we believe the IAM initiatives will give PTC customers a huge competitive advantage.”
“My role in the IAM initiative has to do with the sewing machines,” said Frank Henderson, CEO of Henderson Sewing Machine Co. “With PTC’s amazingly powerful operating systems, I can utilize their systems to communicate in a two-way flow — to the sewing machine and away from the machine. This is what is truly different. Within the IAM system, we are sending data to the machine such as instructions, certain criteria, stitch length, stitches per inch, stitches per minute, etc. The system already knows what kind of machine — single needle or over-lock — and knows if there is a mechanical problem. Maybe they to send the cut pieces over to a different single needle machine and to a different operator. Or instead of an over-lock, maybe it’s a safety-stitch machine that it should go to. That’s all driven by system-to-system two-way communications.”
Intelligent Apparel Manufacturing at Blacksmith International
Blacksmith International, a Utah-based apparel manufacturer and global sourcing company in the vanguard of digital transformation, is currently phasing their roll-out of IAM technologies (focusing on key modules, including PTC’s FlexPLM and MOVE Warehouse Management) to improve efficiency, transparency and bottom-line profits. FlexPLM and MOVE are both key components of the Intelligent Apparel Manufacturing solution set.
Blacksmith will be the first manufacturer with all this technology in place.
“The ability to make business decisions based on up-to-the-minute data from the factory will drive the next wave of innovation, and it starts right here in Utah,” said Brian Sather, CEO of Blacksmith. “We are proud to be working with Black Swan Textiles, PTC and Henderson Sewing Machine Co. to design the factory of the future — connected, transparent and a fixture of our local community.”
In this “proof of concept” between PTC, Black Swan Textiles, Henderson Sewing Machine Co. and Blacksmith International, they have six sewing machines, four of which are different makes, models and stitch types. They connect them all into one software platform that could represent six different physical locations, six different lines or could be one line at one location. Everything is brought into one machine dashboard.
Why is this beneficial? The sewn products manufacturer today is typically the one who suffers from a closed-architecture system. He is handcuffed by the sewing machine manufacturers and their unwillingness to integrate with other machine manufacturers. End users should have the ability to do business with whomever they want. If they look at the way things have always been done, and they see a better methodology, they should be allowed to incorporate the better methodology.
The IAM initiative now represents a better methodology. It will deliver even deeper integration between a single, centralized source of data and other business systems — establishing direct connectivity with manufacturing and opening the door to transformative new business models.
With the FlexPLM solution, the IAM initiative will deliver a deeper integration between a single, centralized source of data and other business systems; thus, establishing direct connectivity with manufacturing and bringing in transformative new business models.
For a contract manufacturer, this becomes very appealing. It will make their sewing operations much more flexible.