Textile manufacturers urged to embrace digital tools to drive sustainability

Made Smarter, the technology adoption program, urges textile manufacturers to embrace digitalization to drive sustainability and growth.

125 North West-based companies in the industry are embracing change with advice from unbiased technology experts, digital transformation workshops to help them get started, a leadership program, digital technology internships and support for skills development.

Of these, 13 textile companies supported by matching funding are investing in new digital technologies to solve key problems while increasing productivity, growth and the creation of new high-value jobs.

But with over 1,000 fashion and textile manufacturers in the region employing around 15,000 people and with a collective turnover of £1.83billion, Made Smarter believes the sector and region synonymous with first ‘ industrial revolution have a golden opportunity to lead the ‘ fourth ‘.

Alain Dilworth, North West Adoption Program Manager at Made Smarter, said: “The North West textile industry was at the center of the first industrial revolution with advances in technology making it possible to produce cottons, wools , silks and dyes at unprecedented rates for export. around the globe. It is only fitting that Made Smarter now offers its support and expertise to help the same industry seize the opportunity to lead the fourth industrial revolution.

“COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the industry with broken supply chains, declining sales and sadly some businesses have had to close. Rebuilding is an opportunity to create a more sustainable approach that enables better resilience by taking advantage of new digital technologies.

“I am delighted that Made Smarter has been able to help so many of the region’s textile manufacturers start their digitization journey. Our ambition now is to reach out to hundreds of others in the region to help them take their first steps towards future-proofing their businesses.

Dukinfield-based Tibard, who makes uniforms for Pizza Express, Wagamama and the NHS, benefited from Made Smarter’s digital transformation process before securing backing to invest in a modern Industry 4.0 machine connected to the IoT.

Ian Mitchell, Managing Director of Tibard, said: “Made Smarter has helped us develop a digital strategy and accelerated our adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies. The past two years have been extremely challenging, but we have had to diversify our products and our customers and we are currently operating at three times our pre-COVID-19 capacity.

“A key part of this is the data and systems automation and integration work undertaken by our digital department. We look forward to modernizing our operations to help achieve our goals. Made Smarter has certainly supported our journey and without these new machines, we would not be able to provide the best value for money in garments for the hospitality and healthcare industries.

Other users of Made Smarter include: Oubas Knitwear, based in Ulverston, as a manufacturer of knitted textiles, clothing and accessories; Cumbria embroidery and printing, based in Barrow-in-Furness, a manufacturer of corporate and bespoke workwear and leisurewear uniforms; private white VC, a Salford-based manufacturer of handmade luxury menswear; Abbey England, a Knutsford-based manufacturer of leather and brassware for the leather goods and equestrian market; Derek Rose, a specialist manufacturer of nightwear, loungewear and leisurewear based in Congleton; creative clothing, a clothing manufacturer in Stockport; Open house products, a Birkenhead-based bespoke medical bag manufacturer; Try & Lily, Liverpool-based headwear manufacturers; Sigmatex (UK), a carbon fiber textile manufacturer based in Runcorn; The Leather Satchel Co, Liverpool-based leather goods manufacturers; The uniform factory, a Liverpool-based textile printing and embroidery specialist; Linzi Jay, a Blackburn-based manufacturer of communion dresses and bridal accessories, Suzi Wong Creations, a Chorley-based manufacturer of boxing shorts, sparring clothes and training kits; Ian Mankin, a designer upholstery manufacturer based in Burnley; Lantex, a textile manufacturer in Accrington; Cookson & Clegg, a Blackburn-based clothing manufacturer; and Panaz, a Burnley-based supplier of decorative fabrics and wallcoverings.

Rollie Attard, Chief Operating Officer for Panaz, said Made Smarter is supporting investment in an end-to-end custom digital printing solution that uses a software platform to enable design customization and one-click ordering.

“We view Panaz as being at the forefront of innovation within its industry and therefore must continue to push the boundaries when it comes to technology investment,” he said. “Made Smarter has gotten us where we want to be much, much faster.”

Kate Stalker, Director of Oubas Knitwear
Kate Stalker, Director of Oubas Knitwear

The fashion and textile industry is under strong pressure to change in order to reduce its environmental and social impact. It is responsible for 10% of all global carbon emissions, water pollution from the use of chemicals, dyes and microplastics in the oceans, and staggering levels of waste. In the UK, 300,000 tonnes of clothing – worth an estimated £140million – is sent to landfill or incinerated.

With consumers’ growing awareness of the devastating impact of the fast fashion phenomenon and millennials’ willingness to pay more for durable goods, the UK’s £32 billion fashion and textiles industry sterling, has a huge opportunity to grow in a greener and more ethical way.

Digital transformation enables a move away from traditional production methods and processes to manufacture clothing, footwear and home textiles.

Digital textile printing, for example, produces less waste, requires little installation and equipment, and uses fewer resources like water. 3D printing also reduces waste because fewer samples, and therefore fabric, are produced.

Companies are choosing to provide more data to increase transparency throughout the supply chain. QR codes, for example, to detail the country of origin and carbon footprint of the item. Others use analytics to track fashion trends and cycles, helping to reduce the number of clothes that end up in landfill.

Hailing the impact of the programme, Adam Mansell, CEO of UKFT, the UK Fashion and Textile Association (UKFT), which brings together a network of 2,500 designers, manufacturers, agents and retailers, said: “The success of the Made Smarter adoption in the North West has demonstrated the value of targeted support for SMB manufacturers to help them take the first steps on their digitalization journey.

“The UK fashion and textile industry is renowned worldwide for its originality, quality and innovation, combining skilled design and craftsmanship with cutting-edge technology. To continue to build on this success and to ensure that the UK remains competitive in the face of global competition, manufacturers need to embrace current and emerging technologies and the huge potential digitalisation offers, as well as to increase the skills and productivity of the people who work in our sector for the higher level”.

Made Smarter has produced a free guide to help businesses in the sector. To download a copy, click here.

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