Digital solutions are top of mind for brands and retailers adopting sustainable practices throughout the textile value chain, as emerging and improved technologies help streamline company-wide processes and mitigate waste, among other environmental stressors.
And Gerber Technology, a hardware and software solutions firm based in Connecticut, offers platforms for data proficiencies, design, development and production. “It is a very exciting time to be working in the textile industry,” said Bill Grindle, the chief marketing officer at Gerber Technology. “There are many mature and evolving technologies that emerging designers should look to in an effort to reduce cost and waste. New technologies like PLM, CAD for pattern and marker making, 3-D software applications for design and digital and 3-D printing are technologies that can help.”
Gerber’s solutions help brands become more sustainable through its software that eliminates established methods for dyeing and printing textiles. Grindle said “many digital printing processes dramatically reduce water contamination associated with traditional textile color dyeing methods,” and that “digital printing enables greater speed in getting a product to market, supporting purchased activated or on-demand manufacturing.” The elimination of dead inventory is another positive outcome, as digital printing allows brands and designers to only manufacture what has been ordered, which saves billions of dollars for the retail industry, according to Grindle.
And though the industry has picked up speed in the implementation of 3-D technologies over the past decade, companies have generally been slow to embrace newer methods for design and manufacturing. Grindle said that “the creative and development process has been dependent on physical approaches that generate a lot of waste in the form of samples that never make it to market. This is inefficient in many ways, both from a cost of materials and labor perspective while also having a negative environmental impact.”
Robust digital platforms can deter the industry from fast-fashion practices to processes with greater traceability and transparency, Grindle said. “The movement toward digitization of physical processes should be something every designer and brand should be evaluating to ensure they are able to improve agility and cost and allow them to address the ‘see-now-buy-now’ mind-set of their consumers.” More specifically, Gerber’s cloud-based product life cycle management application YuniquePLM is a “central repository” for every aspect of a garment, as it centralizes data and streamlines supply chain management, as well as improves visibility for the life cycle of a product.
Grindle told WWD, “Using this platform, a brand can establish compliance standards and reporting for their supply chain. An audit stream can be established for all suppliers so a sourcing team knows at any [time] the compliance status of each member of their supply chain from materials providers, to agents and factories. Leveraging the power of PLM can help to improve traceability and transparency because the data and history of a garment is managed efficiently.”
Engaging with these technologies can also help minimize carbon footprints and the environmental impacts of shipping, Grindle said. “While these costs have an impact only a retailer’s bottom line, the carbon footprint of the packaging and shipping of these large volumes of goods is also immense. Furthermore, smaller-batch or customized orders based upon demand both enables and in-fact, one could argue it demands a move toward localization where finished goods are manufactured closer to the point of sale.”
And growing trends such as personalization are enabled by these technologies, as they empower brands to work collaboratively with consumers to create niche products in lieu of mass-produced items. “[Personalization] also supports a design process that enhances creativity and collaboration because small-batch processes allow for more customization, which continues to be a driving trend among consumers, especially Millennials,” Grindle told WWD.
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