Digital printing as a driver of innovation in textile printing

Thanks to the advantages of cutting-edge inkjet technology, it is now being used to meet the demand for innovative designs and environmentally friendly production, while improving the functioning of the supply chain. 

This article examines the latest trends in the textile industry and analyses the dynamics of digital innovations on the supply chain of this massive industry. The innovations we review relate to design, digital printing, cutting and tailoring of textile-based products.

The textile transformation

Like many industries, the textile printing market has been adopting innovative new technologies in order to serve a new generation of consumers and brands, and the supply chain as a whole. This massive industry - with an annual turnover of more than $1.5 trillion in apparel and accessories alone - is undergoing a transformation.

Brands must adapt to appeal to a new generation of consumers who shop both in-store and online. And as the digital age is an economic reality, brands and textile factories alike must adapt to it. Many of these changes have evolved over the last decade as the first high-speed digital textile production solutions have emerged. There have been impactful changes in several key areas.

Productivity

One of the most improved aspects of textile printing is the ability to produce any length of fabric or garment just-in-time. Without having to set up a cylinder or screen, and with the advent of sophisticated workflow automation tools, textile mills can now produce any design at high speed, thus responding to the needs of designers and brands trying to cope with rapid changes in the fashion industry. In addition, innovations in colour matching and design are speeding up the creative process, reducing creation time from months to weeks or even days.

Creativity

In the textile space, improvements in productivity and simplification of designs have also translated into greater creativity. With the ability to produce single-item runs, it is possible to take a chance on new designers without the risks associated with mass production. Many brands are allowing budding designers to enter the fray and compete for attention and recognition. It is now common to order a quarter of a metre of fabric from a traditional textile mill or a new generation of manufacturers specialising in mass customisation on demand.

Environmental sustainability

Finally, environmental sustainability (2) continues to feature prominently in the responsibility of service providers. Studies have shown time and again that younger generations - in particular Generation Z - prioritise sustainability when choosing a product. In many cases, this age group is willing to pay more for sustainably created products. For the textile industry, this is a change. For generations, textile manufacturers have been seen as major polluters, responsible for 20% of the wastewater produced globally.

Optimising the supply chain

Now that we have broadly outlined the textile transformation and the factors driving it, we can discuss further how the textile market is changing as the print volume of digital textile printing continues to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19%. By 2022 it will account for around 4 billion square metres of fabric. Productivity and creative trends are forcing companies to adopt more flexible production schedules that prioritise product diversity, so it is logical that improvements in the supply chain will emerge.

Product lifecycle management (PLM) integration

When brands plan their next season, they often employ a product lifecycle management (PLM) system. These tools aggregate all the necessary components to make the new season a success. From resource management (ERP), design components, collection and sets, to patterns and product photography, these collaborative platforms are applied across all the functions and processes involved in creating the new season's products - a coordinated effort by brands, designers, textile mills, and cut-and-sew operations, as well as the logistics that get the products to the shelves or shipped in packages.

Just-in-time manufacturing

While just-in-time manufacturing (JIT) is a term that has technically existed since the 1960s, its applicability has increased in recent decades. JIT manufacturing allows new businesses to bring their product lines to market in a matter of days or weeks, rather than months. For larger organisations, it can provide a rapid response to the needs of the fashion industry to meet the demand for seasonal products. Seasonal variations can be reflected on the shelves at just the right time, giving textile companies a greater ability to please their customers.

 

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