Speed. Agility. On-Demand. Digital. Sustainable. Shorter runs. Personalisation. Customisation. Near Shoring. The list of words describing how we want the future of the fashion and textile industry to look is long.

There is also a growing list of solutions out there that can make our goals a reality, but we still need to work out how to implement them in a way that will truly satisfy all these goals.

Let’s face it, our industry is still quite conservative and traditional, especially when it comes to the supply chain. It is lagging behind many other industries when it comes to adopting digitization of its processes.

The problems inherent in these processes has presented great opportunity for technology providers. Many have already utilised decades of knowledge and expertise in digital technologies and manufacturing from other industries, to present digital solutions to the fashion world. These range from the visualisation to design platforms to the digital manufacturing machinery.

To achieve near-shoring, shorter runs, on-demand manufacturing that the brands crave so much, they have to move early in adopting ALL these new technologies. To do so requires belief in these tools and the time to implement them and adjust to match the demand for their products.

This means that brands will need to go through the learning process of implementing all the technologies available, and experience the teething issues that come along with this process. There is no short cut, and there is no new technology available that is perfect out of the box to meet all the requirements of a brand.

We just have to look at the print and packaging industry to understand that it takes time to evolve into mature technologies. It was the companies that believed, and had the foresight to see the benefits of the new digital technologies and implemented them early, that succeeded in what is a very competitive industry.

Technology is developing much quicker today, and it is easy to be left behind. Enough companies didn’t shift to digital early enough in the print, photography and film industries, losing market share or closing down to warn us of the results of inaction.

Those who wait for the perfect solutions, or simply stick their heads in the sand, will go the way of their counterparts in other industries.

At Twine, we developed a digital thread dyeing system that dyes white polyester thread/yarn in any colour, any length, ready for immediate use for sewing, knitting and embroidery. It uses our waterless dyeing process which answers one of our core pillars of bringing a sustainable solution to what is a very unsustainable conventional process. It is a new way of working, requiring a rethink of the supply chain around thread.

Our first product, the TS-1800, provides great benefit for the designing and development of products, and low volume productions, reducing lead times from weeks to mere days and even hours.

Will our current system replace bulk thread dyeing? No. Will it allow manufacturers to hold only white thread in their inventory? No.

In the future, will our digital thread or yarn dyeing systems replace much of the conventional dyeing process? Yes. We believe that it will.

Technology development is a journey. Brands and manufacturers need to join the technology providers like ourselves in their development journey, to enjoy the benefits that the solutions provide. Today, Twine’s technology can save many weeks of time, reduce thread waste and provide a sustainable dyeing method.

In the not too distant future, our technology will provide production level capacities to allow manufactures to ‘bring the dye house, in-house’, closing the link between digital and the physical world. Looking beyond into the future, this technology will become the default method of dyeing synthetic and organic thread and yarn within the many geographical manufacturing and supply clusters that will be created around the world.

Like any technology company we want to go through the process of implementation with the brands and manufacturers. Together we have to find the optimal way of interfacing with the other digital technologies.

Through PLM or ERP platforms, we can connect and manage the data and services provided by 2D CAD/CAM and 3D design software, and connect that with virtual materials measurement and visualisation tools for our sourcing. We will also be able to connect to digital fabric printers, automated sewing, circular and flat knitting, machines, and other digital manufacturing tools.

Colour management is a major part of the supply chain. The industry is still looking for a viable and accurate standard. Colour platforms and colour catalogues should be connected via an open API that can be converted into dye recipes. Being able to communicate accurate colour and quantity data between all the digital tools, and manage them will make true on-demand manufacturing possible, and will satisfy consumer desire for mass customisation. We just need to connect to each other’s APIs to create this standard.

The time has come for brands and manufactures to stop dipping their toes in the water, but to take the leap into the digital age. Not just with one technology, not for just half of their supply chain, but to fully implement all promising digital tools that bring benefits.

It does require investment and time. However, the experience of scraping our elbows and knees using these technologies, will reap great rewards in the future.

In light of the current and disruptive global health crisis, the time to move to digital is now!