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HONG KONG – Global apparel supply chain management and logistics business, Li & Fung, has partnered with a US company whose robotics technology can make a t-shirt every 22 seconds – twice as fast as manual sewing.

The partnership sees Li & Fung turning to Softwear Automation’s ‘sewbot’ technologies in a move the businesses say is aimed at accelerating the full digitisation and automation of the garment manufacturing process. The partnership will initially focus on the supply chain of t-shirts, with the potential to expand to other product categories in the future.

Softwear Automation is a US company that develops sewing technologies for manufacturing automation in the home goods, footwear and apparel industries. The company’s digital t-shirt Sewbot is fully autonomous and requires a single operator, producing one complete t-shirt every 22 seconds.

Many believe that digitising the production portion of the supply chain presents a major opportunity for manufacturers and suppliers. However, while automation will enable manufacturers to deliver better productivity and efficiency and create new, higher-value employment opportunities for their employees, some also believe this could be at the expense of jobs that were traditionally done manually.

In March, Li & Fung provided an update on the progress of its Three-Year Plan (2017-2019) and initiatives around speed, innovation and digitalisation, highlighting the company’s goal of creating the ‘Supply Chain of the Future.’

Said Spencer Fung, Group CEO, Li & Fung: “We have already made substantial progress in our digital journey to create the Supply Chain of the Future and this partnership with Softwear Automation is another building block in our end-to-end digital supply chain. Through this collaboration we want to partner with an initial set of manufacturers to create our first fully-digital apparel supply chain and use those learnings to scale the technology and create customised solutions for our supplier network around the world. The benefits will not only reach our suppliers but all our stakeholders along the supply chain.”

“We have a shared vision with Li & Fung that the analog will become digital,” added Palaniswamy Rajan, chairman and CEO, Softwear Automation. “Consumers’ demand to get things faster, quicker and more unique than ever before is only increasing. Together with Li & Fung, our revolutionary Sewbots will enable the speed needed for on demand, made-to-measure manufacturing, at scale.”

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