The convergence of digitalization and sustainability has now become the most commanding market influence in the textile landscape. It has proven to change management practice and businesses, and more broadly, the society we live in.
Digitalization is driven by the extensive technological change brought about by artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and the Internet of Things, all promising to transmute industrial processes, manufacturing, and workforce globally. On the other hand, sustainability is primarily operated by an amalgamation of geopolitical variability, environment, and degradation, entreating a novel methodology to outrank resource preservation and ecological governance among others.
And, the intersection of these two trends is mutually reinforcing, although mostly unexplored. It is challenging for textile companies to ease pollution footprint or manage waste, devoid of digital technology. Likewise, the energy drawn by machines can go futile without being thoughtful of sustainability.
Coalescing Digital Technology and Sustainability
Textile companies are now seeing an opportunity to enhance their sustainability objectives via digitization. And to support this program, the PwC report published in 2018, acknowledged 80 ways in which AI could be used to benefit the surroundings. It includes –
- Transportation’s demand-response charging infrastructure
- Augmented energy system estimating
- Supply chain track and transparency
Correspondingly, few apparel and footwear industry companies have already made it a priority to communicate sustainability performance to investors. Most of the data suppliers, technology vendors, and government agencies are concurrently embracing digital technologies to explore new ways to enhance sustainable living conditions and reduce supply costs.
Virtual Materials for Sampling and Prototyping
3D design software aids textile industries in making better-informed design decisions and thereby lessening the call for sampling and prototyping. Similarly, the material digitalization tools used in this segment are capable of shrinking the enormous amount of sample yardage created by fabric suppliers every season and decreasing the necessity for physical material swatches. Furthermore, this solution cuts down on the number of physical product prototypes, as some material decisions can be made virtually here.
Allegorithmic’s Substance software is an excellent example of this tool. It comprises 3D painting gears and textures, with an aptitude to render and export files for design lineups.
Nonwoven Materials for Lowering Cost
Nonwovens continue to occupy a bright spot in the U.S. textile industry. These products find applications in almost every textile division, right from less familiar apparel and bedding applications to the hygiene-related end-uses such as in wipes. The manufacturers of Nonwoven technology had a strong presence at ITMA 2019, which is a trade show highlighting subjects such as Industry 4.0, sustainability, and automation.
Dr. Behnam Pourdeyhimi, the executive director of The Nonwovens Institute, says, “The sustainability theme was interesting and very relevant. We have become accustomed to the three Rs — Recycle, Reduce, Reuse. A major addition at ITMA was the fourth R, and probably the most relevant for now and the future, and that was – Rethink. This is a very elegant way of saying design with the end in mind.”
Next-Gen Denim for Sustainable Advances
Cone Denim seeks out and fuels new opportunities, to uphold its headship in the denim market through recurrent investment in digital technologies. Cone Denim’s R&D incubator, Cone 3D, drives much of the eco-friendly lineup, including Ciclo Stretch, which lessens microfiber pollution from synthetic textiles, and S Gene with Repreve, which is dual-core denim finished with post-consumer recycled plastic bottles.
Overall, Global Denim’s investment in sustainability is in the order of seven figures, and by doing so, it is planning to bring in change and deliver customers with the best product.
Virtual Try-On For Apparel and Footwear
‘Makers’ Experience’ by Nike cartels the latest digital tools with traditional shoemaking approach, to let consumers try on different shoes and customize it in 90 minutes or less. This virtual try-on is an operative strategy to improve consumer loyalty and let them make better buying decisions. It is proven useful for on-line shoppers, where they can create their avatar, to determine the best fit and style. Virtual Try-On can cut the number of returns and unworn clothes piling up in homes or discarded too early.
Employing digital technologies to develop high quality, innovative, and sustainable materials provide customers with the next level of satisfaction, in terms of saving the earth or going green. With blockchain and QR codes, they can learn to care for a new purchase to extend wear or facilitate efficient recycling, if they no longer want to wear it. It offers customers the chance to minimize the need for sampling and the companies to speed up future production efficiency.