TOKYO – Japan’s biggest fast fashion retailer has announced a major strategic step as part of its strategy of boosting automation and efficiency in Asian supply chains. The Uniqlo owner has bolstered its strategic partnership with Shima Seiki Manufacturing Ltd as it looks to drive further technological innovation for knit products over the medium and long term.
Particularly, the partnership is focused on Innovation Factory Ltd, a joint venture with Shima Seiki for ongoing innovation in the development and manufacture of knit products which is aimed at establishing a new production system utilising knit production technologies.
Particularly, the JV is aimed at creating a “revolutionary mass production technology” for ‘Wholegarment’ products. Typically, a knitted garment consists of separate parts— the front and back body panels and the sleeves—which are sewn together afterwards. In contrast, Wholegarment knitwear is produced in one entire piece, three-dimensionally, directly on the knitting machine. Consequently it requires no post-production labour, realising a new kind of knitwear that mighg otherwise require highly skilled sewing labour or even be too complicated to sew.
Because there are no seams to hinder motion, Wholegarment knitwear is also claimed to be suited to applications outside the realm of fashion such as sports, medical, and other examples of wearable smart technology.
The partners plan to leverage Innovation Factory’s expertise to expand mass production around Asia and boost manufacturing efficiencies. They say they will also look to develop new merchandise and mass production processes that link consumers directly to factories with a view to cultivating on-demand mass production systems.