DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION AND HOW IT BRINGS FASHION CLOSER TO ON-DEMAND
Industry 4.0 or the 4th Industrial Revolution, with pervasive interconnectivity at its core, is yet another technological shift in manufacturing. It promotes ease and automation of customization and personalization through deep integration of systems participating in the process. It is led by a collection of transformative digital technologies, including Additive Manufacturing (3D printing), Augmented Reality, Autonomous Robots, Big Data and Analytics, The Cloud, The Industrial Internet of Things, and Simulation.
The term Industry 4.0 originated in Germany back in 2011 as a part of a German Government high-tech strategy to promote computerization and deep customization of products to ensure highly flexible (large-scale) production. Concepts developed within this project have been refined and adopted by companies across countries and industries.
In the context of fashion, it envisions the rise and spread of Smart Factories, often dubbed as ‘factories of the future.’ Such factories represent fully digitalized and integrated workshops “that use connected devices, machinery and production systems to continuously collect and share data” with customers, suppliers, as well as in-house, empowering such factories to mass-produce “customization” with unparalleled agility and efficiency.
Historically, on-demand businesses manufactured exactly that — customized, non-standardized products with a high level of craftsmanship. They have also played a much bigger role, operating as small-scale manufacturing units, serving as the backbone of local communities, celebrating local craft and talent. These micro and small-scale productions are major contributors to industrial output, exports, employment, and national income in many low-income countries.
Unfortunately, on-demand fashion has fallen behind technologically and become costly for most, especially when cheaper and trendier options are available in a fast fashion or high street store. As a result, on-demand fashion occupies a small market niche consumed occasionally and typically only by wealthier fashion connoisseurs. Technological gaps also made these businesses more susceptible to high production costs from the personalized items, inability to cope with the economic crisis, and difficulty to compete with larger competitors.
Absorbing the latest technologies in the context of Industry 4.0 and upcoming 5.0 will allow On-Demand fashion to slowly find its way back into the fashion realm in new and modern ways. Serving the requirements of modern society, inclusivity, sustainability, and uniqueness.