What Industry 4.0 Means for the Apparel Industry

What Industry 4.0 Means for the Apparel Industry

Quick Links: What Is Industry 4.0? | The Benefits Of Industry 4.0 | How Industry 4.0 Affects Apparel, Fashion And Footwear Manufacturing | How Apparel Manufacturers Can Prepare | Is Your ERP System Industry 4.0 Compatible? | The Future: Industry 5.0 And Beyond | Be Prepared For Apparel Industry Evolution With FDM4

As the needs of consumers shift and change, so do the needs of manufacturing companies. Technology has been continually advancing since the Industrial Revolution, and the modern mode of production has become centered around hardware, software and interconnected networks of the two. Consumers are demanding higher quality products and faster production speeds now more than ever, but manufacturing companies have been able to stay ahead.

It’s all due to the advancements of Industry 4.0, the new era of production. This guide will take you through what it means to be in the Industry 4.0 period, how it affects manufacturers in the apparel industry, its benefits and the future trends beyond.

What Is Industry 4.0?

In manufacturing, Industry 4.0 is the name given to this era of manufacturing, where computers and software have become essential parts of the production process. To understand the foundations of Industry 4.0, you have to look back to the history that preceded it.

Production companies are facing the fourth iteration in a series of major industry shifts. Each evolution has brought on improvements by way of new technologies, systems and advancements in manufacturing. From the beginning stages of mass production to the modern era and beyond, every method has been enhanced in some way. The four periods in manufacturing history thus far are:

  • The Industrial Revolution: Manufacturers used water and steam power to create the first methods of mechanized production.
  • Industry 2.0: Companies advanced to using electric machinery and assembly lines for mass production that was more efficient.
  • Industry 3.0: The third iteration began with the inclusion of computers and information technology, including micro-processing, programming and telecommunications.
  • Industry 4.0: Currently, the manufacturing industry relies on the same information technology, but with many more improvements. It focuses on creating digital connectivity and full integration of production processes with hardware and software. Industry 4.0 enhances the foundation of 3.0 with autonomous systems fueled by data and machine learning, lessening the need for intensive human involvement and creating smart factories.

While Industry 4.0 is the current period in the evolution of manufacturing, it will always continue to grow and change. It’s important to keep up with the shifting trends and make sure your company can adapt to the new modes of production. If you resist the changes, you’ll miss out on the many benefits that come with each new development.

The Benefits of Industry 4.0

With the growth of technology and the improvements made to supply chain efficiency, the production practices of Industry 4.0 are nothing but beneficial to the companies that adopt them. Even in the apparel industries, the integration of computer software and hardware has proven to be advantageous. Between the creation of networks like the Internet of Things (IoT) and production machines such as 3D printers, Industry 4.0 has something for every business.

Some of the many benefits of Industry 4.0 include:

1. Scalability

As your business grows, you need to be able to scale your company. Automation and machine learning encourages and helps facilitate scaling, making it easier to integrate new systems and expand as a whole. With highly capable systems, you’ll have the freedom to transfer staff to different departments that need more assistance. Industry 4.0 will also provide you with faster production as well as an ability to compete globally, focus on your company’s strengths and delegate jobs to artificial intelligence.

Putting cloud technology at the center of your operations will also give you less of a need for on-site IT staff. No more managing and maintaining software and hardware networks for your team. Instead, your software runs remotely through third-party cloud servers, so all the upgrades and fixes happen automatically. Smaller companies with limited resources will especially benefit from implementing a system that doesn’t require tech specialists.

2. Security

One of the largest concerns when it comes to data management is security. Companies need to know their information is safe from any damage or theft. Even power outages and natural disasters come into play, especially where on-site servers are concerned.

Industry 4.0 has a clear focus on implementing cloud technology and integrating it as a central location for all data. Cloud-hosted software gives your information maximum security, protecting it from human error, unauthorized use and even uncontrollable weather-based circumstances. It automatically takes care of database maintenance and system file backups, keeping all your files up to date in real-time. It also has the capacity to manage all your IoT networks as well.

3. Control and Visibility

The cloud servers will also provide you with a higher amount of control and broader data visibility. It’s essential that you make your digital records available and accessible to all points of your production system. Your teams should be able to see the database worldwide, in real-time and at a moment’s notice. Cloud servers make all of that possible, creating a central location for your data but making it convenient to review.

Having a consolidated resource helps to improve collaborative efforts by connecting teams and personnel across factories and regions. With a unified access point and automatic updates, your teams know they’re all looking at the same information and no one is behind. It fosters improved factory communications and makes it easier to streamline legal requirements.

4. Customer Satisfaction

When you fully apply an Industry 4.0 system to your processes, you’ll make your customer relations efforts easier and far more effective. Omnichannel IoT systems allow companies to keep their customers informed throughout every step of the manufacturing process. You can notify them of order and shipping progress, give them specific details about the product, create customized items and give them any details they may want, from order fulfillment to delivery.

You can collaborate more closely with both customers and suppliers to provide a higher quality product. An IoT system makes the entire production process fully transparent and allows you to provide information from every step of the way. It also facilitates co-creation and other cooperative capabilities on a global scale.

5. Customization

Between varying levels of software and the capacity for effective 3D printing, you can provide customized products. With a way to quickly fulfill small-scale quantities and orders, you can offer more customization options and manufacture the items individually and without any human interference.

You can also produce individual parts for already existing products. With 3D printing capabilities and technology, you can simply enter the necessary designs into the machine system and the printer will produce the requested part automatically and quickly. Creating a single item or small batch takes much less time than it would to manufacture the same amount manually, saving you time and effort.

With the same tech, you can repair any faulty designs you may have sent out by creating a better element. 3D printing makes it easy to quickly produce improved versions of parts and products without the need for any manual labor. These printed elements are sometimes even stronger and have a longer lifespan than the originals.

How Industry 4.0 Affects Apparel, Fashion and Footwear Manufacturing

All of these benefits apply to specific areas of manufacturing as well, such as the apparel, fashion and footwear industries. In a general sense, the manufacturing innovations brought on by Industry 4.0 allow companies to optimize their existing systems and grow to create more efficient processes.

More specifically, smart manufacturing can turn the concept of affordable mass customization into reality. By reimagining a more organized production workflow, focusing on creating a more modular system and improving cost-effectiveness, businesses can achieve such an ideal. Several companies have already put it into play with experimental trials.

There are many forms of advanced digital technologies that come into play with a custom clothing or footwear company. Some of the tools include:

  • Augmented reality and computer vision for fitting and design
  • Thermal imaging for niche uses
  • Artificial intelligence for shop floor operations
  • Machine learning for logistics
  • 3D printing and knitting for producing personalized garments
  • Robotics for packaging and distribution

These tools are just some of what makes the fashion industry capable of creating individualized articles of clothing for consumers. And the production methods lend themselves to efficient production — completely custom items produce zero waste materials, making it a lean practice by default. In the near future, the increasing number and efficiency of smart factories will make ordering bespoke clothing easy and common.

How Apparel Manufacturers Can Prepare

While keeping up with the hardware and software trends of Industry 4.0 can be highly beneficial to your apparel business, you need to know where to start. You can’t just start to implement new forms of software and devices in your current system without considering what foundations you have set up and how you should go about advancing them.

Apparel manufacturers can prepare their systems by:

  • Redirecting internal IT: Rather than keep an IT team to deal with on-site software and hardware issues, get rid of the issues at the root. Change your focus to innovative off-site systems, where you can host all your data in the cloud. It’s a beneficial switch that’s more compatible with other Industry 4.0 systems.
  • Implementing an IoT network: An IoT network is a complex ecosystem of machines, devices and software, and requires advanced programming skill sets. Programmers who have the know-how to set up an IoT network are not easy to come by. You need to prepare in advance with all the correct working pieces and a knowledgeable team.
  • Having patience and drive: While the changes may seem fast-paced, it’s important to remember that no one can make a total shift overnight. Most manufacturers cannot facilitate switching from a human-powered system to a majority computer-run in a short time span. Ease into the process and take it at a comfortable pace so you don’t miss any opportunities or overlook details. However, waiting too long or getting held up can be a competitive disadvantage if you fall behind.
  • Integrating pre-existing systems: Use what you already have to your advantage. Business systems like Computer Aided Drafting (CAD), Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) are all compatible with the goals of Industry 4.0. Focus your internal resources on implementing necessary innovations rather than replacing systems that will already work with your updated processes.

With the right frame of mind and clear goals, apparel manufacturers of all sizes can easily lay the groundwork for new and improved systems. Industry 4.0 can be a total game-changer for underdogs, boosting them with a competitive edge, but manufacturers of all sizes are bound to benefit from creating the right foundation. You also need to be sure your current ERP solutions will mesh well with Industry 4.0 ideals and practices.

Is Your ERP System Industry 4.0 Compatible?

With an ERP system already in place, you’ve got a good starting point to work with. But, you have to make sure the system you’re using is compatible with further Industry 4.0 software, hardware and practices.

To get a good idea of whether or not your ERP systems are compatible, here are a few questions you should answer:

1. Is Your System Flexible?

Your ERP system should be flexible so you can adapt to business and service opportunities as they arise. A flexible system will make it much easier to take on new processes, workflows, data networks and decentralized locations. You’ll be able to adapt in real-time as your business grows.

Regardless of whether your ERP is hosted in an independent data center, in the cloud, as a managed service, on-site or a combination of them, you should be able to switch processes and adapt to new ways of working.

2. Are Your Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) Compatible and Able to Manage Multiple Locations?

The top ERP solutions mesh well with an MES system, and integrating them is important. With the right pairing, the integration allows an MES to link with the ERP solution for real-time data exchange. Growing manufacturers should have an MES in place that is compatible with individual facilities as well as a centralized system of management for multiple production sites. If you can integrate production lines with higher-level business processes without compromising the quality of the end result, you’re in a good place.

3. Is Your Software Capable of Central Data Management?

To be ready to implement Industry 4.0 processes, your software needs to hit three key criteria:

  • Modular platform: Offer a modular platform with its foundation based in a service-oriented architecture. With this configuration, you can customize processes easily without altering any of the complex software code. It’ll also make it easy to integrate potential tech developments or updates in future uses.
  • Centralized management: Your ERP software should thrive in a system where centralized management is the foundation for production processes. The capability to work in a centralized system is crucial to implementing other Industry 4.0 standards, such as the IoT network and omnichannel setups.
  • Broad access: Last but not least, your system needs to offer real-time data processing and access to the latest organized information. The more widespread the access is, the easier it will be to collaborate and keep your teams on the same page.

These three criteria will ensure your teams are all able to view and understand the data that comes through. By working from a unified resource, you’re simplifying the data collection and analysis processes and guaranteeing every party has the same information about customers, projects, raw materials and locations.

4. Does Your System Promote Mobility and Social Collaboration?

When you have an ERP solution that encourages data sharing, it enables more flexible cooperation across the many large and small departments in your company. Manufacturers are beginning to need more mobility in their day-to-day operations, making user-friendly access to ERP software a must-have, including on devices like phones and tablets.

Intuitive dashboards and screen configurations that are compatible with all varieties of devices are keys to consistently sharing and updating data. Businesses should embrace this Industry 4.0 concept, but they need to have the right ERP solution in place first. The social capabilities of the systems help external partners, suppliers and customers all become integral parts of the business process.

5. Are You Ready to Benefit From Industry 4.0?

Finally, you need to be ready to reap the benefits of implementing Industry 4.0 values into your daily processes. In next-gen versions of ERP, trustworthy planning and management systems ensure the rewards of smart manufacturing spread to all the relevant areas of your company.

Analysis tools help you test out what works and what doesn’t, evaluate ideas for business models and verify early planning. This allows you to make more informed decisions and can help you facilitate changes or adaptations to meet market or customer demands. As you thrive under your new Industry 4.0 systems and operations, the same ERP solution that provided the framework for growth will continue to help you move towards continual improvements and efficiency.

The Future: Industry 5.0 and Beyond

Even as Industry 4.0 is evolving and becoming the standard for more and more manufacturing companies, technology is continually advancing. Considering these advancements are being made at a much faster pace since the first industrial revolution, the eras of major industry shifts are bound to happen in a faster succession. This is true for the up and coming Industry 5.0, the next evolution in manufacturing.

Just as the other iterations have, this new shift will work off of Industry 4.0 while improving its concepts. The only difference here is that while all the previous shifts have created a greater gap between human power and machines, Industry 5.0 will be looking to reconcile it. It’s set to focus on returning the importance of human hands and minds to the framework of manufacturing, finding ways for people and computers to work in tandem to improve production efficiency.

So when is Industry 5.0 set to begin? Well, in some cases, it’s already happening. While companies are shifting into Industry 4.0 principles and integrating computer systems, devices and software into production, many of them are merging it with their current employee base. Rather than let go of their workers, they’re finding new places where human help is needed and restructuring their tasks to create new positions.

Businesses feared that the advent of Industry 4.0 would mean minimizing the number of human workers present in manufacturing companies. But, Industry 5.0 is reversing that idea and working to bring the human element back into the fold. Including a higher level of automation in the production floor areas may actually help reduce the amount of job risk present, as it designates the difficult, strenuous and dangerous tasks to machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Creating a healthy blend of human intellect and cognitive computing could mean unparalleled improvements in production efficiency and process perfection. It’s what the future holds for manufacturing and what your company should be prepared for in the coming years.

Be Prepared for Apparel Industry Evolution With FDM4

Your company’s success in Industry 4.0 depends on its software and management solutions. FDM4 has everything you need to continue thriving even into Industry 5.0.

FDM4 International Inc specializes in creating and updating industry-specific software for apparel manufacturers and distributors. We’ll help you centralize your data management and provide you with the flexible software you need to keep growing and evolving with technological advancements. Our Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and Warehouse Management System (WMS) solutions will integrate into your current processes easily, and enhance the way you manage production from all angles.

With over 38 years in the business, we know where industry trends are headed, and we want to help you grow through them all. To see how FDM4 can help you evolve with changing industry standards, explore our software solutions or request a live demo for a tailored trial run.