(UNICATUM) Micro-factory pilot
The technological, environmental and social premises have changed drastically within the past 30 years. Subsequently, companies still operating accordingly to the classical mass production paradigm will have more and more problems in the future. These companies have to accept the need for a paradigm shift. New business and production models have to be developed in order to meet the new technological, environmental and social requirements.
Today, apparel is a “world product”, because single production steps are spread over the world: primary materials production in the USA, production of fabrics in India, textile processing elsewhere again. Solely these transportation routes pollute the environment immensely and offer a couple of improvements.
While the amount of consumed textiles – and especially clothing – is still rising, the way of consumption and its reasons change. On the one hand, people strive for expressing their personality through their consumption and especially through their clothes. On the other hand, people start to recognize their power within the market economy and try to exercise it.
If textile manufacturers reorganise their production facilities in countries like Germany or France, for example, this would mean more jobs in the specific countries. Germany and France are a well known example for their knowledge in manufacturing textiles for centuries. Research institutes like Hohenstein Institute or l'Institut Francais de l'habillement et du textile in Paris attest to a long tradition in this industry.
The organization in micro factories could be one solution. Thanks to their flexibility and proximity, they fit perfectly into a mass customization strategy. They are able to produce personalized products and are could be installed close to the customer. In the Unicatum the point of sale customization and the point of delivery customization are in a shop nearby the production facility. As the whole product should be produced next door, short delivery times are the consequence. Furthermore consumers can take a look at the production of their individualized product – in this case: knit wear.
As there was unfortunately no real piloting of the approach, this report is based on the interviews with the responsible parties and consists of data and information that was collected after the planning of the micro factory. It tries to be suggestive of the planning and first steps of implementation and realization with regard to business as well as technical aspects.
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Automatic Knitting Sites pilot
This report describes the outcomes of research and development work done by IFTH (France) and Nottingham Trent University (UK) to develop and evaluate the procedures for a business model to produce commercially customised fully-fashioned knitwear. It builds on the initial work done by Unicatum, RWTH and Hohenstein Institute (Germany). The purpose was to demonstrate the commercial potential for on-demand, localised manufacturing of up-market fashion products using new technology.
The target market was upper-middle market knitwear for ladies, typical products being a jumper, cardigan or dress. As with the rest of the SERVIVE project, customisation has been assumed to be linked to style advice. Thus part of the overall product and consumer experience is the initial process of co-design. This is partly illustrated in the video [see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIodKyciJAM]. However as this could vary according to each retailer (e.g. web-based or personal style advisor, product category, etc.), this aspect is better covered in other SERVIVE project deliverables.
The key technology assumed in the micro-factory is one or more whole-garment 3D knitting machines. It is recognised that this can be an option with circular knitting (e.g. Santoni), but in this instance the focus is on the multiple flat-bed technology such as is available from Stoll and Shima Seiki. This equipment, plus the necessary finishing machinery, was available at IFTH’s Troyes facility. The demonstration used the style advice and product specification expertise at NTU in conjunction with IFTH production expertise to test the concepts. Several different types of garment were successfully made for real people with great variations of style, colour, size, and trim detail.
The results indicate that it is practical to produce customised luxury knitwear from start to finish in less than 2 days, with an indicative price band of €300-€500. Though it is possible to do this with one whole-garment machine, for efficient staffing and machine utilisation an SME micro-factory with a minimum of 2 machines is recommended. This would facilitate an annual throughput capacity of 2,000+ garments. An investment of around €0.5 million could generate an annual turnover of a similar amount, and a satisfactory profit..
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Pilots evaluation report
At the nearly end of the project the Micro Factory (MF) Pilots must be evaluated to compare the initial aims with the realised solutions. Within the Servive project a lot of soft- and hardware developments have been made. One of the key topics was the planning / design, set-up and commissioning of the Micro Factories.
Due to some “turbulences” during the project not all achieved solutions have been planned initially by setting up the project. But there were 3 more or less commercial micro factories realised at the final stage.
Nevertheless, significantly positive solutions have been achieved and are highly expected to stay active and be of economically success also in the future. The efforts invested into the UNICATUM pilot and the method of designing and running a Micro Factory can be used in the future although this enterprise went bankrupt. With the development of the Micro factory profiler in future MF’s offering free capacity could be connected successfully into the MF-Network.
The work done by IFTH and NTU demonstrate to produce commercially customised fully-fashioned knitwear - even if was not possible to run the automatic knitting site in a pilot MF. The results indicate that it is practical to produce customised luxury knitwear from start to finish in less than 2 days, with an indicative price band of €300-€500. It is possible to reach this with one whole-garment machine, for efficient staffing and machine utilisation an SME micro-factory with a minimum of 2 machines is recommended. This would facilitate an annual throughput capacity of 2,000+ garments. An investment of around €0.5 million could generate an annual turnover of a similar amount, and a satisfactory profit.
Within this document you can find a description of the starting points for the different MFs and a tabular list of the main developments as well as an assessment of them. For each pilot, the Servive backbone services have been set in relation to an assessment divided into the three main questions of implementation, usefulness and profit estimation. Finally a comparison of the performance against the original specification was made.
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