Adidas Taps Automated Sewbot To Create 800,000 Shirts Per Day

This move can make the brand's shirts cheaper, but may also kill hundreds of jobs in the process.

A USA-developed technology will be making it’s way to Adidas’ manufacturer and supplier from China to produce t-shirts for the brand. /.strong>This latest use of robots is definitely one of the biggest breakthroughs to ever happen in the history of automated global garment manufacturing.

Sewbot Workline, an automated robot created by SoftWear Automation in Atlanta, Georgia, has been tapped by Adidas to produce around 800,000 t-shirts per day for Tianyuan Garment Company, a factory based in Suzhou, China, which is the largest produced of Adidas apparel in the world. The Chinese company has a newly acquire plant in Little Rock, Arkansas and it will be the first to use SoftWear Automation’s technology.

The system uses cameras to map the fabric, with robots steering through it with sewing needles. Sewbot Workline will be handling soft fabrics and create t-shirts full-time for Adidas by the end of the next year.

“From fabric cutting and sewing to finished product, it takes roughly four minutes. We will install 21 production lines. When fully operational, the system will make one T-shirt every 22 seconds. We will produce 800,000 T-shirts a day for Adidas,” says Tang Xinhong, the chairman of Tianyuan Garments.

This move is a huge step for SoftWear Automation, who went into operations back in 2012. Their Sewbots “use a combination of patented high-speed computer vision and lightweight robotics to steer fabric to and through the needle with greater speed and accuracy than a human.” Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center is responsible for developing and patenting the sytem.

By the time complete automation occurs, each t-shirt’s personell cost will only be around 33 cents.“Around the world, even the cheapest labour market can’t compete with us. I am really excited about this,” added Tang. This cheap cost would only mean that human labor would gradually cease to be used by the company at some point

On the other hand, Tianyuan’s $20 million investment and acquisition of their 100,000 square foot Little Rock plant could potentially create around 400 new jobs in Arkansas. The clothing factory will enable Tianyuan to churn out instant orders from their clients. Their partnership with Western brands is a smart move, considering that they’re incorporating technology with how they manufacture products.

“The idea of Industry 4.0 and Intelligent Manufacturing is gradually becoming the reality. It is revolutionizing labour-intensive clothing manufacturing,” said Xu.

This news could get a little problematic for employees at clothing manufacturing plants as this could mean that clothes, from Adidas in particular, could get cheaper and that thousands of them could kiss their jobs goodbye.

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